While the Black Mamba's efficiency has plummeted during his season-long swan song, he recaptured vintage form against the league's 22nd-ranked defense and dropped a season-high 38 points on 10-of-21 shooting (7-of-11 from three), five rebounds, five assists and two steals to help the Lakers snap a 10-game losing streak.
With a confident disposition, Bryant repeatedly fired over Timberwolves defenders and even drilled a pull-up jumper over Andrew Wiggins with 26 seconds remaining to send Minnesota packing:
Although Bryant largely struggled inside the arc Tuesday, he torched Minnesota from long-range on the left side of the floor, as NBA.com/Stats explained on Twitter:
According to Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver, the last time Bryant made at least seven threes in a game was March 2008, so it's no wonder ESPN's Kevin Pelton had the following reaction as time was winding down:
Pretty good rerun of one of Kobe's classic games on NBA TV.— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) February 3, 2016
On a night Bryant was serenaded with "M-V-P!" chants from the Purple and Gold faithful, Golden State Warriors forward and Western Conference All-Star Draymond Green took great pleasure in the throwback display:
That Man is Cookin!!!! Looking just like old Kobe!! Love it— Draymond Green (@Money23Green) February 3, 2016
Golliver provided some more staggering context as Bryant piled up 14 of the Lakers' final 18 points during a fourth quarter that saw the Timberwolves attempt to mount a furious comeback:
Kobe Bryant, 37, with 38 points in Lakers win. The last time a player 37 or older scored 37+ points was Reggie Miller in 2005.— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) February 3, 2016
The relative scoring explosion was also quite ironic considering it came against Sam Mitchell, who was also the head coach of the Toronto Raptors at the time of Kobe's legendary 81-point outing, as GQ's Myles Brown noted:
lmao Kobe giving Sam Mitchell seven threes is the best parting gift ever— Myles Brown (@mdotbrown) February 3, 2016
While the Timberwolves dropped their fifth straight and fell to 2-8 over the last 10 games, Bryant had some kind words for Wiggins as he reflected on the evening in an interview with Lakers broadcaster Mike Trudell, according to NBA TV on Twitter:
Kobe has now dropped at least 30 points in a game three times this season, but as the sample indicates, those performances are very much the exception—not the rule.
However, Tuesday was a nice reminder that Kobe is still capable of recapturing his former magic and putting on a show that allows fans to briefly bask in the glow of his glory days.
And with just 31 games left on the Lakers' schedule, it's worth taking some time to step back and admire some of the goosebump-inducing moments Bryant has provided.
"Tonight [Kobe] looked really lively," Lakers head coach Byron Scott said, according to Bleacher Report's Michael Pina. "The last couple games he looked really good...I appreciate [him] more than anyone."
Scott also took time to admire Kobe's Mamba mentality, according to the Los Angeles Daily News' Mark Medina:
Byron on Kobe: "His body isn't what it used to be. His mind is sharp as a tack."— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) February 3, 2016
Mitchell was also effusive in his praise, but he didn't hesitate to let everyone know how he feels, according to Golliver:
Sam Mitchell said Kobe Bryant a "top 5, 6, 7 player" & added: "I hate him. If I don't ever see him again, it will be too soon. I hate him."— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) February 3, 2016
"Thank you for the hate," Bryant said, per Golliver. "I appreciate that. Truly, I love that."
Following their respective press conferences, Bryant and Mitchell took time to reflect on the evening, as ESPN.com's J.A. Adande documented:
"There should be a whole museum of Mamba moments," Lakers point guard D'Angelo Russell said, per the team's official Twitter account.
In typical Kobe fashion, the Laker legend didn't mince words when discussing his electric performance: "You've seen this for 20 damn years," he said, according to Pina. "What are you impressed by?"