Kobe Bryant Just Had a Movie-Script Ending
Kobe Bryant's career will henceforth be referred to in the past tense.
That's right. It's over.
20 years, 17 All-Star teams, 15 All-NBA selections, 12 All-Defensive selections, 1 MVP award, 2 Finals MVPs, and 5 championship rings: a sterling résumé for one of the best players to ever step foot on a basketball court.
What Kobe has meant to the game over the last two decades could not have been more clearly demonstrated than it was on the last night of the 2015-16 NBA season. While the Golden State Warriors were making history by becoming the first team ever to reach 73 wins in a single season, the majority of hoops fans were tuned into a game between two lottery-bound teams: the recently-eliminated-from-playoff-contention Utah Jazz and the 17-65 Los Angeles Lakers.
As he has done for his whole career, though, Kobe transcended the moment and the circumstances and made an otherwise meaningless game into something historic.
At 37 years of age, Kobe Bean Bryant dropped 60 points on the Jazz and led his team to one last completely improbable victory; so perfect, you'd think it were scripted.
With 2:16 to go in the game, Utah's win probability hit a whopping 97.17%. At that point -- one last time for old time's sake -- Kobe just completely took over, going on a 13-0 run by himself on 4-for-4 shooting from the field and 4-for-4 from the line.
He made what would end up being the game-winning shot with 31 seconds left in the fourth to push the score to 97-96 for the Lakers. That moment caused a +19.7% swing in win probability, representing the first time all game when our algorithms favored the Lakers.
Kobe would then add two free throws to cap off his 60 points and toss an assist to Jordan Clarkson for the final play of the game and of his career.
Kobe's final line was 60 points on 22-for-50 shooting from the field, 6-for-21 from deep, and 10-for-12 from the free throw line, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal, a block, and 2 turnovers in 42 minutes. The 60 points represented the highest single-game total by any player in the league this season and was also the most ever scored by a player in his final NBA game. The 50 field goal attempts was the most by any player in the Association in a single game since the stat started officially being tracked during the 1983-84 season.
And with that, Kobe put a final exclamation mark on a Hall of Fame career. He finishes with career averages of 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.4 steals, and 0.5 blocks per contest, while making a whole bunch of all-time lists:
|Field Goals Made||11,719||5th|
|Field Goals Attempted||26,200||3rd|
|Field Goals Missed||14,481||1st|
He's never been known as a particularly efficient player, but his career averages in most advanced efficiency-based metrics still rank between good and great now that all is said and done. Even with a career 48.2% Effective Field Goal Percentage (weighted twos and threes), Kobe still managed to finish his career with an average Player Efficiency Rating of 22.9, a Win Shares Per 48 Minutes rate of .170, and with 172.7 total Win Shares (which ranks him 15th all-time). That's not terrible for a guy that shot nearly 20 times per game for his career at what some would call an inefficient clip (44.7% from the field).
Besides, fans of Kobe won't remember him as much for his missed shots as for the ones he made. They'll remember the 81 points he dropped on the Toronto Raptors in 2006, the three-peat in the early 2000s, the back-to-back titles to bring in the 2010s, and the individual battles with other greats -- both old and new -- over his two decades of NBA service.
And the opposing fans? They might cite his holding the all-time record for missed field goals in an attempt to belittle his accomplishments, but most of all, they'll remember hating on him for all the nasty things he did to their beloved teams over the years:
Whether you've spent the last 20 years being a Kobe lover or a Kobe hater, his final game was the perfect encore. 60 points for the lovers, 50 shots for the haters, a game-winner (of sorts) for both sides to remember him by, and enough spectacle to engage all hoops fans, from the most casual to the biggest diehards. With an ending so perfectly storybook, what more is there really to say?