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In honor of Kobe Bryant Day on 8/24, we at Lakers Outsiders decided it’d be fun to look back on our favorite Kobe Bryant memories while reaching out to our audience to do the same, and boy was there a variety of responses.
Ranging from dunks to buzzer beaters to clutch moments to in-person meetings, Bryant left a different lasting impression on each and every Laker fan.
Honi Ahmadian: When I think of Kobe, no memory is better suited to explain what he meant to the NBA, the Lakers, and to me than the night he tore his Achilles tendon, starting his final downfall.
The circumstances around it were perfect descriptors of the Mamba. He had been consistently playing full games, trying to pull the Lakers into the playoffs in what would be his last realistic chance of catching Michael Jordan in ring count. And when his body finally broke down, Bryant managed to hold it together for two crucial and clutch free throws, with his left foot hovering in the air because he couldn’t put any pressure on it.
That was quintessential Kobe – giving his all until he couldn’t anymore, trying to will victory for himself and his team even in a season that was as good as lost. The post-game interview with eyes reddened from crying was about as vulnerable as Kobe ever appeared but it was also the Mamba at his toughest.
Gary Kester: 2009 playoffs, First round, Game 4. It’s the only NBA playoff game I’ve attended to date. The Lakers were up two games to one against the Utah Jazz, who won Game 3 by two thanks to Kobe’s 5-of-24 performance and a missed three at the buzzer.
So I was nervous that a rowdy Jazz crowd could help elevate their team to tie the series and we would have to deal with all the smug trash talk on our way back to the hotel. In a 2-2 series, anything can happen. Kobe didn’t allow it.
The Lakers came out to a chorus of jeers from the crowd as they began warming up for the contest. On the scoreboard hanging above the court, cameras were picking up the faces of each player. My heart was pounding in anticipation for this big game. Then the camera picked up Kobe’s face for everyone to see on the jumbotron. I turned to my best friend, smiled and simply said, “We’re not losing this game.”
We all expected Kobe to bounce back from a dreadful Game 3 performance, but he had this look on his face I hadn’t seen before.
He was locked in.
Chomping away on his purple gum, he showed absolutely no emotion during the entirety of the pregame ceremonies. The Black Mamba was ready to strike and push the Jazz to the brink, and that’s exactly what he did.
He. Lit. Them. Up.
Kobe scored 13 of the team’s first 15 points, burying one ridiculous shot after another. Ronnie Brewer, Andrei Kirilenko, CJ Miles, it didn’t matter. He tore them all up en route to 38 points on 16-of-24 shooting and a dominant Laker road victory to take a 3-1 series lead.
Just when Jazz fans thought they had a tiny sliver of hope to make it a series, Kobe ended it in a hurry. The mental fortitude to play that way, with that focus and intensity 48 hours after one of his worst games ever. That was Kobe Bryant. The assassin other teams hated, but the savior that we love. Kobe forever.
Dillon Hiser: My favorite Kobe memory was the one that started my Lakers fandom. I got to see the Lakers come to Cleveland on a February night in 2007 and up until that point I loved basketball but never really had a team.
The Cavaliers ended up winning the game but Kobe made them work for it as he put up 36 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. Watching him was so inspiring because you could tell he wanted it more than anyone on the floor, he was the ultimate competitor like the NBA has never seen. The fierce attitude that Kobe played with and the brilliance in his talent was something that I was inspired by deeply.
This Mamba moment certainly won’t be as impactful to others but it changed who I would become as a sports fan and as a person. From then on I knew, much like the Lakers, that I would ride with that dude forever, for all the good and all the bad.
Jacob Rude: There’s many thoughts that come to mind when picking out my favorite Kobe Bryant moment, but two stick out most predominantly. One is a common choice, the other no so much.
I saw the Lakers play twice in my life, once in 2010-11 and once in 2014-15. The former was the better team, but the latter is the performance I remember most. The Lakers were really bad. Bryant had just moved into third on the all-time scoring leaderboard and there was little to play for.
The Lakers came out flat, but Bryant was flying all over the floor. It was a sight to behold. He was diving for loose balls, flying over the scorer’s table and doing everything he could to try to keep a bad Lakers team in the game. It was everything Bryant embodied.
The other one is far more obvious and it’s his game against the Raptors. No not that one. The other one. The one where he hit not one, not two but three three-pointers in the final minute. I watched the game with friends and we erupted on his final three-pointer. In a long list of memorable moments, this one tops them all.
Drew Hernandez: I was never a basketball fan during Kobe’s prime, nor his later years when he was still good. I only started intently watching the Lakers in the 2015-2016 season so my first official season as a fan was Kobe’s last as a player. So despite going into that season knowing that he was a future Hall of Famer, I never actually watched when he played like one.
That’s why his last game was my favorite memory of him. For the first time in my life I understood. I understood why fans loved him. I understood why rival players respected him. He was 37 and his body was failing yet he kept at it and scored 60 points in his last game. Not even the incredible 2016 finals were as exciting as that game. It was a once in a lifetime game to see and it went hand in hand for a once in a lifetime player.