Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant tragically ruptured his left Achilles tendon on April 12, 2013, against the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center. With three minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Bryant made a seemingly innocent move to the basket, pushing off his left foot as he attempted to drive around Warriors small forward Harrison Barnes.
The Lakers icon was fouled, but he felt a pop and thought someone had kicked him.
In typical Bryant fashion, though, Kobe stayed in the game, shot and made both of his free-throws. The Lakers won the contest and made the 2013 playoffs, where they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs.
Bryant basically willed Los Angeles to the postseason that year. He was playing heavy minutes all season long and even hyperextended his left knee early in the second half against the Warriors before his Achilles tendon gave up on him.
After the game, Bryant was very emotional while speaking to reporters and had tears in his eyes.
Months later at a Nike summit, Bryant talked about his Achilles tear and the tough “mountain” he was going to have to climb to get back on top:
“I was really tired, man,” Kobe Bryant said, via Bleacher Report. “Just tired in the locker room, upset and dejected and thinking about this… mountain, man, to overcome. I mean this is a long process. I wasn’t sure I could do it. But then your kids walked in and you’re like, I gotta to set an example. ‘Daddy’s going to be fine. I’m going to do it.’ I’m going to work hard and go from there.”
On April 13, 2013, Bryant had his successful surgery. The five-time NBA champion missed the first 19 games of the 2013-14 season before making his return to the court on December 8, 2013, against the Toronto Raptors. The Black Mamba played 27 minutes and finished with nine points, eight rebounds, four assists and eight turnovers on 2-of-9 shooting from the field. The Lakers lost the game by 12 points.
Bryant wound up playing in six games during the 2013-14 season. He finished the campaign with averages of 13.8 points while shooting 42.5 percent from the field, 18.8 percent from beyond the arc and 85.7 percent from the free-throw line. His best game was on December 14, 2013, versus the Charlotte Hornets. The former MVP put up 21 points on 53.3 percent shooting from the floor in a three-point win for the Lakers.
During the 2014-15 campaign, Bryant played in only 35 games because of a right shoulder injury that required surgery in January. The two-time Finals MVP underwent rotator cuff surgery, effectively finishing his season that saw him finish with averages of 22.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists.
The 2015-16 season was Bryant’s final campaign in the NBA. The Hall of Famer was able to appear in 66 games and averaged 17.6 points. Bryant received standing ovations in every road arena he played in, as fans wanted to pay homage to one of the greatest players in NBA history.
It’s safe to say that every basketball fan will always remember where they were on April 13, 2016. That was Bryant’s final game in the NBA, and boy was it one for the history books.
Against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center, Bryant scored a whopping 60 points in 42 minutes on 44.0 percent shooting from the field. He made clutch shot after clutch shot in the fourth quarter to help the Lakers win.
After the game, Bryant delivered a powerful speech to Lakers fans and ended it by saying, “Mamba out!”
As we all know, Kobe Bryant is the greatest player in Lakers franchise history. In 1,346 games with the Purple and Gold, Bryant averaged 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists. Kobe won five NBA titles, two Finals MVPs and has both of his jerseys (8, 24) hanging in the rafters at Staples Center.