Kobe Bryant on 60-point finale: It was either going to be epic or the worst ever
The Lakers legend looks back at his 60-point finale
Former Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant reflected on his final game in an interview with ESPN's Baxter Holmes, as Thursday will mark a full year since , outscoring the Utah Jazz 23-21 in the fourth quarter. Looking back, Bryant sounds like he's still a little mystified by what happened.
"After the first couple minutes, I was like, 'Oh, s---,'" Bryant says. "It became apparent really, really quickly that this night was not going to go down with me just playing OK. It was either going to have to be an epic one or the worst one ever, because they were just going to keep throwing me the damn ball and the crowd wanted me to shoot every time -- almost to the point where I felt bad for my teammates, because if they took a shot, the crowd was ready to boo. So it was like, 'Oh, s---. I gotta go.'"
Bryant laughs now at the irony of that sentiment, noting how funny it was that he went through 20 seasons of everyone screaming "Pass the ball!" before a night when they screamed "Don't pass it!" But his finale did not begin well. He opened the game by missing his first five shots.
Yes, when the montages and messages from celebrities and former teammates aired throughout the game, Bryant sneaked an occasional peek, but on dead balls he says his focus was mostly on trying to find the energy to finish the game, especially as the Lakers started to rally from a 15-point hole.
"When we got back into it, I said, 'OK, I've got one more push here,'" he says, "and the shots started going in toward the end and the game got closer and it was like, 'OK, I can't feel my legs, but I've got to have enough to knock one more down.' And then I knock one more down, and it's like, 'OK, I've got to have enough to knock one more down.'"
The shot he'll remember from that night, he says, was the contested 3, from the left side, with about a minute left, to bring the Lakers within a single point. "That 3, I swear to God, I thought it was short as f---," Bryant says. "Like, really, really short. I couldn't even feel my legs when I jumped. As soon as I started going up, they disappeared. [I was thinking], 'Oh, f---.' Then I thought it was going to be short and left. So you see me kind of holding that follow through, trying to lean that m-----f----- in. You see it go through, and it kind of swoops in. So I was like, 'Holy s---, it went in.'"
You should read the whole piece, but that excerpt captures a great deal of what made the game so memorable. It was clear early on that this was no normal game, as Bryant's teammates and fans had little interest in anybody else on the team having the ball in his hands. The future Hall of Famer started slowly and looked exhausted, then, out of nowhere, he started making shots and bringing the Lakers back into the game -- still looking exhausted. The Jazz didn't entirely know what to do, seeming just as awed as the rest of us by Bryant's fourth-quarter show.
Given how the Kobe story is largely about his determination, will power and ability to not let missed shots affect his mindset, his finale was perfect. It also remains kind of unbelievable -- the mere fact that he had the energy to take 50 shots in 42 minutes that night boggles the mind. It's a good thing he started making them eventually, otherwise the whole celebration would have been pretty awkward.
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