Like the weather, the day is carrying a bit of grey and gloom. Perhaps, yesterday’s fog and dropping temperature was a signal of a future mishap.
Let’s track a little back to a day before yesterday; LeBron James surpassed his brother, his old rival and friend Kobe Bryant, to become the third-highest scorer of all time. But what is a rival if they don’t celebrate each others success.
Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother 💪🏾 #33644
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 26, 2020
Such a cheering tweet and we barely had an idea that this was the last one from his account. The tragic news of the helicopter crash carrying 9 passengers including Kobe Bryant and his daughter is a bitter shock to the entire sports fraternity as well as the world. No one knows how to react to this situation. Processing the gravity of such an incident is taking a toll on the heart.
The day is tough but Kobe’s career was all about being the best and leading by example. On this day, we would like to take the opportunity to look back and relish some of the top moments from the stalwart’s career.
A trade that was a game-changer for the LA Lakers(1996)
In 1996, Lakers were looking to trade Vlade Divac in order to free-up their salary cap and to make an offer to then free-agent Shaquille O’Neal. The Hornet’s head-scout Bill Branch revealed that they agreed to trade their draft selection #13 to the Lakers the day before the draft but never thought of drafting Bryant. However, after the draft, the trade was jeopardized when Divac threatened to retire rather than be traded from the Lakers. But later he agreed for the move and on July 9, 1996 Lakers signed Kobe Bryant but his parents had to consign his contract as he was still 17. The day Bryant turned 18, he signed a three-year rookie contract of $3.5 million with the Lakers.
Leading the comeback against Portland of the Western Finals(2000)
By the time this game arrived, Kobe Bryant had come into his own and was an all-star. The Lakers lead O’Neal and Bryant had pocketed 67 games, which was termed as one of the best seasons in NBA history. The first title was within reach. However, a stubborn Portland side had other ideas. In the seventh and deciding game of the series, the Lakers were found trailing by 16 points that to in the 4th quarter!
The chips were down but the comeback was on. Together, Bryant and O’Neal brought the game back into the Lakers camp. Bryant finished with 25 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and four blocked shots.
Delivering the Final when O’Neal fouled out (2000)
Against Indiana Pacers in the fourth game of the 2000 NBA Finals, the Lakers looked like they will knot the series at two games apiece. With the game in overtime and O’Neal fouled out, Lakers were destined for the defeat in the Finals. But, this time, Bryant didn’t choke. He showed what leaders are made-off! This match is nothing short of a thriller Hollywood script. He made a clutch shot and carried the Lakers on his shoulders to the victory.
The best part is that he did it on a throbbing ankle because of which he had to miss Game 3 of the series thus opening the gates for Pacers comeback.
81-point wonder! (2006)
No Basketball fan can forget what happened in a meaningless regular-season game against Toronto Raptors.
If you are unable to grasp it then let me walk you through this; Lakers won the match with 122-104 points out of which Kobe Bryant scored 81 points. It seems like usual, doesn’t it?
It might be for him but not for us. This was the second-highest single-game total in the history of the NBA, only Wilt Chamberlain’s famous 100-point game in 1962 exceeds this record. It was an exceptional individual season for Kobe Bryant. He averaged around 35.4 points per game which made him the only fifth player in the NBA history to exceed the 35-point-per-game mark.
Winning the first title without O’Neal (2009)
This is regarded as Bryant’s season. After a superb season of 65 wins, which was the best record in the NBA that year. The Lakers faced Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals where they defeated the Magics by 5 games to nil.
Though it was Bryant’s fourth title, it was an important one because this was the first time he won a title with Lakers without O’Neal. By doing so, Bryant buried all the voices that shouted Kobe Bryant needed a teammate like O’Neal to win the title. Next year, Bryant, for all his greatness, won the title again with the Lakers. This was his fifth title and edged O’Neal’s count of four and was one behind Jordan.
“Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise.”
Indeed, these instances were chances where he could have cracked under pressure but we saw him rise to see his team win the game. He was a fighter, a magician and an inspiration for us. He is gone but his legacy will remain. R.I.P. Mamba!