Last night, he played his final NBA game, in his 20th season. It turned out to be an epic game, as Kobe looked like the player of old- before injuries had taken their toll, robbing him of several seasons and about half his physical playing ability.
But for one final night...he still had the old spark, as he put up an incredible 60 points, single-handedly outscoring the Jazz in the 4th quarter to bring the Lakers back from a double digit deficit to win in his 1346th and final NBA game.
Kobe set all kinds of records in his career, and he added more to them on the final night of his career. 60 points were the highest scored by any player during the 2015-16 NBA season, he became the 4th player in history to attempt 50 shots in a single game, he broke a tie for 2nd most 60 point games in a career, and nearly doubled the total scored by a player in the final NBA game they played, a record formerly held by Eddie House with 35 points. (I don't count Jordan Crawford's 41 points as he is still active, just not in the NBA.) In addition, Kobe attempted his 10,000th free throw in the game, only the 5th player to reach that mark!
Here are Kobe's standings in the important stats:
- 11th all time in games played, all for the Lakers, which is 4th all-time for games played with one team.
- 6th all time in minutes played.
- 5th all time in made baskets
- 3rd all time in made free-throws
- 100th all-time in rebounds (more impressive when you realize the rolls of people who have played in the NBA is nearing 4000!)
- 29th all-time in assists
- 14th all-time in steals
- 180th all-time in blocks, the hardest stat to add to
- 3rd all time in points. Ahead of such legends as Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O'Neal, and everybody who ever played in the NBA not named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone!
And that's not even mentioning his 5 NBA Championships, 2 Finals MVPs and 1 regular season MVP, something I have always said he deserved more than one of.
The question is not whether Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest of all time....the only question is, how soon will the Lakers retire his two numbers, #8 and #24, each worn for 10 of his 20 seasons. He is surely going to be in the first Hall of Fame class he is eligible for, there is no question of that.
I feel lucky that I have been able to follow Kobe's career since Day 1. The 1996 Draft class, as I've mentioned before, is one that is special to me as it was my first time experiencing the excitement of the new class of rookies coming into the NBA, and the 1996 draft class just happened to be one of the best all time, with an amazing 10 all-stars, 4 MVP awards, and more than a dozen NBA Championships- and I stopped counting them among the first round of draft picks! While many players had great careers from that draft, none could match Kobe. Kobe was also the last one playing in the NBA, outlasting all others by at least 2 years, although 23 out of 58 players played 10 seasons or more.
I've also been lucky enough to pull some really great cards of Kobe.
Kobe ranks 2nd in my NBA collection. I don't have an accurate list yet, and won't until I can get my entire collection scanned and properly listed, but the Database shows 617 Kobe cards as part of my collection. I can't use their listing because they count cards he shares with other people, team cards, college cards(he was included in college sets), multi-sport, all that other stuff that doesn't count for me. (at least not as a person's card). He would rank 3rd overall in my entire collection behind only Michael Jordan and Jeff Gordon. I had no idea while watching that 1996 draft that he would become one of the greatest of all time, and one of the largest portions of my collection.
I want this post to mostly be carried by the text and not the pictures, but I need to post one of the #24 jersey, so I have selected 2012-13 Panini Threads #64 as the best image of the road purple #24 to show, at least among cards in my collection.
When I think of Kobe, I think of the #8, and probably always will, even though he's been wearing the #24 for the last 10 years. It is expected that the Lakers will be retiring BOTH numbers early in the 2016-17 season. Retiring a player's jersey number is the highest honor a team can bestow, and Kobe has certainly done so much for the Lakers franchise that retiring both of his is only expected.
Thanks for reading, and thanks to Kobe for 20 years of entertaining basketball.