On November 29, 2015, after 20 seasons in the NBA, "The Black Mamba" Kobe Bean Bryant announced that he would retire following the 2015-16 season at age 37.
Arguably the Los Angeles Lakers best player ever in franchise history, which is not an easy title to come by, Bryant knew it was time to give it up prior to entering this current season. He announced his retirement in the form of a poem:
From the momentI started rolling my dad’s tube socksAnd shooting imaginaryGame-winning shotsIn the Great Western ForumI knew one thing was real:
I fell in love with you.
A love so deep I gave you my all —From my mind & bodyTo my spirit & soul.
As a six-year-old boyDeeply in love with youI never saw the end of the tunnel.I only saw myselfRunning out of one.
And so I ran.I ran up and down every courtAfter every loose ball for you.You asked for my hustleI gave you my heartBecause it came with so much more.
I played through the sweat and hurtNot because challenge called meBut because YOU called me.I did everything for YOUBecause that’s what you doWhen someone makes you feel asAlive as you’ve made me feel.
You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dreamAnd I’ll always love you for it.But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.This season is all I have left to give.My heart can take the poundingMy mind can handle the grindBut my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.
And that’s OK.I’m ready to let you go.I want you to know nowSo we both can savor every moment we have left together.The good and the bad.We have given each otherAll that we have.
And we both know, no matter what I do nextI’ll always be that kidWith the rolled up socksGarbage can in the corner:05 seconds on the clockBall in my hands.5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1
Love you always,Kobe
In honor of the future first ballot Hall of Famer, we take a look at Bryant's best moment against each NBA team.
29 Atlanta Hawks
On March 3rd, 2013, the Lakers were down 98-97 to the Hawks and had possession. With about 18 seconds left, the ball goes into the hands of none other than Kobe Bryant. Bryant gets the ball and goes around a pick made by Dwight Howard, with Al Horford checking, a clear mismatch.
Bryant backs up, squares up Horford with some dribbling and then blows right by him to the basket. Waiting for him at the basket was defensive stopper Josh Smith, who challenges Bryant at the rim by going straight up. However, Bryant would not be denied and adjusts his body in midair and makes a tough layup to give the Lakers the lead with 9 seconds and the eventual 99-98 win over the Hawks.
28 Boston Celtics
With about 17 seconds left in the 4th quarter and the Lakers down by one point, Bryant gets the ball with Ray Allen all over him. He dribbles left stops and pump fakes but Allen doesn't fall for it. He pump fakes again, but Allen still does not bite. With nowhere to go Bryant just fades away and drills a shot over Allen's outstretched hand and gives the Lakers a 90-89 lead with 7.3 seconds left.
The Celtics put the ball in Pierce's hand and he dribbles around a pick and then finds Allen wide open for three. Allen gets the ball, shoots and misses, giving the Lakers a one point win.
27 Brooklyn Nets
With the game tied up at 80 a piece and the Lakers with the ball, Bryant gets the rock in his hands with about 7 seconds left on the shot clock. With Gerald Wallace defending him, Bryant dribbles to the right and into the lane. At age 35, Bryant can not get up like he use to, but that did not stop him on this night.
As he drives the lane, Bryant goes up with his right hand and, not only dunks on Wallace but Kris Humphries as well, as both defenders jump with him to block his shot. The crowd went crazy at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
26 Charlotte Hornets/Bobcats
With 6.8 seconds left in the 4th quarter, the Lakers trailed the Bobcats 115-116. The Lakers inbound the ball to Bryant at the top of the key. Bryant, with Keith Bogans guarding him, dribbles to the right inside of the three point line and gives Bogans a pump fake. Bogans bites and then Bryant takes advantage and shoots his infamous fadeaway jumper that he nails, giving the Lakers a 117-116 lead with 0.9 seconds and the eventually the win.
25 Chicago Bulls
In just his second season, the matchup everybody was waiting for happened, Kobe Bryant against the player he looked up to in Michael Jordan.
The two battled throughout the game, with Bryant finishing the game with 33 points off the bench in 29 minutes and Jordan finishing with 36 points in 35 minutes. However, the Bulls were too much for the Lakers as Chicago won 104-83.
After the game Jordan and Bryant walked passed, shook hands and Jordan gave Bryant a pat on the back. Nice moment.
24 Cleveland Cavaliers
The Lakers had the ball with 31.3 second left in the game.
Bryant gets the ball at the top of the key with LeBron James draped all over him. Bryant sees a pick and does not use it, and that leads to Zydrunas Illgauskas coming over to double him, but Bryant would not be denied this moment. Bryant dribbles to his left and fades away going out of bounds and hits a shot over James and Illgauskas that hits nothing but net with 8.6 seconds left, giving the Lakers a 99-97 lead.
James would attempt to answer, hitting one of two free throws, and missing a last second shot to give the Lakers a 99-98 win.
23 Dallas Mavericks
On December 20, 2005, the Dallas Mavericks came into the Staples Center ready to battle Bryant and the Lakers, but they were not ready for the performance Bryant was about to put on.
Bryant came out hot, dropping 32 points in the first half, but he was nowhere close to done. In the 3rd quarter, Bryant broke a Lakers franchise for points in a quarter by dropping 30 points. To make this night even more historic, Bryant had 62 points at the end of the 3rd quarter and the Mavericks had 61 as a team. Yes, Bryant outscored an entire team as the Lakers win a big one against the Mavericks.
22 Denver Nuggets
The Lakers and Nuggets were battling all night, with the game already in overtime. With 4 seconds left and the game tied, Bryant did not want to go into double overtime. Bryant was being double teamed by Andre Miller and Eduardo Najera and dribbled to this right, then hesitated like he was going to shoot. Bryant then keeps dribbling and fades away for a jumper with both defenders hands right in his face, hitting the bottom of net and giving the Lakers a 99-97 victory.
21 Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers were in the 2004 NBA Finals. The Lakers were down 1-0 in the series, after losing the first game at home.
In the second game, the Lakers were down 89-86 with 10.9 seconds left and the ball goes to Kobe Bryant. Bryant goes to the top of the key with Richard Hamilton on him. Braynt dribbles and sees Hamilton back up a little. At that moment, Bryant goes up and shoots a three right in Hamilton's face and drains it, sending the game into overtime. The Lakers went on to win that game 91-99 and tie the series at 1-1.
20 Golden State Warriors
On December 6, 2000, Bryant traveled to Oakland to take on the Golden State Warriors and Antawn Jamison. This game was a battle between Jamison and Bryant.
The game not only went to into overtime, but Jamison finished the game with 51 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists and Bryant finished the game with 51 points 8 assists and 7 rebounds. The Warriors shocked the Lakers in the end by coming up with a 122-125 win. This was a classic matchup between two great scorers.
19 Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets came to battle the Lakers at Staples Center but could not compete with them.The Lakers had 52-62 lead late in the 3rd quarter, but that wasn't enough for Bryant. He had to leave his own mark on the game, and that he did.
Bryant had the ball and went around a slight pick and drove baseline, rising up and dunking over 7'6" Rockets center Yao Ming, having the Lakers fans going crazy and making quite a statement.
18 Indiana Pacers
On January 9, 2009, the Pacers and Lakers battled a close matchup throughout the entire game. In the end, the game came down to one play.
With the game tied up at 119 in the 4th quarter with about 10 second left, Bryant receives the ball at the top of the key and stares a hole throughout the shot clock, which is a second faster then the game clock, as he dribbles. Bryant then backs down the shorter Jarrett Jack into the paint, stops at the free throw line and shots a turnaround jump shot that he nails with three seconds, which ends up being the game winning shot.
17 Los Angeles Clippers
In a city rivalry matchup between the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers, the highlight moment came in the first quarter with 5:13 left. Chris Paul tried to pass the ball but Bryant stepped in the passing lane and stole the pass. Bryant and Paul run down the court side by side, Bryant rises up and Paul jumps with him. For a smart superstar, Paul made the wrong decision, as Bryant dunks on Paul with a one handed slam. After the dunk, Bryant stares down Paul for a couple of seconds and then runs down court with a mad look on his face, like "How dare he try to block my dunk."
16 Memphis Grizzlies
On January 14, 2002, the Grizzlies hoped to come in and upset the Lakers, who at the time, were the top team to beat. That was not the case, thanks in part to Bryant's performance.
Bryant exploded and dropped 56 on the Grizzlies through 3 quarters in 34 minutes. Bryant did not play the 4th quarter, due to the lakers being up 98-59 heading into the final quarter.
What's ironic about this game is that Pau Gasol was a rookie for the Grizzlies, foreshadowing his career in Los Angeles.
15 Miami Heat
Whenever two of the best shooting guards in the league go head-to-head, its always a show. On December 4, 2009, Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant met in a classic game between the two.
With the Heat up 107-105 and 3.2 seconds left in the game, the ball went to Bryant. Bryant gets the inbound pass, dribbles to the left and shoots a desperate three-point shot off of one leg over Wade and banks in a walk-off, buzzer-beating shot to give the Lakers a 108-107 win.
14 Milwaukee Bucks
In one of the best games of the season on December 16, 2009, the Bucks and Lakers fought hard to the end, forcing an overtime game. In overtime, the game looked like it might go into a double.
With 27 seconds left, the Bucks led the Lakers 106-105 and had possession, looking to put the game away. The Bucks put the ball in Michael Redd's hands and he got in the lane and missed a floater, setting up a last chance for the Lakers to try and win this ball game with 5.4 seconds left.
Coming out of a timeout, Lamar Odom inbounds the ball to Kobe Bryant in the backcourt. Bryant quickly dribbles past half court to the left side, backs down Raja Bell on the left, gives a little shimmy and shoots a turnaround jumper as time expires that hits the bottom of the net and gives the Lakers the win in Milwaukee.
13 Minnesota Timberwolves
On March 18, 2007, Bryant made Lakers franchise history against the Timberwolves. In a 109-102 Lakers win over the Timberwolves, Bryant dropped 50 points. However, in the previous game against the Portland Trailblazers, Bryant scored 65 points, becoming the first Lakers player since Elgin Baylor did it in 1962, to score back-to-back 50-point games. Bryant would prove without a shadow of a doubt that he was the new top Laker in town and history.
12 New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans
In Game 5 of the 2011 first round playoffs, with the series tied at 2 games a piece between the New Orleans Hornets and the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant showed how much he wanted to win this game by turning back the hands of time.
Bryant received a pass from teammate Pau Gasol at the top of the key and drove the lane for a monstrous one-handed dunk over Emeka Okafor, looking like the Kobe of old. Bryant must have forgot he was wearing #24 and not #8 for a second.
The Lakers went on to went that game 106-90 and took a 3-2 lead in the series. They went on to win the series 4-2 and moved on to the second round of the playoffs.
11 New York Knicks
In a 2000 game between the Lakers and Knicks, it was a pretty good game until a moment nobody saw coming happened. With Shaquille O'Neal posting up Patrick Ewing, Bryant and Chris Childs were having a confrontation at the same time.
Childs was chasing Bryant around the court and then the two kept bumping each other. Childs gets irritated and then pushes Bryant, causing Bryant to get into Child's face. Child then leans in and headbutts Bryant, which led to Bryant throwing a forearm at his chin. Childs then steps back and throws two closed fists that land on Bryant's chin. Before Bryant could react, he was held back by two referees, teammates and an assistant coach.
Childs was suspended without pay for two games and fined $15,000, while Bryant was suspended without pay for one game and fined $5,000. This was simply a great example of passion.
10 Oklahoma City Thunder (Seattle Supersonics)
On January 7, 2003, Bryant caught fire against the Seattle Supersonics. Bryant shot his first nine 3-pointers and made them. Bryant went on to shoot nine more, but only made three of them. However, that is all Bryant needed at that time to set a new NBA and Lakers franchise record, making twelve 3-pointers in a single game at age 24.
Bryant finished the game with 45 points, 12-18 from 3-point range, as the Lakers beat the Supersonics 119-98.
9 Orlando Magic
On November 12, 2004, Magic rookie Dwight Howard had his "Welcome to the NBA moment" delivered by Kobe Bryant.
Late in the third quarter, Bryant came down the court and went around a pick, crossed-over the defenders and rose up for a thunderous one-handed dunk all over Howard's back. Bryant even hung on the rim and Howard's back for a couple of seconds, letting it sink in.
However, the Magic would get the last laugh winning 122-113.
8 Philadelphia 76ers
The match ups between Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant never failed to put on a show. With both players' teams struggling at the time, Bryant and the Lakers wanted this win more.
The Lakers annihilated the 76ers, beating them 119-93. Bryant finished the game with 48 points, 10 rebounds, made all 7 of his 3-pointers and shot 19-29 overall from the field in 35 minutes. Iverson, on the other side, finished with 31 points and 7 assists in 38 minutes, making this just another classic encounter between the two players.
7 Phoenix Suns
The Lakers were up 2-1 in a series against the Suns but down 88-90 with 7.9 seconds left in game 4 as the Suns had the ball. The Suns inbound the ball to Steve Nash, but Smush Parker steals the ball. They quickly get the ball to Bryant, who drives to the lane and makes an unbelievable layup that sends the game into overtime.
In overtime, both teams gave it their all to the end. With 6.1 seconds, a jump ball between Luke Walton and Steve Nash was called, with the Suns leading the Lakers 98-97. Walton wins the tip and the ball goes to Bryant. Bryant dribbles down the floor goes to the right and fades away over Raja Bell and Boris Diaw and sinks a buzzer-beating, walk-off game winner, giving the Lakers a 3-1 series lead and eventually a trip to the NBA Finals.
6 Portland Trailblazers
On march 16, 2007, Bryant was in a zone against the Trailblazers. The Lakers were on a 7 game losing streak and Bryant was tired of losing.
In the 4th quarter of a close game, Bryant goes off for 24 points, including the game-tying 3-pointer over Zach Randolph to send the game into overtime. In overtime, Bryant hit an unbelievable turnaround jumpshot over LaMarcus Aldridge after being trapped in the corner, giving the Lakers a 116-111 win. Bryant finished the game with 65 points, 2nd highest of his career, on 23-39 shooting.
5 Sacramento Kings
After being down 20 points, Bryant and the Lakers came all the way back to make it a 2-point game in the 4th quarter. The Lakers were down 108-106 with 4.1 seconds and had one last shot to overcome a 20-point deficit for the first time in four years.
They inbound the ball to Pau Gasol, who waits for Bryant as he pushes off the defender, leaving him wide open at the three-point line. Bryant gets the ball off as time expires and swishes the ball through the net, like nobody saw it coming, giving the Lakers a 109-108 win over the Kings. Bryant finished the game with 39 points.
4 San Antonio Spurs
In the 2002 Western Conference Semi-Finals, the Spurs had an epic series, especially in game 4.
With the game tied at 85, 17 seconds left on the shot clock and 23 seconds left on the game clock, Bryant gets the ball at the top of the key and dribbles the clock out. With about 10 second left on the shot clock, Bryant starts to drive the lane but loses the ball. Derek Fisher runs and saves the ball, dribbles the lane and gets a shot off before the shot clock expires but misses. Bryant grabs the rebound out the air with his left hand and then lays the ball up over David Robinson with 5 seconds left, giving the Lakers a 87-85 lead in San Antonio. The Lakers went on to win the game and series, and eventually their third straight NBA championship.
3 Toronto Raptors
No surprise here what moment Bryant had against the Raptors. In the first half of the game, Bryant had 26 points and the Raptors were leading the Lakers 63-49. In the second half, something took over Bryant as he went off for 55 points.
Bryant of course finished with a career high 81 points, the 2nd most in NBA history and led his team to a 122-104 win, after being down by more then 2o points at one point in the game. Bryant completed this impressive feat on just 28 made field goals which is unheard of.
2 Utah Jazz
On November 30, 2006, two of the best Western Conference teams squared off. The Lakers came out strong in front of their home crowd, leading the Jazz 53-41 at halftime, but Bryant didn't feel like that was enough. He wanted to make statement against the 13-3 Jazz, who had the best record in the league at the time.
In the third quarter, Bryant lit up the Jazz for 30 points, making all nine of his shots and all ten of his free throws. Bryant finished the game with 52 points, as the Lakers routed the best team 132-102.
1 Washington Wizards
On March 23, 2003, the rematch that everybody thought they would never seen actually happened. Michael Jordan came out of retirement to play for the Wizards and Bryant had a lot more experience since the two played in 1997. Although Jordan was nowhere near his prime at age 40, Bryant was going to cherish this moment against his basketball idol. Bryant was coming off a three-peat like his mentor, so his confidence was through the roof.
Bryant showed out on the old man Jordan, dropping 55 points on him and the Wizards. Meanwhile, Jordan finished with 24 points. Although Bryant was much better than Jordan at this point in his career, Bryant will never forget this game.