Los Angeles Lakers

Heat Check: What is your favourite Kobe Bryant season?

Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant (Getty Images)

In honor of Kobe Bryant's 40th birthday on Thursday, we're rolling out Kobe Week! Each day we'll be celebrating his finest moments, pondering the unanswerable questions and diving into a legacy that's among the most storied in all of sports.

When thinking of Kobe Bryant's best season, there are plenty of candidates. Is it one of his 18 years as an All-Star? One of the five seasons that ended in a championship? One of his two years as a scoring champ? His lone MVP campaign?

To pick a favourite is even harder, but since it's a matter of personal preference, our experts provide insight on their selections…

Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): I'll never forget when Kobe scored 50-plus points in four consecutive games during the 2006-07 season.

Kobe got it started with 65 points against the Portland Trail Blazers, responded with 50 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves, then went on the road to score 60 points against the Grizzlies in Memphis and 50 points against the Hornets in New Orleans ... on back-to-back nights.

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Kobe came back down to earth with an inefficient 23 points against Memphis Grizzlies two nights later, only to bounce back with a 53 point performance against the Houston Rockets to close the month.

Considering Wilt Chamberlain is the only other player in NBA history to have ever had a similar stretch, I wouldn't be surprised if we never see anything like that again.

Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): I can't pick against the 2005-06 season - what Kobe did that year was unreal and will never be replicated. In December, he scored 62 points in three quarters (outscoring the entire Mavericks team), only to outdo himself by scoring 81 points (!) in a game one month later. And those were just two of his 27 regular season games with 40-plus points.

What's most special about this season to me is that everything Kobe did was out of necessity. It's no secret that this is one of the least talented teams he was a member of, so he played a career-high 41.0 minutes per game over 80 games. Bryant led the league in scoring with 35.4 points per game and led LA to a 45-37 record, which was good for the seventh seed in an über-competitive Western Conference.

While the series might have ended in disappointment, I'll never forget his late-game heroics in Game 4 of the Lakers' first-round battle with back-to-back MVP Steve Nash and the Suns. He had a nasty dunk and a 50-point game in that series, too.

Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): I'm going with 1997-98, his second in the league. If you ranked all of his seasons from best to worst in terms of judging Kobe strictly as a basketball player, this probably finishes in the bottom five. But it's my favourite because it's when Kobe Bryant started to truly become "Kobe Bryant."

Despite still coming off the bench behind Eddie Jones, the 19-year-old Bryant was voted into the All-Star game, where he famously went at Michael Jordan and waved off Karl Malone multiple times to the point where the reigning MVP asked out of the game. His best game that year? A 33-point effort against Jordan in Chicago during which Bryant, in the middle of the game, asked Jordan for advice on his post game. The audacity, the brashness, the polarization, the popularity … this season was Kobe's arrival.

James McKern (@jLmcKern): Hard to go past Kobe going scorched Earth in 2005-06, but I'm sticking with the 2002-03 season. The Lakers were in search of their fourth-straight title and Kobe had emerged from Shaq's enormous shadow. He rattled off a nine-game 40-point scoring streak in February (matching MJ's record), he dropped 51 in only 31 minutes of playing time against Denver (one of three games where he scored 50 or more). And it was his most efficient season from beyond the arc where he knocked down 38.3 percent of his attempts.

Despite falling to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the playoffs, Kobe elevated his performances when the lights shone brighter. Through 12 playoff games he only scored less than 27 points on one occasion. He left everything out on the floor in each and every contest and although you hated him when he was torching your team, you couldn't help but respect him.

Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): Have to go with Kobe's 2008-09 season. It was the year after he finally won MVP and got the Lakers back in the Finals only to have his heart broken by the Celtics' big three of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.

That season Kobe seemingly learned to trust his teammates in the time of need and still managed to score at a Kobe Bryant-like clip. Bean dropped at least 30 points in 27 of the 82 games that season. He also had four games where he grilled up a 40 burger - including a season-high 61 points at Madison Square Garden. In case you were wondering how he followed that performance, he ended up giving the Raptors 36 in an eight-point Lakers win at the arena formerly known as the ACC.

In the playoffs, the Lakers needed seven and six games respectively to dispatch of a tough Houston Rockets and hungry Denver Nuggets teams. In the Finals, the Black Mamba would not be denied, finishing the Dwight Howard's Magic in five to claim his first of two rings without Shaquille O'Neal. It was Kobe's finest work, his finest season and the most enjoyable to watch.

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