Written by Jon Lin
As the clock winds down for one of the most prolific scorers to ever play the game of basketball, one thing is for certain: Kobe Bryant will definitely be irreplaceable. Just like Michael Jordan and the six consecutive years of losing that followed after Jordan’s second retirement from the Chicago Bulls, the Los Angeles Lakers are destined for at least a few more years of irrelevance once all is said and done for Number 24. Just like the number twenty-three, the number “24” will never be looked at in the same way ever again. Twenty Three: six rings, clutch, His Airness, Air Jordan. Twenty Four: five rings, clutch, the Black Mamba, and one of the best players to ever play the game.
Here are eight moments when with the clock winding down, Kobe Bryant made us believe that for just a split second, he was the greatest player to ever play the game of basketball.
#8 – 23-Year-Old Kobe Stings The Hornets
Lakers 96, Hornets 94 (February 22, 2002)
When you hit a big shot against the team that originally drafted and then immediately traded you on draft night, that’s got to be a great feeling. In one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history, the Charlotte Hornets traded the then-17-year-old Kobe Bryant to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for their 7 ft 1 star center, Vlade Divac. Divac would go on to have a solid career in the NBA finishing with over 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds and 1,600 blocked shots and in 2010, was inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, that 17-year-old kid on the other side of the trade would go on to win five NBA championships and score over 33,000 points.
#7 – Kobe Burns The Heat
Lakers 108, Heat 107 (December 4, 2009)
Just getting the shot off a split second before the final buzzer is impressive enough. What’s more incredible than the shot, however, is the fact that this would be the first of three last second buzzer-beaters for Kobe in less than a month. This first deadly strike occurred on December 4th, 2009 against a very tough Miami Heat team. Dwyane Wade & Co. played excellent defense on the Black Mamba, but the cold-blooded legend struck with ease, to the delight of the sold out crowd at Staples Center.
#6 – Back to Back
Lakers 107, Bucks 106 (OT) (December 16, 2009)
When you’re averaging over 28 points a game and enter the Bradley Center coming off of a season-high 42 points on 15 of 26 shooting (.577 percent) from the night before, the last thing you’d expect to see is the 6’3 Charlie Bell guarding you one-on-one for the final possession of the game. Even with a severely injured finger on his shooting hand, Kobe Bryant still managed to back down the much smaller Bell with ease and hit the tough fade away jumper just as the clock expired. This would be Kobe’s second straight game-winning shot at the buzzer in a span of only seven games as well as the second straight year in which he would go on to win the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Award. Bryant, along with Michael Jordan, are the only two guards in NBA history to win back to back NBA Finals MVP awards in consecutive years.
#5 – Different Year, Same Results
Lakers 109, Kings 108 (January 1, 2010)
With four seconds remaining and the Lakers down by two, there was no question who was getting the ball for the final shot. With the Staples Center packed on this January 1, 2010 game against the Sacramento Kings, the Lakers faithful erupted into cheers and thunderous chants of MVP after Kobe Bryant knocked down the corner three after receiving the pass from Pau Gasol. Even more impressive than the shot, however, is the awareness of Bryant to stay on his toes (watch Kings coach Paul Westphal stare at Kobe’s heels @1:14) and stay in bounds while knocking down the clutch trey.
#4 – Decisions, Decisions
Lakers 101, Nuggets 99 (December 19, 2003)
With the score even at ninety-nine and less than three seconds left in the game, Devean George had quite a decision to make. Which NBA Hall of Fame player should he inbound the ball to:
- a) Gary Payton
- b) Karl Malone
- c) Shaquille O’Neal
If you chose any of the above, you are incorrect. What you should do in this situation (and what Devean George did do) is inbound the ball to the future Hall of Fame player, Kobe Bryant. The Black Mamba is a cold-blooded killer that will adapt well to any environment. Three of his eight game-winners took place during the month of December, and more than half of these eight deadly strikes occurred during the winter time. On average, a typical black mamba can cause a fatality within 25 minutes of an attack. The Black Mamba, however, only needs 2.5 seconds.
#3 – Kobe Delivers Memphis Grizzlies Blues
Lakers 102, Memphis 101 (April 4, 2003)
With a 89-66 Grizzlies lead heading into the 4th quarter, everything had to go right for the Lakers and everything had to go wrong for Memphis. It did, and the Lakers would go on to outscore Memphis 36-12 in the fourth quarter with the final two coming from the most clutch player in the game.
#2 – The Villain
Lakers 105, Portland 104 (April 14, 2004)
There is nothing more satisfying than going into another arena, another team’s turf, and completely silencing their fans. Kobe Bryant did it, twice. There’s not much to say about this, just watch and enjoy. #TheVillain
#1 – The Hero
Lakers 99, Suns 98 (April 30, 2006)
You can hate him all you want, but at the end of the day, he’s one of the greatest to ever play the game. When it’s all said and done, Kobe Bryant will go down as one of the most clutch players to ever play a professional sport and one of the most prolific scorers of all time. I’m just glad I got to witness it. Thank you Mr. Bryant, sir. Thanks for all the memories. #TheHero #MambaDay #ThankYouKobe #KB20