Kobe Bryant ended his illustrious 20-year career with Los Angeles Lakers, leading his side to a nerve wracking 101-96 win over Utah Jazz. Bryant scored 60 points in the game to rapturous ovations from the crowd as the 37-year-old was led off the court with vociferous celebrations, in what was his final appearance on the court in a professional capacity.
Bryant put on a display worthy of his stature, scoring two three pointers and picking up an assist with less than a minute left on the clock and leading the Lakers to only their 17th victory of the season, their worst season in the history of the franchise. He picked up 23 points in the final quarter and tallied it with more than 50 points in a game for the first time since February 2009. It would not have been a stretch to say he did everything to commemorate his farewell bar winning the Championship in his final game.
Record books were in overdrive for Bryant, which started with him taking a career high 50 shots in the game, leading to his highest scoring game since 2009 when he plundered 61 points against the New York Knicks. It was also the fifth highest scoring game of his career for which he became the oldest player ever to score more than 50 points in a game. He ended his career with five Championship rings and 18 All- Star selections with the Lakers.
Speaking after the game, Bryant said, as quoted by the ESPN, "I can't believe how fast 20 years went by, man, this is crazy. This is absolutely crazy ... and to be standing at centre court with you guys, my teammates behind me, appreciating the journey that we've been on -- we've been through our ups, been through our downs. I think the most important part is we all stayed together throughout."
"All I can do here is thank you guys/ Thank you guys for all the years of support. Thank you guys for all the motivation. Thank you for all the inspiration," he told the fans.