They say it does not matter how you start, but how you end. Even if the late Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant sat out the team's final game in his last season, that would not be considered a blemish in his impressive track record. But that is not how the Black Mamba works.
Moments before that fateful game against the Utah Jazz, the Lakers general manager at the time Mitch Kupchak chatted with Clay Moser who worked on the team's analytics, according to Wally Skalij of Los Angeles Times. Kupchak wondered if Bryant could drop 30 points and have a proper goodbye.
“He’s still Kobe,” Moser remembered responding. “Yeah he can get 30.”
While noting was set in stone, the team intended for Bryant to end the game with 30 points. For reference, the 37-year-old Lakers great was just averaging 17.6 points per contest in his farewell tour. 30 would have been a huge ask and accomplishment.
During the season, Kobe seldom participated in Lakers practices or shootarounds. Two decades of wear and tear in the NBA had taken their toll on Bryant to the point that the team would only know his availability on game night.
The atmosphere and significance of his final game seemingly turned the clock back for Bryant. He was unstoppable, almost as if the Kobe of old was playing again at STAPLES Center. His performance can best be summed up by NBA superfan Jimmy Goldstein.
“All of Kobe’s pet moves were on display,” Goldstein remarked. “I think I expected him to score 40 that night. I was startled when he reached 50. And I was amazed when he made it to 60.”