- Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com columnist
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With Spike Lee's documentary on Kobe Bryant being shown during the Tribeca Film Fest, we thought we'd look at the top ten moments that have defined Kobe's basketball career. Again ... his basketball career.
10. April 30, 2006: Game 4 vs. Phoenix. The "More than Just 'The Shot'"
Down by five with 7 seconds left in regulation, his layup at the first buzzer caused an overtime. Then 5 minutes later ... he hit one of the most demoralizing shots in NBA history. The Suns never -- even today -- really recovered from that down-by-one, top-of-the-circle, pull-up dagger at the buzzer in overtime that Kobe canceled them with. He put the Lakers up 3-1 in that series, eliminating all hopes of a title for Phoenix. Then and now ...
9. January 22, 2006: "81."
We know Wilt scored 100, but Kobe came only 19 points shy on 17 fewer field goal attempts and 12 fewer free throw attempts, played six fewer minutes and didn't outsize the people guarding him by 5 inches and almost 45 pounds. This became the "new" standard.
8. May 12, 1997: Game 5 vs. Utah (First Round). The "Air Ball" Game.
Kobe had three air balls in the final minutes of a closeout game. On a team that had four All-Stars going up against the not-yet-awarded MVP's (John Stockton and Karl Malone), the rookie was the one that "wanted" it the most. Even though he missed, it was the "tipping point" moment in Kobe's career. The best thing that ever happened to him were those misses. As his former teammate Shaquille O'Neal said, "[Kobe] was the only guy who had the guts at the time to take shots like that." It was the gift and the curse.
7. April 23, 2008: Game 2 vs. the Nuggets (First Round).
J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin decided to get into a verbal beef with Kobe that lasted the entire game. Why? Why?!?. He proceeded to drop 19 points on them in 4:19 seconds in the fourth quarter. Finishing with 49 points and 10 rebounds. Message: Shut the (fill in the blank) up!
6. February 8, 1997: Rookie Game. NBA All-Star weekend.
In what will go down as the most talent-rich rookie game ever (Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, Ray Allen, Tracy McGrady, Stephon Marbury, etc.) Kobe put up 31 points and grabbed eight rebounds. He set the rookie scoring record in the game, but still wasn't named MVP. Iverson was. And oh, Kobe also won the dunk contest that same weekend.
5. (tie) June 4, 2000: Game 7 vs. Portland (Western Conference finals).
The alley-oop dunk to Shaq is all everyone remembers. Who threw the pass? Who had 25 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and four blocked shots while Shaq was held to 18 points and nine boards in the biggest game in post-Magic Lakers history? Who was the team leader on the floor in that game? Who won that game for them?
June 8, 2004: Game 2 vs. Detroit (The Finals).
Game-tying 3 with 2.1 seconds left. He scored 14 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter. He seemed like the only Laker that felt they could win against the Pistons. It was the only game they won during the series. It was the game where many Laker insiders now admit the decision was eventually made to keep Kobe and exit everyone else.
4. March 2007: Various teams. The "four 50-plus-point games in a row" Tour.
After being suspended for the second time in the season for inadvertently hitting both Manu Ginobili and Marko Jaric in different games and getting labeled a "dirty player," Kobe the basketball version of a killing spree to personally show the League -- as he's shown players year after year -- that it's not smart to set him off. He scored 65, 50, 60 then 50 again. All wins. And in the fifth game he was "shut down" by the Warriors. They held him to 43.
3. February 10, 2002: NBA All-Star Game.
Thirty-one points. Five assists. Five rebounds. MVP. Kobe gets booed. The game and the crowd's response changed his life.
2. June 14, 2000: Game 4 vs. Indiana (NBA Finals). The "I Got You" Game.
Shaq fouled out early in overtime. When he went to the bench, KB said to him, "I got you." The eight points he scored in that overtime changed the series. Those 5 minutes were the reason the Lakers two games later won their first chip since 1988 and the ultimate reason they were able to three-peat.
1. December 20, 2005: The 62 on Dallas ... in three quarters.
At the end of 36 minutes of play: Kobe 62, Dallas 61. Only two stats in recent basketball history stand close to this: 1) the fact the original Dream Team went an entire Olympics without ever calling a timeout and 2) the fact this year's UConn women's squad went 39-0 only being behind for one possession of one game the entire season (in the second half of their game against Notre Dame). Even those pale in comparison to one man outscoring an NBA team 75 percent of the way through a game. You may see someone score 81 again before we see something like this.
Scoop Jackson breaks down the top ten moments of Kobe Bryant's career