The late Kobe Bryant had a wonderful career filled with ups and downs, though mostly ups. He was loved by many and was able to do things on the basketball court that you just can’t imagine anybody else being able to do. When he stepped away from the game, it was a very sad day to be a basketball fan. But when did he step away?
When Was Kobe Bryant’s Last Game? Kobe Bryant played his last NBA game on April 13th, 2016. It was one for the Los Angeles Lakers fans as they were able to enjoy one last iconic Kobe performance at Staples Center as the Lakers won 101-96 against the Utah Jazz. Kobe took 50 shots and scored 60 points in his final NBA Game at the age of 37.
Kobe’s final game wasn’t just like most other veterans who are stepping away. He did quite a bit more than just dropping three points and a rebound while coming off the bench.
Leading up to the game, everybody in the Lakers building started to set a goal for Kobe, which wound up being his own goal. That goal was for him to drop 30 points throughout the night to walk away as he entered it, an elite scorer of the basketball. He started out slow while missing the first five shots of the night. This wasn’t entirely surprising given the nerves that must have been hurting him early on. Though once he got settled in, it was like there wasn’t any stopping him. He wound up dropping 22 points by the end of the first half, which had everybody thinking that the goal of 30 would be easily attainable. The problem was that the team also wanted to win the game, and found themselves down by 15 points against the Utah Jazz at this stage in the afternoon. So, Kobe delivered just as he always did. He scored, then scored, and kept on scoring until he saw his team get closer and closer. He helped the Lakers rally all the way back to tie and regain the lead late in the second half. With just under 10 minutes left to go in the game, Bryant was already up to 40 points. It was actually the first time he had hit the 40-point mark since November of 2014 as well, making it already incredibly special. Fast forward down to the two-minute mark and Kobe launched up to 50 points! He became the first player in league history to ever top 50 points on his final game and eventually carried them to a victory in the final seconds by hitting clutch free throws. Those free throws? Well, they helped him hit the 60-point mark to walk away from the game as a hero! He made 22 out of the 50 total shots he attempted on the night throughout 42 very long minutes of action. He had four rebounds and four assists as well. The most important stat of the night though, was the fact that he scored 17 straight points for the Lakers in the final quarter of the game. He had assists before and after that 17 point stretch just to further show how much he wanted to win this ball game.
As legendary as that final performance was, Kobe was unfortunately on a very bad Lakers team at this time. The Lakers found a way to lose 65 games throughout the season, finishing with a horrendous 17-65 record in total. They were dead last in the Western Conference with Bryon Scott as their head coach. Care to find out some of the names that were on this team, helping it to 17 wins? They had younger guys like Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell and Larry Nance. They also had Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams, Metta World Peace and Nick Young to kind of round it out. It was very clear that Kobe, in the state that he was in, was considered arguably their best player still. Well, at least the most valuable. They were ranked near the bottom of the barrel in almost every single major statistical category as a unit but that’s exactly what happens with such a young overall roster. Just think about the impact Bryant had on all of those guys’ careers though. Guys like Clarkson, Russell, Randle and Nance have all been able to find solid success in the NBA. Some have found different methods than others but the knowledge that Kobe could have shared to them had to have helped in some way.
Kobe’s Final Years
Kobe went through a lot during the final few years of his career. In the 2013 season, he suffered a major leg injury that forced him out of all but six games of the season. He struggled to regain his rhythm early on when he returned the following season, getting into just 35 games of the 2014 campaign. Then, of course, came the 2015-16 season that saw him play in his last game. During that final year, he was able to post averages of 17.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. It was a surprisingly strong season for a guy that was 37 years old, coming off of a major injury in his 20th year in the league. That’s something that a lot of guys couldn’t dream of doing and yet he was still making it look so effortless out there. Plus, we just can’t forget to mention that the man was doing all this while playing 28 minutes a night. I can’t imagine a veteran with these circumstances getting that much play time per game and still being able to keep pushing forward. The man played 66 games in that final season despite getting all that action. Truly a special one-of-a-kind player.