In Honor of His Hall of Fame Induction, We Look Back At Kobe Bryant's Last Game

Thank you, Kobe.

Michael Caloca

Tonight, Kobe ‘Bean' Bryant will officially be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame by his close friend and mentor Michael Jordan.

It was originally supposed to happen last year but ultimately postponed due to the unexpected rise of COVID. When reflecting upon Bryant’s career and the games that got him into the Hall of Fame, there are tons of moments that stand out such as his 81 point effort against the Toronto Raptors in 2006, or perhaps his many clutch game winners and buzzer beaters that he hit throughout the years. While the topic of Kobe’s greatest game is a matter of opinion, many can agree that his 60 point performance in the last game of his career just might be the most impactful.

I remember the night of April 13th, 2016, very clearly. My introduction to Kobe had come 16 years prior as a small child by way of my father, who had shamelessly jumped onto the Phil Jackson/Lakers bandwagon after the Bulls dominance of the 1990s ended. At the time, Kobe was a hungry 22-year-old looking to capture his first championship with the Lakers (which they ultimately did). I don’t remember much from my early childhood years, but I remember Kobe throwing that sick alley-oop pass to Shaquille O’Neal in the Western Conference Finals against the Portland Trailblazers.

As time went on, we saw Kobe evolve through different phases. He would go on to win two more championships with O’Neal before the duo split in 2004 following a Finals loss against the Pistons. Then we would see him go through a couple of challenging years with the Lakers before the Pau Gasol trade that ultimately resulted in two more championships. We saw him progress as a leader, battle back from a brutal Achilles injury, and become a mentor to young rising stars such as Kyrie Irving and Demar DeRozan. 

Kobe’s evolution was a beautiful thing to watch as he entered into the final stretch of his career and being entirely dedicated, not just to the game. Still, to his fans, Kobe knew that he couldn’t just randomly announce his retirement during the off-season and walk away without warning. It wouldn’t have been right. It wouldn’t have been Kobe.

Instead, Bean decided to dedicate the entire 2015-2016 season to fans and basketball lovers around the world by giving something comparable to a retirement tour. Los Angeles natives would get multiple chances to see him through the year, whereas select cities with NBA teams would get one more opportunity to see Mamba back in action. Those games (especially the away ones) were full of tributes and ovations, with fans thanking Kobe for his endless contributions to the game of basketball.

So now we're back to the night of April 13th. The Lakers were set to take on the Utah Jazz, and the hype surrounding this game was insane. For starters, the cheapest ticket price was roughly $888, with the most expensive ticket being recorded at $25,700. Every single ticket sold out, and the courtside seats were largely operated by Hollywood's most elite celebrities, including Jack Nicholson as usual, Jay-Z, Kanye West, George Lopez, and former teammate Shaq to name a few. Also sitting courtside was Kobe's wife Vanessa and the couple's children, Natalia and Gigi.

Bryant started off the game 0-of-5 but quickly tapped into ‘Mamba’ mode finishing the quarter with 15 points and closing the half with 22. The Lakers entered into the third quarter trailing by 10. While the deficit wasn’t too large at this point, there was some concern that the Lakers could, in fact, lose, and to be frank, it wouldn’t have felt right at all. A blowout loss and quiet crowd was not the proper ending to a legendary career such as Bryant’s, and nobody knew that more than number 24 himself.

By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Bryant was sitting at 45 points, but the Lakers were still losing. That is until Kobe flipped the switch. Bryant scored, then he scored again, and then again, and then suddenly the Lakers were only down one. Sitting at 56 points, Bryant pulled up for another jumper to give Los Angeles the lead. The Utah Jazz failed to score on their next possession and had no choice but to foul Bryant with fourteen seconds remaining, where he netted points number 59 and 60. The Lakers pulled Bryant with 4.1 seconds remaining to one final ovation, and the legend addressed the crowd after the game with his infamous “Mamba Out” speech.

Saturday will be a bittersweet emotional day. Kobe should be here to accept this honor, but he didn’t work as hard as he did for 20 years for us to spend an important day like this sad. He would have wanted us to push through and celebrate because that is what "Mamba Mentality" is all about.

Kobe, Thank You!

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