There are certain moments in sports that will forever be remembered and discussed around water coolers until the end of time.
April 13, 2016. will be remembered as the greatest finale to a NBA season in the history of the sport.
Not only did the Golden State Warriors break the ‘95-’96 Chicago Bulls record of 72 wins in a season, but Kobe Bryant had the most “Kobe-esque” finale by lighting up the stat sheet with 60 points!
You read that right, that’s 60 points by a 37-year-old, 20-year NBA veteran who could barely run back on defense in the fourth quarter.
It was a special night of basketball because it truly highlighted the passing of the torch from the Kobe Bryant era to the Warriors and Steph Curry era.
With Kobe’s retirement, he is the last player from the famed 1996 NBA Draft Class that includes Hall-of-Fame players Allen Iverson, Steve Nash and Ray Allen.
Before the tip-off, the Lakers organization paid tribute to Bryant with farewell videos from his colleagues and peers. Perhaps the biggest honor of the night was when Magic Johnson declared that Kobe is the greatest player to ever don the purple and gold.
Even though that might seem a little far-fetched, considering the Lakers organization has had some of the best players in league history, it is hard to argue against Magic.
There is no denying that Kobe is the most fierce competitor we have seen since Michael Jordan.
There is no denying that Kobe’s 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors in 2006 is the greatest offensive performance in basketball history.
My apologies to Wilt Chamberlain, who holds the record for most points scored with 100, but he was the only seven-footer in the league and made all of his points by dunks and free throws.
There is no denying that the Kobe and Shaq duo is the most dominant combo in league history.
Kobe Bryant was deemed the next MJ when he was still in high school and he not only lived up to the expectations, but he blazed his own path to greatness.
Even though MJ will always be considered the greatest of all time, he didn’t have the same obsession for basketball that Kobe had. MJ was notorious for his addictions to gambling, golf and smoking cigars. Kobe was addicted to holistic medicine, eating healthy and making his entire day revolve around getting better.
The stage was set for Kobe to leave Lakers fans with a performance of a lifetime, and he didn’t disappoint.
Kobe started off the game cold going 0-for-5 on his first five shots. Though, if you’ve ever watched Kobe Bryant, you will learn to never doubt his greatness and will to win.
Kobe did what he always did, he kept shooting and kept attacking. He was relentless and put up more shots, —50—than he has in his entire career which is actually hard to believe.
With just 31 seconds left in the game and the Lakers down one point, Kobe drove to the right elbow against Gordon Hayward and made the final jumper of his career to put the Lakers up 97-96.
Bryant would make his final baskets at the free throw line to seal his last victory 101-96 against the Utah Jazz.
60 points is the most points scored all-time for a player in the final game of their career and Kobe finished his career with the same intensity as when he started.
Kobe Bryant is the ultimate superstar because he is both a hero and a villain, but mostly a villain to fans of the other 29 teams in the NBA who he tortured for two decades!
I will always connect Kobe Bryant to the era of basketball that I grew up watching. The NBA that was filled with stars like Allen Iverson, Vince Carter, Shaq, Tracy McGrady and a young LeBron James. But even with all of those other stars that came in the era after Michael Jordan, Kobe’s light shun the brightest because he was willing to do more than anyone else to win.
A lot of basketball fans, including myself, didn’t have the opportunity to watch Michael Jordan play. So, Kobe Bryant has always been our version of Michael Jordan and it appears that Steph Curry is the greatest for the next generation.
The Warriors 73rd victory over the Memphis Grizzlies played second fiddle to Kobe Bryant’s 60-point eruption, but it nonetheless impressive and historic.
The Bulls 72-10 record was perceived as unbreakable, but the Warriors made this impossible record appear easy to break this entire season.
Let’s just take a look at all of the records that the Warriors broke this season on their way to becoming the winningest team of all-time in the regular season of the NBA.
Steph Curry and company began defending their 2014-15 NBA Championship by winning 24 consecutive games at the beginning of the season, an NBA record.
They have also won 54 home games that date back to two seasons ago.
Did I mention that the Golden State Warriors are the first team in NBA history to have never lost two consecutive games during the regular season?
Oh yeah, and that boy Steph Curry, well he made his own history by becoming the first player in NBA history to make 400 three-pointers in a season.
As I was watching both games, I couldn’t help but appreciate how special this night was because I got to witness the ending of one legend and the beginning of another.
Even if you aren’t a Warriors fan or a Lakers fan, it is impossible to deny the greatness that both Kobe and the Warriors showcased on Wednesday night.
The records that both Kobe and the Warriors broke may never be broken again.
But you know what they say, records are made to be broken.
Photos: Associated Press / Jae C. Hong and Ben Margo