By ADARSSH NAGARAJAN
Kobe Bryant’s last game of his 20-year career in the NBA could not have gone any better.
Crippled in recent years by various incapacitating injuries, Bryant turned his farewell game into “The Kobe Bryant Show,” scoring 60 points and leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a comeback win against the Utah Jazz, 101-96. At 37 years old, he still showed the toughness and the talent that made him into one of the legendary shooting guards in basketball history.
“I can’t believe how fast 20 years went by,” said Bryant in his farewell address to his family, his teammates, and his fans at the Staples Center. Since being drafted by the Charlotte Hornets as the thirteenth pick of the 1996 NBA draft, Bryant has won many accolades and much respect. In addition to being a five-time NBA champion and an 18-time NBA All-Star, he holds the record for the third most points scored in an NBA career, coming behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone.
Over the course of Kobe’s career, little kids and professional athletes alike have tried to emulate Kobe’s offensive prowess: a combination of his agile footwork and superior body control. He could slip through defenses easily and made complicated layups look like a piece of cake. Bryant is surprisingly adept at defense as well, playing as a contain defender. But his best trait is his dedication to the game as a whole. He takes off significantly less days than the rest of the league and has an unmatched competitive drive—an intangible trait that is as important to success as physical traits.
Some of the best moments in basketball have had Kobe in the center. In 2006, Kobe fired on all cylinders, as he scored 81 points in one game against the Toronto Raptors. He became only the second player to score more than 80 points in a single game and still holds the record for second-most amount of points ever scored in a basketball game. He has mounted comeback after comeback, with the most memorable one happening in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers in 2000, en route to a victory in the Finals later that year.
However, just looking at his stats discredits his impact off the court. He works closely together with After School All-Stars, a non-profit organization that promotes academic success, and he also started the Kobe Bryant China Fund, which raises money within China for education and health programs.
Although the general consensus remains that Kobe Bryant is a legendary player, some might call him self-centered based on his stats and his sponsorship deals off the court, but they are painting an unfair picture of him. Kobe is someone who changed the game as we know it, someone who was, and still is, called the “Michael Jordan” of modern basketball. Bryant has cemented himself in basketball history, which is why this last season has been particularly enjoyable to watch. Despite the Golden State Warriors’ historic season, Lebron James reaching the coveted 25,000-point-milestone, and Tim Duncan’s record-setting 954th win with the San Antonio Spurs, the most with any single team, this season would always be known as “The End of the Kobe Bryant Era.”
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