Kobe Bryant ended his legendary Lakers career the same way he played all of it: Firing away until the buzzer sounded, emptying the clip one final time to score 60 points before walking off the court forever. It was a perfect storybook ending, and one that Lakers fans will always reminisce about on its anniversary.
But Bryant always described himself as a storyteller, and it is truly remarkable in retrospect how his last game was like a perfectly written television finale, with every loose end tied up and all of his on-court storylines reaching a satisfactory conclusion. As my colleague Seth Rosenthal broke down in the latest episode of Secret Base’s “Rewinder” series as we approach the fifth anniversary of Bryant’s remarkable game, his whole career truly did culminate not just in his final game, but in his final shot.
Bryant was a showman who was happy to take (and make) a lot of shots, but the finale wasn’t just how those lottery years made him perfectly equipped with the mindset to heave it up when his team needed to. It’s how a season’s worth of work with the outgoing and iconic trainer Gary Vitti allowed him to stay on the court, mostly intact, for 40 minutes in his final game. It’s how his body didn’t buckle under the pressures of Father Time and wear-and-tear, that he went out on his feet after years of struggling to stay upright.
That Bryant’s last on-court triumph came against the same opponent that his younger self had his first high-profile struggles against is just another perfect little bow.
All in all, Bryant’s finale would have been a flawless conclusion to his iconic career even if it hadn’t connected all those through lines. That it did is just another example of what made Kobe, Kobe, and why there will never be another player exactly like the late Lakers legend.