Welcome to "One Possession!" Throughout the 2019-20 NBA season, our NBA.com Staff will break down certain possessions from certain games and peel back the curtains to reveal its bigger meaning.
Today, we break down the final shot of Kobe Bryant's career against the Utah Jazz.
MORE: Kobe Bryant's best game against every team
April 13, 2016. After 20 seasons in the NBA, the top scorer in the history of Los Angeles Lakers and by then, third in the NBA's all-time scoring list, Kobe Bryant plays the final game of his career. After 1,345 games, the ride comes to an end, bringing down the curtain on his illustrious career. All of this will be part of the past - a career full of successes, but also failures and disappointments. A career of contrasts, peaks and lows, where Bryant managed to establish himself as the measure of all things without becoming the most dominant player of each season in which he played.
MORE: Kobe's challenge to Antetokounmpo continues to drive the reigning MVP
A night when he would say goodbye to his fans in style, the Utah Jazz visited the city of Los Angeles with the aim to make Bryant's farewell a simple night. After announcing on November 29, 2015 that at the end of the 2015-16 campaign he would hang up his sneakers, Kobe began a farewell tour for each and every one of the league's arenas, receiving honours from those places where he was envied, acclaimed and hated in equal parts.
All this led to a perfect night to say goodbye to Kobe, a night he shared the spotlight with the 73rd victory of the Golden State Warriors, marking the best record in NBA history.
The Lakers were far from the moment they are living now and for the franchise, the goodbye of a legend meant the end of an era and the end of a season to forget (17-65) .
After going behind on the scoreboard for more than 36 minutes, Bryant entered the fourth quarter with 37 points as the Lakers trailed by nine points. They could have very well thrown in the towel and said goodbye.
Not for Kobe.
He continued to drag the Lakers back into the game.
Exhausted and at the limit of his forces, sustained only by his own relentless drive, the game stood 96-95 for Jazz with 59.7 seconds left. Bryant had scored his team's last 13 points and already added 19 in total in the fourth.
The Jazz had the ball and called a timeout, looking to seal the win. The Lakers anticipated Gordon Hayward's movements and the ball reached Shelvin Mack, who missed the 3-point shot, dropping the ball into the hands of a D'Angelo Russell who quickly got it to Kobe with 42 seconds left.
We all knew that the play was going to start and end with Bryant, for better or for worse. Once he crossed half-court, Hayward went out to meet him and quickly Julius Randle set a screen to free Bryant. He got past Lyles and Hayward, and rose up from just inside the 3-point line and let it fly.
The Jazz call timeout as the Lakers went ahead for the first time in 41 minutes. Trey Lyles would then go on to miss a 3-pointer and the Lakers rebounded the ball, getting it straight to Bryant, who was fouled and sent to the free-throw line with the chance to bring up his 60th points of the night.
An unbelievable finale for Bryant, who took 50 shots on the night!
All eyes were on Bryant, with everyone in the arena knowing exactly where the ball was going. The Lakers had two timeouts remaining, but head coach Byron Scott did not need to draw up a play - we all knew what was coming with the ball in the hands of #24.
Randle's decision to screen at the top of the arc made sense with Lyles heading towards him, but he took the Lakers by surprise.
Utah chose to jump the trap to get as close to Bryant as possible.
Kobe reacted by looking for a re-screen to get to his right hand and force the Jazz defence to make a decision in the pick-and-roll. The crossover and change of pace and direction that the Black Mamba executes catches both defenders off guard, who barely have time to react.
In the second screen, Randle moves in search of hunting Hayward, who can't escape the Lakers forward to get to Bryant before he gets his shot off. That leaves Bryant a clear lane to the hoop, as Lyles tries to recover.
After stepping inside the three-point line, Bryant rises up and does what he does best, with Lyles and Hayward scrambling to contest.
The six players waiting for the rebound can only watch on as his trademark jumper falls through the hoop to put hima t 58 points on the night.
Why is this important?
There have been many important shots in the history of the league and plenty in Bryant's career, with the Lakers legend accustomed to deciding the fate of the games with his own hands. Few players have been able to reach their final career game free of injuries, let alone decide things on their own terms.
You can count them on one hand.
|Reggie Miller||19 May, 2005||27||Pistons 88 - 79 Pacers (Game 6)|
|Dwayne Wade||10 April, 2019||25||Brooklyn Nets 113 - 94 Miami Heat|
|John Havlicek||9 April, 1979||29||Boston Celtics 131-114 Buffalo Braves|
|Tim Duncan||12 May, 2016||19||Oklahoma City Thunder 113 - 99 San Antonio Spurs (Game 6)|
|Michael Jordan*||14 June, 1998||45||Chicago Bulls 87 - 86 Utah Jazz|
* Jordan played for the Washington Wizards between 2001-03.
"If you wanna make history, you have to do historic things."
This is how Kobe Bryant closed his the press conference of the 2008 Finals after losing to the Boston Celtics, a sentence that from that moment would serve as a mantra for his heroic efforts, some in vain and others, as 2016 showed, not so much.
No one to date had achieved such a scoring output in their final game. No one since the beginning of the 21st century has had more 60-point games than Kobe Bryant. Of the 20 that are counted, five are Bryant's, and only James Harden approaches him with four.
If there is a better way to put the finishing touch to a career full of titles, triumphs and awards, personally, I'd like to see it.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.