Eight of Kobe Bryant’s greatest moments in honor of Kobe Day

Steve Lipofsky | Wikimedia Commons


Steve Lipofsky | Wikimedia Commons

Dani Heba, Sports Editor

The late NBA superstar Kobe Bryant would have turned 44 years old on Aug. 23. Aug. 24 is widely recognized as Kobe Bryant Day by NBA fans in Los Angeles County and Orange County, California in honor of Bryant’s jersey numbers’ 8 and 24.

Bryant’s passing on Jan. 26, 2020, left the world in shock. The man, who played his final NBA game for the Los Angeles Lakers only four years prior, was still so young and had plenty left to give to the world.

However, legends never die, as the saying goes. To properly celebrate Kobe Bryant Day, it’s appropriate to honor his legacy by remembering some of his greatest moments.

1.     The Kobe-Shaq Alley

En route to his first championship, Bryant sealed the deal on Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals by lobbing a commanding alley-oop to fellow Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal.

The Lakers were down by 15 points with ten minutes remaining in the game. Had it not been for a miracle comeback, the Lakers would not only have blown a 3-1 lead, but the dynamic duo of Shaq and Kobe might have never had time to grow.

However, the Lakers mounted a comeback against the Scottie Pippen-led Portland Trail Blazers and were up by four points in the last minute of the game.

At a time where most would play it safe, Bryant saw the opportunity to take the soul out of Blazers players and fans, and connected with O’Neal on the lob to put the Lakers up by six.

The Lakers ended up winning the game, 89-84, and Bryant posted 25 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 blocks.

2.     81-Point Game

This wouldn’t be an appropriate list of iconic Bryant moments if it didn’t include his infamous 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 22, 2006.

O’Neal had been traded from the Lakers nearly two years prior, and Bryant was now in sole command of the Lakers with a weak supporting cast. As a result, Bryant took it upon himself to bring the team to success.

The Lakers were trailing the Raptors heading into the second half of the game, but Bryant erupted for 55 points in the second half to pull the Lakers to a 122-104 victory.

This is the NBA’s second highest point total in a game ever, trailing only Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point outing in 1963.

Bryant led the league in scoring that season, averaging 35.4 points per game.

3.     MVP Season

In a long overdue accolade, Bryant finally won league MVP in 2008.

Bryant ended the 2007-08 season with averages of 28.3 points per game, 6.3 rebounds per game and 5.4 assists per game.

Though these weren’t even the best numbers of his career, Bryant didn’t win earlier due to the team’s mediocrity after O’Neal’s departure in 2004. However, the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol in 2008, and ultimately reclaimed the top seed in the West, earning Bryant his long-overdue MVP award.

4.     The no-flinch

In a showcase of focus and determination, Bryant didn’t flinch in the iconic video of Matt Barnes pump faking an inbound pass in Bryant’s face.

Basketball fans around the world still look at that play in awe of how locked in Bryant always was.

5.     The 2010 Championship

In what would ultimately be his last championship, Bryant went out in style, against a particularly esteemed rival: the Boston Celtics.

Bryant averaged 28.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.1 steals per game to win his second Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP award in what ended up being a seven-game series against the Celtics.

The championship win was even sweeter given the historic rivalry between the Lakers and Celtics.

The win produced one of Bryant’s most iconic images: him standing on the scoring table with confetti raining down in celebration of his fifth championship.

6.     The Achilles Free Throws

If there was ever any question about Bryant’s determination and grit on the court, it all disappeared on April 12, 2013, when Bryant tore the Achilles tendon in his left leg but still proceeded to the free throw line to sink his two shots.

The Lakers were struggling to compete for a playoff spot. They were hanging on to the eighth seed, but were facing a rising Golden State Warriors team.

Thanks to Kobe’s two free throws, and clutch moments by his teammates in the aftermath, the Lakers ultimately won the game, but got swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs.

No one can question whether Bryant’s heart was in the game after a moment like this.

7.     “Softer than Charmin” rant

Amid a disastrous 6-16 start in the 2014-15 Lakers, following Bryant’s return from the Achilles injury, Bryant had enough. Pau Gasol was gone after being traded to the Chicago Bulls, and Dwight Howard had left for the Houston Rockets in free agency.

Bryant was alone with mediocre players. Although, he still demanded the best from his teammates, at a certain point, even Bryant saw enough.

“You motherfuckers are soft like Charmin in this motherfucker,” Bryant said, as quoted by Ballislife.com. “God damn, is this the type of shit that’s going on in these practices? Now I see why we’ve lost 20 fucking games. We’re soft like Charmin. We’re soft like shit.”

While the rant was hilarious, it also showed how much excellence Bryant demanded not only of himself, but from his team.

8.     “Mamba Out”

A star-studded Staples Center was packed to see the Black Mamba’s last game versus the Utah Jazz on April 13, 2016. Legends like O’Neal, Kanye West and Snoop Dogg were at the game to honor Bryant and his legacy.

There was no other way for Bryant to go out than the way he did: dropping 60 points.

Typically, stars’ last games are rather underwhelming, as they are at the end of their careers and no longer have the same ability as they once had.

However, Bryant is one of the greatest players in NBA history and had to go out in a fashion consistent with his talent.

At the end of the game, Bryant bid a farewell speech to basketball fans across the world, and ended it by kissing the crowd goodbye, saying “mamba out” and dropping the mic, an exit fit for a legend.