LOS ANGELES, Sporting Alert – NBA legend Kobe Bryant closed out his career with the Los Angeles Lakers by scoring 60 points in his team’s 101-96 comeback win over the Utah Jazz inside a packed STAPLES Center on Wednesday night.
Download Lakers v Jazz Game Score Box | Watch Bryant’s 60pts Performance.
This was the first time Bryant was scoring over 50-points since February 2009, and he checked out of the game for good with 4.1 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
The 37-year-old who announced in November that he would retire from the game at the end of this season, expressed gratitude to his fans and close friends and relatives who have supported his one-team NBA career over the past two decades.
Bryant wanted to deliver a highlighting performance for the fans in his final game and that he did, despite missing his first five shots to start the contest.
“I think the most important part is that we all stayed together throughout,” Bryant said to the crowd during his final speech.
“You’ll always be in my heart, and I sincerely, sincerely appreciate it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you guys.”
After that he went 5-for-5, as the five-time NBA champion scored 22 first half points, his highest for the campaign en route to finishing with his sixth 60-point game in what has been a remarkable career.
The LA Lakers guard also scored 23 points in the fourth quarter to take over the game, as the hosts rallied from being down by 15-points.
“I can’t believe how fast 20 years went by, this is crazy,” Bryant, who took a career-high 50 shots, including 21 from 3-point range, said.
“To be standing here centre court with you guys, my team-mates behind me, we’ve been through our ups and we’ve been through our downs and stayed together throughout.
“I’m more proud, not about the championships but about the down years because we didn’t run, we played through all that stuff, we got our championships and we did it the right way.”
There was no doubt that everyone wanted this to be Kobe’s night.
“What’s funny is the fact I go through 20 years of everybody screaming to pass the ball, then the last night they’re like ‘don’t pass it!’
“What else can I say?” Bryant, nicknamed “The Black Mamba,” asked. “Mamba out!”
Despite Bryant’s his thrilling performance on Wednesday night, though, the Los Angeles Lakers (17-65) finished the campaign with the worst season in franchise history.
“The perfect ending would have been a championship,” said a smiling Bryant. “But tonight was (me) trying to go out, play hard and try to put on a show as much as I possibly could.
“It felt good to be able to do that one last time.”
Meanwhile, LA Lakers coach Byron Scott, a teammate of Bryant in his rookie season also had something to say about the great man’s final outing.
“It just didn’t surprise me, the way he would go out,” said Scott. “Sixty points wasn’t a surprise. I knew he had it in him.”
Jordan Clarkson finished with 12 points on 6 of 12 shooting and pulled down seven rebounds for the Lakers, who shot 48.2-percent from the floor.
Trey Lyles led the Utah Jazz with 18 points, 11 rebounds and five steals and Gordon Hayward ended with 17 points.
Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher, Shaquille O’Neal, Magic Johnson and Gary Patton, were all among the former LA players inside the STAPLES Center for Bryant’s final game.