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.