Goodbye, Mamba: What I'll Remember Most About Kobe Bryant

Tonight marks the merciful end to the Lakers' embarrassing season, and the final game of Kobe Bryant's career. If people pay $700 just to get in the door of your sweaty retirement ceremony, you probably had a career worth remembering. Here are ten of my personal favorite Kobe moments:

10. The time Kobe was the Alpha Dog on the best team in the world

As part of the “Redeem Team,” Kobe Bryant led the United States to a gold medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics. When it was winning time, Kobe stood up and carried Team USA to a victory over Spain in the gold medal game. You might have heard of some of the other players on Team USA that year.*

*Well I’ll be damned. Carlos Boozer and Tayshaun Prince were on the Olympic team. That’s not who I’m talking about.

9. The time Kobe wasn’t human

Have you ever had someone fake like they’re throwing a basketball at your face? Did you cower in fear? Thought so.

8. The time Kobe proved a point

Sometimes when the haters really are chirping about you shooting too much, the best thing to do is….not shoot in the second half of crucial Game 7 to show everyone that your teammates can’t hoop.

Kobe, averaging a robust 27.2 field goal attempts per game, made a conscious effort to not shoot in the second half of the 2006 Western Conference first round series against the Phoenix Suns. He mostly just watched and laughed on the inside as his teammates clanked shot after shot. 

7. The time Kobe broke the three point record

6. The time Kobe caught a two-piece

5. The time Kobe made The Pass

Who says Kobe can’t dish the rock?  

4. The time Kobe didn't back down

Long before Kobe was the Black Mamba, a 19-year-old kid with a 'fro took on the greatest player of all time and lived to tell about it.

In 1997, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan faced off in arguably their greatest battle. MJ finished with 36 points, Kobe with 33 in a Chicago win. 

* Kobe actually never backed down. Ever. Here's a must-see video of the one-on-one battles between MJ and Kobe over the years.

3. The time Kobe beat the Mavericks

Remember when Steve Nash won his second Most Valuable Player award in 2005-2006 because he’s a short white guy? A criminal investigation should have been launched to determine why Black Mamba wasn’t the MVP that year.

In the middle of his 35.4 points-per-game campaign (you read that right), Kobe beat the Dallas Mavericks by himself. At the end of the third quarter the score was Kobe 62, Dallas 61. 

Dallas was the four seed in the Western Conference Playoffs that year.

2. The time Kobe stayed in the game after tearing his Achilles

Easily one of the most badass things anyone has ever done on a basketball court. Kobe tore his Achilles tendon, made two free throws and walked off under his own power as if nothing had happened.

For reference: One time Dwyane Wade bumped his shoulder and LeBron James had cramps.

1. The time Kobe scored 81

This is Kobe Bryant’s Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Magnificent in so many ways from start to finish. Not quite understood until years later, but unquestionably his masterpiece.

If you remember one thing about Kobe Bryant, remember the night Kobe scored 81 points in a damn game. We are all extremely lucky to have gotten the opportunity to watch Kobe Bryant play the sport of basketball. |ES|

Top image: Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images