It's been one full year since we have last seen "The Black Mamba" shoot a basketball in an NBA game, and it has been a long year without the greatest competitor of our generation. Kobe Bryant is arguably one of, if not the greatest, basketball players off all-time, and on this day a year ago, he made sure we would remember that.
When Kobe took the court for the final time on April 13th, 2016 against the Utah Jazz, I don't think even he could have imagined how incredible of a night it would be. The Mamba finished the game with 60 points, shooting 44% from the field, while also tallying 4 rebounds and 4 assists, all while only turning the ball over 2 times. It was hands down the greatest final career regular season game performance in NBA history, and the Lakers were able to cap it off with a win as well.
After the game, Shaq had said that he challenged Kobe to score 50 points that night, stating "I challenged him to get 50, and that motherfu**er got 60". To me, the support from Shaq in Kobe's final season, and that game, was the true culmination of Kobe's career coming full circle, seeing these two friends-turned-foes, once again show the love and support for one-another that had helped them win 3 straight NBA championships, and produce one of the most dominant stretches in NBA history.
Watching that final game live was genuinely something I will never forget, because it was as close to Vintage-Kobe as we could ever ask for. People love to hate on that final game, saying that yeah of course he scored 60 points when he shot the ball over 50 times, but I just simply feel sorry for those people, and their inability to just enjoy the greatness that we witnessed and how Kobe left every single thing he had left in him on the court that night.
Kobe Bryant left his mark on the NBA and the game of basketball as a whole, and he will never be forgotten. As not only one of the greatest to ever step on the court, he is also the greatest competitor in NBA history not named Michael Jordan. He would not be denied, no matter the challenges or the obstacles. From 81 points, to his 5 rings, to being screwed out of multiple MVP awards, Kobe didn't care about anything but winning and being the greatest ever.
He is the closest thing we have ever seen to MJ, and I truly salute the Mamba's career from start to finish, top to bottom. From his on the court dominance, to his fierce competitive spirit, Kobe Bryant gave the fans 19 years worth of memories, and for that I will forever be thankful.
Third All-Time in scoring, a 2 time NBA scoring champ, the second most points ever scored in a game (81), 5 Championship rings, 2 Gold Medals, the 2008 MVP, 18 All-Star game selections and 4 All-Star game MVP titles, the list goes on and on. There should never be another Laker to wear #8 or #24, and I doubt there ever will be. Thank you Mamba, I hope you're enjoying retirement.