Kobe Bryant

Top 10 Kobe Bryant Performances

Ten times when the Black Mamba was just unplayable.

by Radostin Spasov

Arguably one of the greatest basketball stars to ever play the game, Kobe Bryant left an enormous legacy to all the fans. We can watch the highlighting moments of his 20-year-long career for hours and still not be sure if we miss something significant. Sadly, a tragic helicopter accident took his life on January 26, 2000. To make things even more heartbreaking, his daughter Gianna and seven other human beings died in the catastrophe.

However, the Kobe Bryant crash is not the only reason to look back on all he’s achieved in the history of the NBA. And he shone right from the start. We at The Dope Lists made a terrific list with some of Kobe’s best performances ever. Enjoy!

  • Slam Dunk title in the Rookie Season

Kobe Bryant became a sensation even before playing a game in the NBA. The guard was drafted straight out of high school at 17 when he still lived in Philadelphia. Los Angeles Lakers were lucky to get the future superhero after making a deal with Charlotte Hornets to take their 13th pick in 1996.

In his first season with the Lakers, Bryant mostly came from the bench. That year Kobe became the second-youngest player ever to play in an NBA game (18 years, 72 days) and set a record for the youngest NBA starter (18 years, 158 days). This campaign made him meet Michael Jordan on the court for the first time.

Anyway, the highlight of his debut season was the Slam Dunk title. Bryant participated in the 1997 All-Star weekend, shining with 31 points in the Rookie Challenge. After that, he became the youngest champion of the Slam Dunk contest. 

  • The first NBA title

Kobe built a legendary partnership with Shaquille O’Neal leading to one of the most successful periods in Lakers’ history. They joined the team simultaneously, but it wasn’t until a no less legendary coach took over to make them a championship unit. In 1999, Phil Jackson left Chicago after the end of the Michael Jordan era. He moved to Los Angeles to build another dominant squad.

Under Jackson’s guidance and using his signature triangle offense, the Lakers ended the regular season on the top of the Western Conference with 67 wins, tied for fifth-most in the league history. Shaq dominated under the ring and was the primary force of success. Kobe contributed significantly, and his star performance on the road to the title was in Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the Indiana Pacers. Bryant missed the previous game due to an ankle injury but returned at his strongest at the right time. O’Neal fouled out, but the guard filled in with 22 second-half points leading the Lakers to an overtime victory when he scored the winning shot. The series ended in Game 6, bringing LA Lakers their first title since 1988.

  • Kobe Bryant slams the Sacramento Kings on the way to the second championship ring

Los Angeles Lakers weren’t so convincing in the next regular season, winning 11 games less than the previous campaign. Anyway, Phil Jackson’s squad stormed through the playoffs defending the title with 15-1 in the postseason.

Kobe Bryant’s stats during the 2001 NBA playoffs have been impressive (29.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game), and his teammate O’Neal proclaimed the Lakers’ guard as the best player in the league. Bryant shone most prominently in Game 4 of the Western semifinals. He led the Lakers with 48 points and 16 rebounds for the 119-113 win over the Sacramento Kings, who have been swept in the series.

  • The Three-peat is done

During his Chicago Bulls reign, Phil Jackson won six championship rings in two periods of three consecutive seasons (1991-93, 1996-98). The legendary coach tripled the achievement with the LA Lakers. However, the famous Three-peat didn’t come as easy as the previous two titles.

While the first signs of the feud between Shaq and Kobe already emerged on the surface, the team met much more severe competition within the conference. For the first time in his career, Bryant participated in 80 regular-season games, recording a career-high 56 points versus the Memphis Grizzlies midway through the campaign. A few weeks later, he grabbed his first All-Star MVP with 31 points in his hometown, Philadelphia. 

However, the Lakers ended the regular season 3rd in the West. The defending champions faced much more trouble in the Conference finals against the Sacramento Kings. Bryant recorded 30 pts in games 1 and 5. The series stretched to the maximum, with the Lakers eliminating the Northern California rivals after OT in Game 7. After that, the Three-peat was achieved easily – the Los Angeles team swept New Jersey Nets. Kobe Bryant was most impressive in Game 3, scoring 36 points.

  • The 3-pointers record

The Los Angeles Lakers struggled to lead the league again in the following years. Anyway, Bryant’s individual performance improved, and on January 7, 2003, he sunk 12 three-pointers against the Seattle Supersonics. It was an all-time record for most shots made outside the arc in a single NBA game before being eventually beaten by Stephen Curry in 2016 (The record now belongs to Klay Thompson, who made 14 3-pointers in 2018). 

That season Kobe also shone with 40 or more points in nine consecutive games. However, the LA Lakers lost their title in the second round of the playoffs, eliminated by the future champions, the San Antonio Spurs.

Star veterans Karl Malone and Gary Payton joined the team the following season. The California favorites could not overcome the Detroit Pistons in the finals, losing the series for the title in 5 games. This failure additionally fueled the conflict between Kobe and Shaq. Eventually, O’Neal left for Miami Heat to clinch another championship ring. Both buried the hatchet sometimes after that. After Kobe Bryant’s death, Shaquille O’Neal broke down in tears, calling Kobe his “little brother.”

  • 81 points in a single game!

This is probably the most notable achievement by the basketball superstar. After Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash, we returned to the long list of his records. And among dozens of phenomenal games of the Black Mamba, one particular stood out.

On January 22, 2006, Bryant nailed 81 points leading the Lakers to a 122–104 victory over the Toronto Raptors. It was the second all-time scoring performance in the NBA history after the 100 pts scored by Walt Chamberlain in 1962. Kobe also broke the franchise record set by Elgin Baylor, who scored 71 against the New York Knicks in 1960.

The entire 2005-06 season showcased Kobe’s individual class. He became the first player since 1964 to score 45 points or more in four consecutive games. Only Chamberlain and Baylor did that previously. For the first three-quarters of the game against the Dallas Mavericks, Bryant outscored the entire opponent team 62-61. The superstar set a new franchise season record for most 40+ point games (27). He won the league’s scoring title for the first time by averaging 35.4 points per game. However, the Lakers were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

  • Finally, Kobe Bryant is the MVP

It took Bryant 12 years before finally being pronounced the season’s top player. Sure, the LA Lakers’ superhero received another All-Star MVP trophy in 2007. This season he would change his jersey number from 8 to 24 and set more individual records. 

But Bryant needed to wait for one more campaign before being voted the season MVP and before the Lakers became a championship contender once again. It was his second campaign starting all 82 games, even with a broken pinkie on the shooting hand. Kobe Bryant’s stats decreased a little, but he has been proclaimed the season’s player. Joined by Pau Gasol in the winter, he led the LA Lakers to the NBA Finals, where the team eventually lost in six to the Boston Celtics.

  • The title comes back to LA

Kobe Bryant led the Lakers to another record performance. The Los Angeles team set a new high for the best start in franchise history (17-2). But it was the postseason that Bryant, Gasol, and all the others in Phil Jackson’s roster cared much more about. 

And after seven years, the title finally came back to LA. Kobe Bryant shone all the way through the playoffs. At the same time, the Lakers faced their most significant challenge in the Western Conference semifinals needing seven games to go past Houston Rockets. After eliminating the Denver Nuggets (4-2), the LA stars again reached the league finals, beating Orlando Magic in five games. Kobe shone throughout the series, hitting 40 points in Game 1 and averaging 32,4 points. So, on the top of the 4th championship ring he put in his hand, Bryant was voted NBA Finals MVP for the first time in his career.

  • Kobe Bryant gets the revenge against the Celtics for his fifth ring

The 2009-10 campaign saw Bryant make some of his most memorable winning shots. The buzzer-beater 3-pointer early in the season against the Miami Heat definitely makes it for the rich enough career highlights. Kobe set another milestone, becoming the top scorer in the whole Lakers history.

And once again, all that mattered were the playoffs. LA Lakers made it to the NBA Finals for the third consecutive year. Bryant, Gasol, and their teammates were seeking revenge against the Boston Celtics for losing the title series in 2008. The commanding performance by the number 24 helped the California team to overcome the 2-3 deficit and win the title in Game 7. Kobe’s clutch shots in the last quarter (10 out of 23 points in the match), combined with 15 rebounds, were crucial for the Lakers to handle the 13-point deficit in the third quarter. The LA star averaged 28,6 points in the series and was declared the NBA Finals MVP for a second straight year.

  • The old Mamba still makes hoops

Once in the 2000s, Kobe Bryant called himself the Black Mamba. The nickname stood for the rest of his career. The Lakers guard never reached for the 6th championship ring but still, every once in a while, reminded the new generation that he was still there.

And the finale of his 20-year-long career dedicated entirely to the LA Lakers was more than impressive. In his last game, Kobe Bryant nailed 60 points against Utah Jazz, hitting the winning shot with 31 seconds to go and becoming the oldest player (37 years, 234 days) to score 60 points in a single NBA game.

What a career to remember! Kobe Bryant’s death made all the basketball world grieving upon the untimely loss. But the Black Mamba left a legacy worth mentioning every now and then.

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