“I challenged him to get 50, and the motherf***** got 60.” – Shaquille O’Neal
Last night, we were all witness to one of the grandest finales of all time. For 20 years, only one athlete could engulf some of the biggest stars in the universe and captivate them in the world’s biggest market for entertainment.
An appropriate, “Hollywood ending” for a man who’s been in the bright lights since the age of 17.
Less than 24 hours later, it’s almost unimaginable to fathom what Kobe Bryant accomplished during his final NBA game – a career’s worth of passion, drive, intensity and greatness culminating in a SIXTY point night to ride off into the sunset.
SIXTY POINTS. The ultimate f*** you to haters and an endless flame for stans.
The NBA’s highest scoring output for 2015-16, reached by a 37-year old retiree.
SIXTY POINTS on 50 shot attempts, the highest-ever mark for the modern era. If you were to write a non-championship, storybook ending for Kobe Bryant’s career, this was it – one of basketball’s ultimate competitors (and showmen) having an ultra-green light to score at will and entertain fans a final time.
From former teammates (including Lamar Odom, DJ Mbenga & ADAM MORRISON) lining up to congratulate him on a storied career to his peers going insane over such an unreal display, that’s a helluva way to go out.
Not only did Kobe (obviously) save his best performance for his final stanza, it was a physical representation of his evolved game over the span of 20 years.
Driving hard to the rim and finishing reverses like a brash young ‘Frobe.
Pulling up on the elbow for a dagger jumper like he did v. Phoenix during the 2006 Playoffs.
Bringing the Lakers back from a double-digit deficit (scored 23 4th-quarter points, including 15 in the game’s last 3 minutes and 5 seconds) and willing them to victory a la the 81-point game v. Toronto.
Feasting out of the post like it was the 2009-2010 Finals again.
Launching deep three-pointers without hesitation like 2016 Kobe, who rarely second-guessed his game despite low shooting percentages.
Each “version” of Kobe manifested into an epic performance for the ages.
Whenever you think of an athlete “leaving it all on the floor,” re-visit Kobe Bryant’s final game in the NBA.
All year long, I was hoping for one more quintessentially Kobe moment so the Mamba could close out his career in style. What occurred on April 13, 2016 was well beyond my wildest dreams.
An extremely fitting sendoff for an all-time great, Kobe Bryant always did things his way and on his own terms. 20 years of captivating audiences, winning at the highest level, embracing the roles of hero and villain and showing everyone the end result of countless hours and dedication to your craft.
I extend one final salute to Kobe Bean Bryant.
There won’t soon be another.