Kobe Bryant, one of the games greatest legends, passed away Sunday morning in an unfortunately fatal helicopter accident. His teenage daughter Gianna was also on board the aircraft in a very tragic accident.
While all the blessings go out to his family and loved ones, the entire NBA Universe is feeling the pain of losing a legend and an icon who was admired and respected by everyone involved in the beautiful game.
Kobe Bryant is one of those rare breeds who not only loved and cherished the game but always wanted to be the greatest player to have ever lived. Kobe leaves behind an incredible legacy with five NBA titles, and an unlimited amount of memories.
Whether you were a Lakers fan or not, you knew that Kobe Bryant was most often times the best player on the court and that he was the player that would ultimately be the difference in the game. As such, it seems only fair that both his numbers (8) and (24) be retired since he ultimately had two legendary careers as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
His clutch performances, killer instinct, and passion for the game was something extraordinary and special. As a tribute to the greatness Kobe showed on the court every single night, let us remember some of Kobe's greatest moments on the NBA hardwood.
A Legendary 81-Point Performance
Without a doubt, one of Kobe's most iconic NBA performances was an 81-point performance vs the Toronto Raptors. Kobe singlehandedly took over the game and decided to take (and almost make) every single shot per possession until the final whistle was blown. And boy did it work.
Kobe finished the game with 81 points on 28-46 shooting from the field and led his team to victory by defeating the Raptors 122 to 104.
Nobody would've thought that we would ever see any player come close to scoring as many points in one game as Wilt Chamberlain did with his 100-point game, but Kobe came closest. Despite being double and triple-teamed, Kobe was able to carry his team on his back and have one of the greatest scoring performances we will ever see.
Kobe Bryant’s 2005-06 Season
Kobe’s 2005-06 was one for the ages and can be described as godly. During this season, Kobe averaged a historic 35.4 points per game this year and became one of six players (Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, James Harden, Bob McAdoo, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) to score at least 2,800 points in a single season.
This season gave us a once-in-a-lifetime performance from Kobe as this was the year he put up 81 points, the 2nd most points scored in a single game in NBA history, against the Toronto Raptors.
In January of 2006, Kobe Bryant would average 43.4 points per game for the month and then go on to average 41.6 points per game in April of 2006. He had 27 games where he scored at least 40 points and though the Lakers would only win 45 games, Kobe was still able to make a solid case for MVP.
Looking back, when adjusting for era and pace, this may have been the best scoring-season we have seen in a long time and aside from James Harden, no one may be able to replicate the type of season he had.
Kobe Bryant’s MVP Season
Kobe’s MVP season is one that not many people talk about. Fresh off of two seasons where he averaged over 31 points per game, Kobe came into the 2007-08 season with one goal in mind: to win a championship. At the time, it had been 6 years since Kobe had won a championship and the argument started to come up of how Kobe could not win without Shaq.
The Black Mamba started his MVP season with a 45-point game against the Houston Rockets. The Lakers would lose this game but, Kobe had established his dominance quickly and many knew this would be a season for the ages by him.
The Lakers and Kobe Bryant had a great start to the season as they went 25-11 before their starting center, Andrew Bynum, suffered a season-ending knee injury. After this, they went 3-5 and then-GM, Mitch Kupchak, knew a trade had to be made.
The Lakers would make a franchise-altering trade less than 10 games after Bynum went down and acquired Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies.
This trade added a spark to the team, and they would go 22-5 with Gasol and ended up with the best record in the Western Conference at 57-25. Kobe averaged 28.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.4 assists. He would lead the league in total points scored and field goals made. This year was the start of something special for Kobe Bryant and his MVP season will not be forgotten.
Winning His Fifth Ring To Surpass Shaquille O'Neal
Kobe Bryant is one of the most competitive athletes to have ever played basketball. His desire and drive to be the best player ever had resulted in him creating rivals with players who were even his former teammates. Shaquille O'Neal was Kobe's greatest teammate, and arguably his greatest rival.
Shaq and Kobe won three rings in a row as possibly the greatest tandem in NBA history, but some on-court and off-court beef resulted in them separating in quite ugly fashion. Both players wanted to prove that they could win without the other, and Shaq was the first to capture a fourth ring with the Miami Heat.
Not to be outdone by his rival, Kobe took it upon himself to not only get a fourth ring but a fifth one. A long and hard-fought series against the Boston Celtics in 7 games in 2010 resulted in Kobe lifting his fifth championship trophy to one-up Shaq in possibly one of his all-time favorite achievements.
Surpassing Michael Jordan For Third All-Time In Points Scored
No matter what opinions you may or may not have about Kobe Bryant's playing style, one cannot argue that he was the closest thing to Michael Jordan. Kobe was almost a clone of MJ, and could basically do everything that Jordan could do. Some would ever argue that Kobe did one thing better than Jordan: scoring.
Kobe was able to pass MJ for third on the all-time scoring list, an unbelievable feat especially considering the fact that Bryant barely played his first few seasons in the NBA.
But the significance of this achievement came in the fact that Kobe spent his whole career trying to outdo Michael Jordan, and he was able to do it in this incredible scoring feat. While he was never able to get six championship rings to match MJ, he was able to pass him up in scoring which resonates with all Kobe Bryant fans across the globe who watched him mimic and try to out-do every one of Michael's achievements.
While we will never see another Michael Jordan again, we can also be certain that we will never find another Kobe Bryant.
A Mamba Farewell: 60 Points In His Last Game
Kobe's career was as legendary as it could possibly get. He had five rings, two Finals MVPs, and two decades of incredible performances in sold-out stadiums night-in and night-out. Nothing could be more fitting than an incredible farewell game where Kobe puts up record-breaking scoring numbers, which Kobe was able to accomplish in his final game.
In what one would consider a fairytale ending to an incredible career, Kobe Bryant dropped a whopping 60 points much to the delight of the sold-out Staples Center and everyone watching around the world. Did we ever think that Kobe would breeze through a game and not put on a show?
There is only one player who would have the resolve and desire to do such a thing, and it was Kobe Bryant. His intense competitiveness and desire to be remembered as one of the all-time greats resulted in him stealing all the headlines once again by dropping 60 points in possibly the greatest farewell game we will ever see again.
There was only one Black Mamba, and his name is Kobe Bryant.
Heroes come and go but legends are forever.