Ranking Top 10 Games of Kobe Bryant's Legendary Lakers Career
Kobe Bryant's season is likely over after he presumably tore his left Achilles tendon (per Royce Young of CBS Sports) in the fourth quarter of their 118-116 win over the Golden State Warriors on Friday night.
While the Lakers won the game and got another step closer to the playoffs, they likely lost Bryant for the season.
In the hours following the news, Kobe came out on Facebook and went on a magnificent, rambling rant, which ended up with a lot of confusion and just a little bit of doubt.
"Maybe Father Time has defeated me...Then again maybe not! It's 3:30am, my foot feels like dead weight, my head is spinning from the pain meds and I'm wide awake."
There are a ton more questions than answers right now, and as it seems that the Lakers are hell-bent on still making the playoffs, there has been very little time to sit back and reflect.
A torn Achilles can mean many things, but it likely means a lot of rehabilitation, time off and likely a much different, possibly slower and less-effective Bryant. That's a bit of a horrifying thought.
Instead of dwelling on negatives, I'd rather take a look at the amazing basketball that we've gotten out of Bryant throughout his career.
Obviously, as he spent his career primarily as a scorer, there's going to be a lot of weight put on games in which the old Mamba scored a flurry of points, but I love the ones where he was just maddeningly efficient as well.
Whittling down the best 10 games of Kobe's career seems to be about as easy as threading cooked spaghetti through a straw, but it seems like a fine time to go ahead and offer my take.
For your entertainment, we've found a video of each game and thrown in a mark for the essential "Kobe Moment" from the game.
10. Only Missed 6
Game: December 21, 2000—Los Angeles Lakers 99, Houston Rockets 94
Stat Line: 45 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 20-of-26 shooting, 1-of-1 three-pointers, 4-of-6 free throws
Kobe Moment (2:30): Baseline layup and-1 after a huge foul from Hakeem Olajuwon
Since 1986, just 14 players have had a more efficient game than this one from Kobe. His 20-of-26 mark from the field put him at 77 percent shooting, a mark that was obviously his best when scoring at least 25.
Just three other guards (per Basketball-Reference.com) have put together a game with at least 45 points while taking a more efficient route to the end. Dana Barros had one in 1995, Gilbert Arenas was a shockingly efficient 81.3 percent in 2006 and Michael Jordan came through with the most efficient 45-point (or 50-point) game in that time frame with 52 points on 24-of-29 shooting.
I would say that's fine company to be mentioned with, but that seems obvious.
Bryant's most efficient high-scoring game seems to get lost in the annals of time just because of how long ago it happened, but thankfully, there are people out there who compile footage and put it on YouTube.
If you've got the three minutes, watch this little wrap-up; it'll make you smile on a sad day for Kobe fans.
9. Sweepin' Sacto
Game: May 13, 2001—Los Angeles Lakers 113, Sacramento Kings 113
Stat Line: 48 points, 16 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 15-of-29 shooting, 1-of-1 three-pointers, 17-of-19 free throws
Kobe Moment (8:25): The postgame interview
I've got to elaborate on that one a bit. We always talk about how Kobe has a much different mentality with basketball than most of the other players around the league.
After he enjoyed his romp of the Kings, something that he got used to after a while, he was asked why he was having so much fun in this game in particular, he went off in an interesting tangent.
Basketball is, you know, it's like my getaway, it's like my psychologist. When I play basketball everything else is in the back of my mind, it's just fun playing.
That quote speaks volumes to the dedication that Bryant has to basketball and the reason that it's so easy to enjoy watching him play.
Beyond the fact that he can be polarizing because of his inefficiency or his off-court attitude, it's hard not to respect a man who is that dedicated—and almost freakishly in love with a game.
You can see the enjoyment exuding out of every pore on Kobe's body was this game goes along.
8. Rainin' Threes
Game: January 7, 2003—Los Angeles Lakers 119, Seattle Supersonics 98
Stat Line: 45 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 16-of-28 shooting, 12-of-18 three-pointers, 1-of-1 free throws
Kobe Moment (1:41): His 10th make. Kenny Anderson is right on him. He gets a screen from a teammate which he just waves off, so he can pull up with Anderson inches away from him. We've seen Kobe take that shot hundreds of times throughout his career.
When Kobe set the record for the most three-pointers in a game, it seemed like just another stepping stone toward him becoming the best player in the league—and really it was.
Now, however, it almost seems like he's done so much more that is so far and above making a simple 12 shots that people forget when he set the record.
Of course, the fact that he now shares it with Donyell Marshall might take away a bit of the luster.
That's not to take anything away from the record itself. It's just that it seems more like an accomplishment that any incredibly hot three-point shooter could pull down if all goes right. Of course, 12 three pointers is nothing to shake a stick at.
Whether it's on his list of top achievements or not, it still makes for one hell of a game, and at the very least, one of his 10 best.
7. 50 Points on 25 Shots
Game: April 15, 2007—Los Angeles Lakers 109, Seattle Supersonics 98
Stat Line: 50 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 18-25 shooting, 3-of-6 three-pointers, 11-of-13 free throws.
Kobe Moment (1:50): Late in the fourth quarter, Mickael Gelebale and Chris Wilcox double-team Kobe in the paint, Kobe fades, fades some more and fades too much, getting his shot off just before the point of no return when he falls to the ground.
Like I've said a few times already, I'm a fiend for efficient games from Kobe Bryant.
Whenever he goes off and scores 30 on 14 or 15 shots, riding the three-point line and getting to the free-throw line ad naseum, it gets me incredibly excited.
Kobe can legitimately score 30, or even 40 points, on any given night, he just has to take the shots. There's no question as to whether he'll get the shots off or if he'll find enough of them to take; it's just over how many he can hit.
Then there are times like these when he seems to be incapable of missing. That's when Kobe is most special to me.
Most of the time, he can score 30, 40 or 50 points and hover around 45-55 percent from the field, and other times, he can get above 60 percent.
On occasion, his shot will fall, and it'll never stop dropping. He'll shoot 70 percent (or 72 percent like in this game) and begin to look superhuman.
6. Like Mike
Game: March 28, 2003—Los Angeles Lakers 108, Washington Wizards 94
Stat Line: 55 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 15-of-29 shooting, 9-of-13 three-pointers, 16-of-18 free throws.
Kobe Moment (3:45): Jahidi White pressures Shaq, who kicks it out to Kobe on the elbow. Well, really Kobe is about four steps behind what you would consider the elbow. He shows Tyronn Lue the ball, looks at the shot clock and knocks down a deep three.
The list of people who have scored at least 55 points in their career is incredibly short. The list of guys who have scored 55 points while outperforming Michael Jordan is a lot shorter.
It doesn't matter to me that Jordan is wearing a Washington Wizards uniform (OK, it kind of matters), and it doesn't matter to me that one of his most impressive moments from the game came in the form of a jumper with Lue guarding him. All that matters is the performance.
It was Jordan's last game at Staples Center, and it was near the end of March, so it was the farewell tour of the greatest player of all time, and there's Kobe ripping the torch out of his hands.
Sure, Jordan had been out of the league for a few years before his Wizards' stint, and he was nowhere near the guy that he was with the Chicago Bulls, but his mere presence made this game more special than it would have been otherwise.
5. Throwin' in 60
Game: March 22, 2007—Los Angeles Lakers 121, Memphis Grizzlies 119
Stat Line: 60 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 20-of-37 shooting, 3-of-7 three-pointers, 17-of-18 free throws
Kobe Moment (2:57): A missed Sasha Vujacic three turns into an offensive rebound for Lamar Odom. Odom sees Kobe streaking to the rim, Kobe bites off a bit more than he can chew, but somehow, he gets the shot to fall and gets the foul.
It's no coincidence that a great portion of these amazing games take place in 2006 and 2007.
After the Lakers traded Shaquille O'Neal, Los Angeles' roster thinned out, and Kobe realized that if he was the player whom the team decided to build around, he better play like it and then some, as it seems in a few cases.
He went on a tear against the Grizzlies in this one, realizing that there wasn't much help on his team to drop in a ton of points. If he didn't do it, nobody would.
One of my favorite parts of these 2005-2007 games is how prevalent Lamar Odom is throughout. He and Kobe were so in sync for so long, connecting on stunning passes and really knowing the tendencies of one another, that it's surprising to see the graceless fall of Odom.
It seems that Kobe might have actually made him better—something that people tend not to talk about in relation to him.
4. 65 Against Portland
Game: March 16, 2007—Los Angeles Lakers 116, Portland Trail Blazers 111
Stat Line: 65 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 23-of-39 shooting, 8-of-12 three-pointers, 11-of-12 free throws
Kobe Moment (4:00): The game-tying shot. He shakes off contact from Ime Udoka and Zach Randolph, turns the corner and drains the three-pointer to send it to overtime.
Kobe Bryant's involvement in this game is only marginally exciting next to the realization that Udoka not only started a game for the Portland Trail Blazers in 2007, but started a stunning 75 games. More stunning, he wasn't that bad.
This was the season following Kobe's 81-point game, so the fact that he could score at such a high level wasn't surprising. What was surprising was that he nonchalantly hit eight of his 12 three-pointers.
There aren't many videos of him floating around in which he completely mixes his inside and outside game so fluidly.
The three-pointers fall like rain, including a two-thirds court chuck that banks in, and he takes contact in the lane like Muhammad Ali taking punches in the early rounds.
Head fakes, finger rolls, fall-aways, flat-out circus shots, this game really had Kobe on full display.
3. Kobe and Gasol's Best Ever?
Game: February 2, 2009—Los Angeles Lakers 126, New York Knicks 117
Stat Line: 61 points, 3 assists, 19-of-31 shooting, 3-of-6 three-pointers, 20-of-20 free throws
Kobe Moment (10:20): Kobe pump-fakes Wilson Chandler out of his shorts, knocks down a jumper, Spike Lee laughs and the world keeps on spinnin'.
In their time together, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol have combined for some incredibly impressive performances, although none may be more impressive than this combined demolition of the New York Knicks.
With Kobe and the Lakers in Madison Square Garden, he and Gasol come in to combine for a ridiculous 91 points, all on the way to Bryant breaking Bernard King's record for most points in The Garden with his 61.
This was one where Kobe didn't rely too much on three-pointers. He hit a few here and there, but for the most part, he let Gasol knock down shots in the high post, while he and Lamar Odom floated around and hit mid-range jumpers.
If Kobe wasn't taking a mid-range shot, he was taking hard to the hole, so he could get a bit of contract, knock in a shot and throw in a free throw for good measure.
Walk away from this one unimpressed and I'd like a word with you.
2. 62 in Three
Game: December 20, 2005—Los Angeles Lakers 112, Dallas Mavericks 90
Stat Line: 62 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals, 18-of-31 shooting, 4-of-10 three-pointers, 22-of-25 free throws
Kobe Moment (7:30): Kobe 62, Dallas 61
With the Lakers up by a ton, we couldn't help but wonder "what could have been" when Kobe scored 62 points in 32 minutes against the Dallas Mavericks back in 2005.
Of course, his 81-point game came just a month later, so we were all able to go, "Oh, that could have been."
Bryant was so on point throughout this game, there was a running joke once the Lakers got up by so many as to whether or not he could outscore the Dallas Mavericks on his own. Surprisingly enough, the answer was yes.
He never saw a second of play in the fourth quarter, so taking a look at the time when he was actually on the floor or going to be on the floor, Kobe outscored the Mavericks, 62-61.
Perhaps even more ridiculous, with Kobe outpacing the Mavericks by himself, he posted a plus/minus of plus-35 (per Basketball-Reference.com). Smush Parker accompanied him at the top of the Lakers with plus-30 and Chris Mihm at plus-28. Those had to have been career highs.
1. Kobe and Smush Go for 94
Game: January 22, 2006—Los Angeles Lakers 122, Toronto Raptors 104
Stat Line: 81 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 28-of-46 shooting, 7-of-13 three-pointers, 18-of-20 free throws
Kobe Moment: He scored 81; they're all Kobe moments.
What is there to say about this one that hasn't already been pounded into the ground for the past seven years?
It was flat-out amazing.
Taking 46 shots in a game is going to yield ridiculous results no matter who it is taking the shots.
This was just the fourth time since 1986 (per Basketball-Reference.com) that any player had attempted 46 in a single game, and this is, by far, the most anybody ever got out of it.
Michael Jordan scored 64 on nearly a half-hundred chucks, while Chris Webber picked up 51 from 47 shots back in 2001.
Of course, not to be outdone, Kobe had another game with at least 46 attempts, shooting 47 times in a game against the Boston Celtics in 2002. He scored just 41 points.
For some reason, it seems like that sums up what Kobe has done throughout his career more than anything else, although it's not meant to be a negative.
Kobe is the only guard to have played in the NBA since Michael Jordan that any coach would trust enough to shoot 40 times in a single game, and the fact that he's done it twice tells you how much trust Kobe had.