After a 8 month hiatus sidelined by an achilles injury, Kobe Bryant made his return to the Lakers hardwood floor. It was not his best performance to date, but Bryant’s return to the floor is a step closer towards being the new & improved Black Mamba we are not accustomed to seeing. As he embarks on a new chapter in his career, let’s take a look at the top 10 memorable moments of Kobe Bryant’s legacy.
10. 1997- Kobe leads Lakers in scoring for first time in career vs. Detroit Pistons
Coming off the bench in the early part of his career, Kobe Bryant would lead the Lakers in scoring with 21 points in a lost 100-97. It would become a significant moment for Bryant as he would establish himself as an opposing threat in the league.
9. 1997- Slam Dunk Contest Champion
Kobe Bryant would capture many people’s eye for his leaping ability in the 1997 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Competing against guys such as Ray Allen and Michael Finley, Bryant would do his best Isaiah Rider impression of the between the legs dunk that would elevate him into being first place.
8. 2006- 30 points in the Third Quarter vs. Utah Jazz
Some NBA players can say they have scored 30 points in a half. However, very few can say they have done it, let alone in a quarter. It was not Thanksgiving, but the Black Mamba would show us why Lakers fans would be thankful for him. On November 30, he would score 30 points in a quarter leaving the Utah Jazz hopeless as they searched for answers. Los Angeles would secure the victory 132-102 with Bryant scoring 52 points that night.
7. 1997- Kobe vs. MJ Part One
In a matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Chicago Bulls, the marquee matchup to watch was between Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant. Chicago would go on to win by 21 points behind Jordan’s 36 points. However, Bryant would not go away with his head down, scoring 33 points against His Airness. Bryant put many on notice that he was next in line to dethrone the king of the NBA.
6. 2006- Game 4 vs. Phoenix Suns
Going into Game 4 of the 2006 NBA Playoffs, Los Angeles Lakers had a 2-1 series lead against the higher seeded Phoenix Suns led by Steve Nash. Down by 8 and no timeouts, the Lakers were down and out at home. With seconds remaining in the game, former Lakers point guard Smush Parker would come up with an unexpected steal with a pass to Kobe Bryant that would lead to the unbelievable game tying layup, which would send the game to overtime. In the last moments of overtime, Bryant would get to his hot spot sinking the game winning shot over two defenders to win the game and ultimately taking a commanding 3-1 series lead. Interesting enough, Bryant would not be the leading scorer of this game as it was Lamar Odom with 25 points.
5. 2003- Kobe Bryant vs. Vincent Yarbrough
On a fastbreak, the only thing separating Kobe Bryant and the basket was Denver Nuggets’ Vincent Yarbrough. Displaying his greatness with his talents, Bryant would go behind the back and finish with a 360 slam dunk that would excite the Staples Center crowd as one of the best moments of the season to watch. The play was a pleasure to witness as we mourn for Yarbrough being a victim to the list of those who attempted to “stop” Bryant.
4. 2005- Kobe Bryant scores 62 points through 3 quarters vs. Dallas Mavericks
In the previous game, the Lakers would manage to score only 74 points which ultimately left Kobe Bryant frustrated with his teams play. The next game, he would have a performance that many of us will never forget. In a matchup against the Dallas Mavericks, Bryant would showcase his scoring abilities once again. Scoring 62 points through three quarters, he would outscore the Dallas Mavericks with 61 as the Lakers would capture the victory.
3. 2003- Kobe vs. MJ Part Two
The latest saga between Kobe Bryant vs Michael Jordan would all end well for Bryant. During the early part of the game, Michael Jordan would appear to take the game in his own hands. However, over the course of the game, the pupil would school the teacher. The younger and more exuberant Bryant would take over the game as he would finish the game scoring 55 points in a win vs. the Washington Wizards. Many can and will argue the fact that Jordan was in his later days in his career. With that being said, this is a significant moment in the NBA as we would see the torch being passed to Bryant from MJ this day.
2. 2009- 61 point game vs. New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden
In the mecca of basketball on the biggest stage of them all, Kobe Bryant was the prime ticket to see on Broadway. At Madison Square Garden, the Mamba would put on the greatest performance that would convince doubters that he was the best player in the world. On this night, he would drop 61 points in a demanding win over the Knicks that left the NBA world on standby for what was next. Bryant holds the record for the most points to be scored by any player in MSG, leaving legendary director Spike Lee to create a documentary in his honor.
1. 2006- 81 point game vs. Toronto Raptors
Coinsedently, on the date of the return of the Mamba against the Toronto Raptors, Kobe Bryant would have the greatest game that we have ever witnessed in our generation. With a roster of Chris Mihm and Smush Parker, Bryant would have to carry the team on his back in order to get a win and remain in the hunt for the NBA Playoffs. He would ONLY have 26 points as the team would have 42 points collectively. Bryant would take matters into his own hands as he would erupt in the second half scoring 55 points. Kobe would walk off the floor in the final seconds receiving a standing ovation as the Lakers would win the game 122-104. He would finish with 81 points, becoming the second highest point total by a player in a single game shooting over 50% from the field.
We may not see the old Kobe Bryant filled with exciting highlights, astronomical numbers, and extraordinary plays. On the bright side, we should all be appreciative for what he has done during his time in the association.