Implemented back in 2016, Kobe Bryant Day was chosen as a tribute to the jersey numbers that Bryant wore for the Lakers: 8 and 24. Kobe Bryant Day falls on the day after his birthday and is the city of Los Angeles’ way of thanking him for his dedication to excellence, the fans, and the entire city of Los Angeles. During his 20-year career, Bryant won five NBA championships, made 18 All-Star appearances, and won the 2008 MVP award. Let’s look back on some of his other notable accomplishments from his playing days:
1997 Slam Dunk Champion:
On February 8th, 1997, rookie Kobe Bryant took on the likes of Darvin Ham, Chris Carr, Bob Sura, Michael Finley, and Ray Allen. While not exactly a star-studded field, Kobe added the accolade of Slam Dunk Champion to his resume in an era where most stars shied away from participating out of fear that they may injure themselves in the event.
81 points vs. Raptors:
Who could forget the Black Mamba’s legendary 81-point performance against the Toronto Raptors?
Second all-time to only Wilt Chamberlain in most points scored in one game who once scored 100 points, Bryant single-handedly put the Lakers on his back in the comeback victory over Toronto. Just how bad was this Lakers roster? Kobe’s back court mate was Smush Parker. When asked about his superstar teammates historic performance, Parker stated in an interview following the game that he was more impressed with the team’s defense. However, the Lakers allowed Toronto to shoot 47% en route to giving up 104 points.
2008 & 2012 Olympic gold medals:
A key player on the 2008 USA Olympic team, Kobe helped restore USA basketball to its global prominence. The team ultimately became known as the “Redeem Team,” as they had failed to win the gold during the 2004 games, but had redeemed themselves by bringing the gold medal back to the states.
Four years later, Bryant returned as captain of team USA. At age 34, he lit up the stage in London as the Americans defended their crown and once again took home the gold.
20 seasons with Lakers:
Despite being drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA draft, Bryant played his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He retired as the Lakers franchise leader in 16 statistical categories: games, minutes played, field goals made, field goals attempted, two point field goals attempted, three point field goals made, three point field goals attempted, field goals missed, free throws made, free throws attempted, steals, turnovers, personal fouls, points, usage rate, and win shares.
His two decades in the NBA tie fellow Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and put Bryant behind only Robert Parish, Kevin Willis, Kevin Garnett, and Dirk Nowitzki, who each played 21 seasons.
Bryant is second to only Nowitzki in the number of seasons spent with one organization.
60 points in his final game:
Kobe became the oldest player in the history of the sport to notch 60 points, as he did so in the final game of his illustrious career. Only 26 players in NBA history have ever scored at least 60 points in a game and it’s only been done six times by a player at age 30 or older. Kobe did it twice.
Bryant put on a show and overshadowed another historic feat that same night when the Golden State Warriors set the new mark for the greatest single season record in league history by winning their 73rd game. In his final game, Kobe shot the ball 50 times in helping the Lakers snap a 6-game losing streak, beating the Utah Jazz in the regular season finale. Kobe left the court to a standing ovation, saying goodbye to the game he loved, and doing so as a winner.