He will be the first NBA player to have two different numbers retired by the same team, which is fitting for a player who always stood out above the rest. Kobe “Bean” Bryant and his infamous numbers 8 and 24 will be hoisted into the rafters on Monday, December 18th, 2017 at the Staples Center, as he will be the 10th Los Angeles Lakers player to have his number retired by the franchise. Kobe told NBA.com, “As a kid growing up in Italy, I always dreamed of my jersey hanging in the Lakers rafters, but I certainly never imagined two of them. The Lakers have bestowed a huge honor on me, and I’m grateful for the fans’ enthusiasm around this game.”
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss added that “Kobe’s jerseys are taking their rightful home next to the greatest Lakers of all time.” Kobe indeed put the “Showtime Lakers” back on the map with incredible moments that span over an illustrious twenty-year career, which included five NBA Championships and two NBA Finals MVP Awards. He is also the Lakers all-time leader in regular season games played (1,346), points (33,643), three-pointers made (1,827), steals (1,944) and free throws made (8,378). As if that isn’t enough, Kobe also owns the franchise playoff records for games played (220), points (5,640), three-pointers made (292) and free throws made (1,320).
So what are Kobe Bryant’s Top 5 NBA Finals Moments? Let’s take a look.
5) Game 3 of the 2002 NBA Finals (Lakers vs Nets)
In what some consider one of the most complete Finals games he has ever played in, Kobe and company slammed the door shut on whatever hope the New Jersey Nets had of getting back into the series. Kobe led all scorers that game with 36 points. He shot a whopping 60% from the field, and accompanied that with 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocked shots.
Kobe suffocated fellow all-star Jason Kidd with his ruthless defensive play and made it hard for Kidd and the Nets to develop any kind of rhythm. With 20 seconds left, a 2-point lead and seconds left on the shot clock, Kobe sliced in between two defenders and found himself one on one vs Kidd as he hit a one-handed basket to ice the game for the Lakers, and ice the series as the Lakers won the game the following evening — sweeping the series 4-0 against the Nets.
This was the Lakers third consecutive NBA title, becoming only the 5th team in NBA history to three-peat.
4) Game 2 of the 2004 NBA Finals (Lakers vs Pistons)
It’s hard to find a player that can have a Top 5 moment in a series that his team would end up losing, but if any player can do it, his name is Kobe Bryant.
In a match up of arguably two of the NBA’s best teams to ever square up in the Finals, Kobe used the platform to show the world that he wasn’t just a special player, but an all-time great player. Knowing his team could not go back to Detroit down 2-0 in the series, Kobe laid it all out on the line in Game 2. He finished the game with 33 points, 7 assists and 4 rebounds. Down three with six seconds left, Kobe tied the game at 89 points by hitting a three pointer over fellow all-star Rip Hamilton as time expired, sending the Lakers crowd into a frenzy, and sending the Lakers to overtime.
In the overtime period, Black Mamba led the Lakers charge, as they jumped out to an 8-0 run in overtime and never looked back. Kobe and company would go on to win the game by a score of 99-91.
3) Game 1 of the 2009 NBA Finals (Lakers vs Magic)
Looking to prove to the world that he could win a title without Shaq, Kobe Bryant came out guns blazing in the first game of the 2009 NBA Finals, as his Lakers took on nemesis Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic.
Kobe was ruthless in game one of the Finals, living up to his Black Mamba nickname by scoring an incredible 40 points. The game was close at halftime, but Kobe dropped 18 of his 40 points in the 3rd quarter to put too much pressure on Orlando, and the game was over just like that.
Kobe added 8 rebounds and 8 assists in the game, just missing a triple double. He was everywhere on the defensive end of the floor as well, leading the Lakers to a 100-75 win. His 40 points were a career high for Kobe in the finals. Kobe and the Lakers would go on to win the series 4-1. It was Kobe’s fourth NBA title of his career.
2) Game 4 of the 2000 NBA Finals (Lakers vs Pacers)
It was his first ever NBA Finals, and Kobe and the Lakers were not about to get all the way to the Finals to leave empty handed.
They faced a scrappy, veteran led Indiana Pacers team that was as physical as they come. Led by Hall of Famer Reggie Miller, the Pacers gave the Lakers everything they could handle.
In Game 4, the Lakers found themselves with a 2-1 series lead, and had no intentions of heading back to LA with the series tied. The Lakers trailed most of the game, but were able to keep it close heading into the fourth quarter. Kobe was guarded the entire game by Miller, however, he managed to find space on the floor to drain jumper after jumper, eventually tying the game to send the Lakers to overtime.
One minute into overtime Shaq fouled out, and everyone thought the Lakers would fold. Kobe had other ideas. He took over the overtime period, and with a minute left in a one possession game, Kobe hit a three pointer over Miller to give the Lakers a 4-point lead. He would add another clutch bucket — a blocked shot on 7-footer Rick Smits — and with the Lakers up by one point in the final 10 seconds, he caught a rebound under the basket and in mid air was able to kiss the ball off the backboard, where it found the bottom of the basket.
The Lakers would hold on to win the game 120-117. Kobe finished the game with 28 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks. The Lakers would go on to win the next game at Staples Center, and Kobe won his first NBA championship.
1) Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals (Lakers vs Celtics)
There was only one thing on Kobe and the Lakers’ minds headed into a Game 7 with their rivals the Boston Celtics, and that was payback. Kobe and the Lakers had lost two years prior to the Celtics in six games, and Kobe was not about to let his arch rivals get another one over on him.
The scene was set in LA, and the Staples Center was front and center for one of the best Game 7’s in NBA history. It was the first and only NBA Finals Game 7 Kobe would play in during his illustrious 20-year career. He certainly did not disappoint.
In one of the most physical and hard-fought basketball games ever, Kobe willed the Lakers in the second half, finding ways to create fouls and get himself to the free throw line. Down by as many as eight points in the 4th quarter, Kobe rallied his troops during a timeout and gave a passionate speech. After that, the Lakers would find a way to cut the lead and tie the game. With one minute left, he made a crucial assist to a wide-open Ron Artest, who would hit a three pointer that would give the Lakers the lead — a lead they would not let go of.
The Lakers went on to win the game 83-79. Kobe finished with 23 points, 15 rebounds and 2 assists. More importantly, Kobe would go on to win NBA Finals MVP — the second of his career. It was also his fifth and final NBA title, cementing his place in Lakers and NBA history.
Kobe Bryant Retirement Swag
To commemorate one of the greatest Lakers of all time, Amazon and the NBA Store are selling all kinds of Kobe retirement swag. Take your pick from some of our favorites, like the Kobe Bryant Away #8 Jersey, Kobe Bryant Home #24 Jersey, Kobe Bryant “Legends Are Forever” Tee and Kobe Bryant “Legends Are Forever” Hat.
Wanna find some more cool Kobe gear? Shop the entire Kobe Collection.
What are your favorite Finals moments in Kobe’s career? Drop a comment and let us know!