Memory Lane Monday: “Swan Song”

Kobe Bryant: one of the NBA's fiercest competitors. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant: one of the NBA’s fiercest competitors. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Part 4 of #MambaMonday wraps up with a couple of Kobe Bryant’s greatest achievements as an NBA player. Today, our “double feature” consists of his unrivaled, 81-point performance v. the Toronto Raptors in 2006 & his 5th NBA title victory over the Boston Celtics in 2010.

As we stroll down memory lane, now is the time to put Kobe’s accomplishments into perspective. We feel the Black Mamba is the second greatest shooting guard in NBA history, placing him in the top 10 (overall) of all-time.

A 5-time champion (all as the Top DOG on his team), Kobe has easily had the greatest career of any prep-to-pros player not named LeBron James. His 81-point explosion, almost 10 years ago, cemented him as one of the most devastating individual scorers ever.

Kobe 81

As a shooting guard, scoring 50 or more points in a single game is very difficult because of the pressure they face from multiple defenders on the perimeter, as well as the distance in which they take shots.

Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game is the greatest individual accomplishment in the history of the NBA, statistically, but Kobe’s performance was during the modern era with key rule changes (3 seconds in the key, widening of the lane) that made it more difficult.

And to put a stamp on things, Kobe single-handedly brought the Lakers back from a double-digit deficit, versus Toronto, and blew them out by 18 points. When the breaking news feed flashed after the game was over, it looked like a typo. 81 POINTS by a single player…

After the game, Kobe had this to say:

“I was just determined. I was just locked in, tuned into what was going on out there,” Bryant said. “These points tonight
mattered. We needed them. The points I put in the basket were instrumental. It means a lot more.” (via ESPN)

42 minutes. 28 made field goals (7 three pointers). 18 foul shots converted.


kobe bryant 2010 title

Following the biggest offensive outburst in NBA history, Kobe struggled to find a winning balance with the Lakers. Until they traded for Pau Gasol in 2008, Kobe did not have a second go-to guy for defenses to game plan against. Once Gasol was acquired the Lakers were (almost) instantly title contenders and challenged the Boston Celtics, for the trophy the same year.

However, the Lakers weren’t ready to win it all. Falling in 6 games to the newly formed foursome of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen & Rajon Rondo, Kobe and the Lakers would get the chance for revenge just two seasons later.

Heading into the 2010 Finals, LA was the slight favorite due to home court advantage and more overall depth in the lineup. But the Celtics, boosted by their talented foursome (Garnett, Pierce, Allen & Rondo), Doc Rivers and an intense, never-say-die attitude, provided a difficult challenge.

The series ended up going 7 games and ultimately, might be looked at as the “swan song” of Kobe’s illustrious career. If he doesn’t have the opportunity to compete for another championship, Game 7 of the 2010 Finals was Kobe’s final display of sheer will and competitive drive to lift his team to greatness.

Although he shot poorly from the field (scored 23 points on 6-24 shooting), Kobe grabbed 15 crucial rebounds in a finale where every single one counted that much more.

His focus on finishing off plays and making key reads in the clutch (found Ron Artest for a dagger 3 with just over a minute to go) was just as important as making the final shot:

Kobe beast

Our brief look back into Kobe’s career showed the various stages of his basketball life. From starting out as a fresh-faced rook, to the Frobe era, to his days as a champion in the post-Shaq regime, one key aspect remained constant: the unmatched desire to come out on top.

If 2015-16 is a farewell to the Black Mamba, we hope he strikes with full force a few more memorable times.


-Jabari J.

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