On Wednesday Kobe Bryant will play in his final game, finishing his 20th season with the Lakers. Here is a look at 10 of the key moments over Bryant’s memorable career:
10) April 12, 2013 — Two free throws with an Achilles’ tendon tear
Bryant was playing at an elite level until the game against Golden State. Although he was never the same after tearing his Achilles’ tendon, Bryant was somehow able to stay in the game after the injury to shoot, and make, two free throws before leaving. Bryant finished with 34 points; his free throws helped the Lakers pull out a 118-116 victory.
9) Aug. 24, 2008 — Olympic gold-medal game vs. Spain
In addition to his NBA titles, Bryant won two Olympic gold medals. Playing alongside emerging NBA superstars such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul, it was Bryant who carried Team USA past Pau Gasol and Spain. Bryant finished with 20 points, 13 in the final period to earn his first gold medal.
8) June 17, 2010 — Game 7 of NBA Finals vs. Boston
Bryant said he wanted it so badly, he couldn’t shoot straight — and he didn’t. Bryant made only six of 24 shots from the field, but had 15 rebounds and made a crucial pass to Metta World Peace for a three-point basket. The Lakers avenged their 2008 Finals loss to Boston and Bryant passed O’Neal’s four titles with his fifth.
7) March 16-23, 2007 — Four consecutive games with 50-plus points
Bryant was an unstoppable force over an eight-game stretch, scoring 65 points against the Trail Blazers, 50 against Minnesota, 60 at Memphis and 50 at New Orleans. Bryant’s streak ended the next game, when he scored 43 points against Golden State.
6) April 14, 2004 — Two-overtime victory vs. Portland
With the Pacific Division in the balance, Bryant made two nearly impossible shots, the first over Ruben Patterson to force overtime. The second came out of a timeout with one second to play, a game-winning three-point basket to give the Lakers a 105-104 victory and the division title over the Sacramento Kings.
5) May 12, 1997 — Game 5 airballs vs. Utah
Bryant came into the league as a brash 18-year-old, always confident in his abilities, but gained a valuable lesson in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Jazz. Bryant’s trio of airballs helped Utah close out the Lakers, 4-1, but the young star would later credit his many successes to what he learned in failure in this series.
4) June 14, 2000 — Game 4 of NBA Finals vs. Indiana
O’Neal had fouled out with 36 points and 21 rebounds, but Bryant carried the Lakers to the finish line to take a 3-1 series lead. Bryant’s 28 points included three crucial overtime baskets to give the Lakers a 120-118 victory. The team clinched the title two games later at Staples Center for Bryant’s first championship.
3) June 4, 2000 — Game 7, Western Conference finals vs. Portland
The Shaquille O’Neal/Bryant era barely got to the NBA Finals to win its first of three consecutive championships. The Lakers’ fourth-quarter comeback from a 16-point deficit over the Trail Blazers was the moment it all came together, highlighted by a Bryant-to-O’Neal alley-oop.
2) Dec. 20, 2005 — Bryant 62, Dallas 61 through three quarters
In a precursor to his 81-point outburst a month later, Bryant outscored the Mavericks by a point through three periods with a 62-point outburst. Coach Phil Jackson sat Bryant out for the fourth quarter in what was a Lakers blowout after the All-Star’s 33-minute performance.
1) Jan. 22, 2006 — Career-high 81 points vs. Toronto
Second only to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point barrage with the Philadelphia Warriors in 1962, Bryant’s 81 points helped the Lakers overcome an 18-point third-quarter deficit. Bryant made 28 of 46 shots (60.9%), seven of 13 from three-point range (53.8%) and 18 of 20 free throws (90.0%).
Pincus is a Times correspondent.
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