With two and a half minutes left in the game, and the Utah Jazz leading by 10, 96-86, Kobe Bryant went into "Mamba mode" for the last time.
Initially shunning the idea of scoring 50 in his final game, Kobe instead upped former teammate Shaquille O'Neal's challenge by 10, finishing his illustrious career with the greatest farewell performance by an NBA player—a spectacular 60-point game in a come-from-behind win.
Those 60 points would've been all for naught if he didn't walk off a victor. Kobe understood this, and put matters in his own hands (with the help of willing teammates), scoring 17 of the Los Angeles Lakers' last 19 points, on their way to a 101-96 shocker over the Jazz.
It didn't matter that he missed his first five attempts. It didn't matter that it took him an insane 50 shots. It didn't matter that he made barely half of them (22). It didn't matter that he fired away 21 times from behind the arc, hitting his mark "only" six times.
What mattered was when his team needed the points, he delivered. It was a scene all too familiar to the rowdy crowd that gathered inside the Staples Center, whose floor bore witness to the magnificence of Kobe's game for the better part of his 20-year career.
Suddenly, when you realize that he has been swishing on those nets (the same ones he burned for 81 against poor Toronto) since he was 19, 60 points doesn't sound too far-fetched, also considering this was the seventh time he hit the mark.
Ah, just like the old times.
With four ticks left in the game, he was pulled out for good, after which an emotional Kobe was met with a much-deserved ovation and a swarm of hugs from the bench. The love only intensified as the final buzzer sounded, with cheers and tears drowning the whole arena.
It was a storybook ending, if not for a pinch of irony in his last play: a cross-court pass from the man tagged as the game's "biggest ball hog" to Jordan Clarkson for a dunk that sealed the deal.
But that's the way he is: at times erratic but utterly decisive when it comes to winning. (Just ask his five rings.) Same as when he made the decision to lace 'em Kobe 11's up one last time, he was determined to go out a winner, no matter how many points he put up.
The big 6-0 was really just icing on the cake.
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