Thursday 14 April 2016

Kobe Caps Career On A Thrilling Note

Kobe Bryant's 20th and final NBA season came to a close on Wednesday night. He finished it exactly as he spent most of it: remorselessly and gleefully gunning.

And everybody loved it, because it was perfect. It couldn't have been more perfect.

In his last game as a professional basketball player, Bryant fully embraced the Viking funeral that began when he announced on Nov. 29, 2015, that this would be his last ride. With Los Angeles Lakers fans, NBA legends, former teammates, Hollywood royalty, his wife and his children watching his every move, Kobe entertained us all one more time with a performance that seemed, even as it was unfolding, like the stuff of fiction.
Shaquille O'Neal wasn't kidding. He really did call for 50 during an "Inside the NBA" chat last month. Back then, Kobe said no. On Wednesday, he changed his mind.

He scored 60 points — the highest-scoring game in the NBA this season, topping Anthony Davis' 59; the sixth 60-point game of his career, second-most all-time behind fellow Laker great Wilt Chamberlain; and the most points ever by a player in his final NBA game (joining, of all people, Jordan Crawford and Eddie House!). He did so on 50 field-goal attempts, the most by any player in any one game dating back to the 1983-84 season, to lead the Lakers to a thrilling and unbelievable 101-96 win over the visiting Utah Jazz.

In yet another season full of losing that saw the Lakers finish with a franchise-worst 17-65 record, Kobe found a way to go out a winner ... and to go out a winner in the most precisely, 10-out-of-10 Kobe way humanly possible.

How joyously absurd was Kobe on the final night of his NBA career? This joyously absurd:

Kobe becomes one of just four players in NBA history to take 50 shots in a game, joining Wilt, Elgin Baylor and Rick Barry. In going 6 for 21 from 3-point land, he becomes just the sixth player ever to cast off from beyond the arc more than 20 times in a game, alongside record-holder J.R. Smith (naturally), Damon Stoudamire, Vince Carter, George McCloud and Michael Adams.

The run-up to Kobe's 1,556th and final NBA game featured loads of pomp and circumstance, from all manner of "thanks for the memories" swag for the fans to diamond-studded golden retirement rings for Bryant and his wife, Vanessa. Before the opening tip, the Lakers unveiled their contribution to the season-long series of tribute videos lauding the career of the 18-time All-Star, 15-time All-NBA selection, five-time NBA champion and 2007-08 Most Valuable Player:

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