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Remembering Kobe Bryant's storied NBA career
Fans stand in front of a mural painted in tribute to Kobe Bryant after his death one year ago on January 26, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
HARRY HOW / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

Remembering Kobe Bryant's storied NBA career

Luisa Morales (Philstar.com) - January 27, 2021 - 10:21am

MANILA, Philippines — It has been a year removed since the sports world lost Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant to a sudden and tragic helicopter crash.

But there's no doubt that the five-time NBA champion remains in the hearts of basketball fans all over the world — with his "Mamba mentality" and the rest of his legacy outliving his life on earth.

As the US commemorates a year since Bryant's passing, along with the NBA legend's daughter Gianna and seven others in Calabasas, California, Philstar.com takes a deep dive into eight moments in Bryant's NBA career that defined his greatness.

1. Lakers three-peat

The highlight of Bryant's legacy, of course, is the storied three-peat of the Los Angeles Lakers from 1999 to 2002.

Bryant, along with longtime friend and teammate Shaquille O'neal, led the Lakers to three consecutive championships after a 10-year title drought before their first championship run in 1999.

Though the 41-year-old didn't exactly dominate in his first-ever Finals appearance, where he only averaged 15.6 points on a subpar 36.7% shooting, he definitely made his presence felt in the two consecutive Finals since.

In 2001, he posted the norms of 24.6 points on 41.5% shooting, to go along with 7.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.4 steals and blocks.

In 2002, he had similar numbers with 26.8 points per game, 5.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.5 steals.

While O'neal was named Finals MVP of the three title runs, Bryant had an impeccable impact for the Lakers.

2. 1998 All-Star Game

Bryant did not enter the league as heralded as some of the greats that he is compared to now.

Unlike fellow greats Michael Jordan and LeBron James, Bryant wasn't pegged as a superstar that quickly when he entered the league.

In his first year during the 1996-97 NBA season, he mostly came off the bench behind then-Lakers starters Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel.

But it didn't take long for Bryant's career to take off.

In only his sophomore year, he started in the 1998 All-Star Game -- becoming the youngest player to do so at only 19-years-old.

This was the first All-Star game that featured both Bryant and Jordan, where the two future Hall of Famers battled.

Though only his first All-Star game, Bryant led the Western Conference All-Stars with 18 points in the 114-135 losing effort against Jordan's Eastern All-Stars.

3. Kobe drops 62 in three quarters vs Mavs

Most fans know Bryant as a volume scorer, and the first of his numerous high scoring performances came in 2005.

In a then-career-high performance, Bryant shocked the NBA when the Lakers faced the Dallas Mavericks on December 21.

The 27-year-old Bryant showed his sheer genius in the game when he dropped 62 points in just three quarters in the game.

As if scoring 62 points in a game isn't impressive enough, he didn't need all 48 minutes of the contest to achieve it.

Even more impressive is that before the fourth quarter began, Bryant had scored a point more than the entire Dallas Mavericks team.

Bryant would no longer check into the game despite the crowd's cheers to get him back on the court.

The Lakers won the game, 112-90.

4. Kobe's 81-point explosion vs Toronto

If anybody thought that Bryant's 62-point performance against the Mavs was going to be his best outing of the year, they were dead wrong.

Later that season, on January 24, 2006, when the Lakers faced the Toronto Raptos at home, Bryant went on to bury a staggering 81 points.

A record that remains the second-highest total in NBA history, Bryant went 28-of-46, including seven three pointers to lead the Lakers in their 122-104 victory over Toronto.

Playing 42 minutes in the game, Bryant was an unstoppable force.

His performance came second only to Wilt Chamberlain's still standing 100-point performance as the most points scored in a single game.

5. Bryant makes Lakers history as all-time leading scorer

The Lakers have long been a marquee franchise in the NBA, producing more than a number of legendary athletes.

From Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain, the LA squad is no stranger to greatness.

But Bryant established himself as one the cream of the crop of Lakers history in 2010 when he became the franchise's all-time leading scorer.

In February 1, 2010, the Lakers were playing the Memphis Grizzlies and Bryant surpassed West's record of 25,192.

Bryant would go on to run away with the record, having played six more seasons since passing West.

Now the record stands at 33,643 points with no active player even close to touching the legend's record.

6. Kobe's "Achilles free throws"

Perhaps one of the most memorable moments for a lot of NBA fans when it comes to Bryant is not of his great scoring performances, but of this fateful game on April 12, 2013.

Already 34 years old at the time, Bryant lived up to his "Mamba Mentality" mantra when he sank two free throws against the Golden State Warriors after having torn his achilles.

Knowing how crucial winning the game would be, with a playoff spot on the line, the Lakers legend bucked the pain and calmly sank the free throws before exiting the game for good.

This would prove as the most important free throws of the game, helping the Lakers win the game and eventually clinch a spot in the postseason.

Always known for his hard work when it came to basketball, this moment was his "mamba mentality" in action.

7. Bryant eclipses Jordan in All-time scoring list

When he entered the league, Kobe Bryant was often under the shadow of Chicago Bulls' great Michael Jordan.

Arguably one of the most impactful players since Jordan, Bryant finally eclipsed the six-time NBA champion -- albeit only nominally -- when he passed Jordan in the All-time scoring list in 2014.

On December 14, Bryant moved to the No. 3 spot on the NBA's all-time scoring list in the Lakers' 100-94 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The five-time champion hit a pair of free throws with 5:24 remaining in the second quarter to surpass Jordan's 32,292 career points with the Bulls and the Wizards.

He would eventually finish with 33,643 points in his career when he retired in 2016.

8. Mamba goes out with 60

Much like how greatness followed Bryant throughout his two-decade career with the Los Angeles Lakers, even in his final moments in the league he was a sight to behold.

Playing his last game in the league before retirement, Bryant dropped a jaw-dropping 60-point performance at 37-years-old.

With the Lakers playing against the Utah Jazz, Bryant gave basketball fans a farewell to remember with his scoring outburst.

The performance included 15 straight points in the final 3 minutes and 20 seconds of the game to lead them to a 101-96 win after overcoming a 10-point deficit.

It was a performance for the ages that capped off one of the greatest NBA careers of all time.

It was Bryant's first 50-point game since February 2009. 

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