Kobe Bryant left the NBA in the most Kobe Bryant way possible.
Four years ago today, April 13, 2016, Kobe dropped 60 points on the Utah Jazz to fuel a Laker win. For one more night he was an unrepentant gunner who shot the ball fearlessly 50 times — contested or not, just like always — and even hit the dagger three in the final minute. It was everything the Lakers and their fans wanted.
“The thing that had me cracking up all night long was the fact I go through 20 years of everybody screaming to pass the ball, then on the last night they’re like ‘don’t pass it,'” Kobe said with a laugh, addressing the crowd after the game.
“I can’t believe this happened, this is crazy to me,” Kobe said later that night of his final evening in a Lakers’ uniform. “There’s no way I could possibly imagine this happening. I’m just deeply honored by the fans, to be able to put on that kind of show for them, for them, because of all the support they have given me, because of how we grew up together, fans who have been coming here since Day 1. So to give them this type of show in the last one means everything.”
That memory brings a bittersweet smile this time after the death of Kobe, his daughter Gianna, and seven others in a tragic helicopter crash earlier this year. The NBA has been mourning the loss of Kobe ever since.
So has his widow Vanessa Bryant and the rest of his family. She took to Instagram on this Kobe NBA anniversary.
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My husband worked his ass off for 20 years. Gave it his all. All he wanted was to spend time with our girls and me to make up for lost time. He wanted to be there for every single milestone and special moment in our girls lives. He only got to enjoy 3 years and 9 months of retirement. We had 2 more daughters, he won an Oscar, he opened Granity studios, he became a 5x best selling author and coached Gianna’s basketball team in that time. She worked hard and gave her all 7 days a week just like her daddy. I wish I could back to that morning, every day. I wish they had a normal local game on 1/26. Life truly isn’t fair. This is just senseless.
The memory of Kobe and that night still brings a smile to the face of any true basketball fan, even if that smile now comes with a little sadness.
Rest in peace, Kobe.