"Mamba out", that's how Kobe Bryant, nicknamed Black Mamba, signed off after scoring 60 points during LA Lakers' 101-96 win over Utah Jazz in his final NBA outing
Los Angeles: Kobe Bryant scored 60 points in his final game of basketball as the Los Angeles Lakers produced a stunning comeback to beat the Utah Jazz.
Soccer lover: Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers kicks the ball in the second half of his last NBA tie, against Utah Jazz in Los Angeles, California yesterday. Pic/AFP
The five-time NBA champion thrilled a packed Staples Center in his retirement game with his sixth 60-point haul of his career — only Wilt Chamberlain has more.
The 37-year-old announced in November the current campaign would be his last, leading to a 'farewell tour' which saw the 18-time NBA All-Star honoured in various arenas. But the biggest celebration was saved for the Lakers' home crowd as he called time on a 20-year career in stunning fashion.
Bryant had the fans on their feet early on, scoring a couple of three-pointers as he posted 22 of the Lakers' 42 first-half points. But more was to come in the second, as he hauled the Lakers from behind to snatch a 101-96 victory at the end.
High and bye: Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers goes up for a shot even as he is surrounded by three Utah Jazz players in his final NBA encounter at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California yesterday. Pic/AFP
Bryant addressed the crowd later: "I grew up a die-hard Laker fan — so to be drafted and traded to this organisation and spend 20 years here, you can't write something like that."
Bryant, nicknamed Black Mamba, was all smiles as he spoke to the crowd. "I can't believe how fast 20 years went by, it's crazy. To be standing centre court with you guys, my teammates behind me, we've been through our ups and we've been through our downs and stayed together throughout.
"I'm more proud, not about the championships, but about the down years because we didn't run, we played through it all, we got our championships.
"What's funny is I go through 20 years of everybody screaming to pass the ball, then the last night they're like 'don't pass it!' What can I say? Mamba out."
Reflecting on his final game, he told ESPN : "All night long my teammates were just continuing to feed me the ball, I just had to take the challenge.
"I gave everything I could to the game, that's why I'm so comfortable walking away. I bared my soul to this game, I left it all here. When I go to sleep tonight, going to thank God for this beautiful opportunity, continue to thank my family, spend as much time as I can with them and just enjoy the future."
Kobe Bryant in numbers
Total number of minutes played; sixth most in NBA history
Total career points; third highest in NBA history
Total points scored in playoffs; third highest in NBA history
Highest points in a game; second highest in NBA history
Number of points in final game. He's done it five times before
He's scored 50 pts in a game 25 times; third most in NBA
Number of seasons with LA Lakers — a NBA record
Record number of NBA Championships won
Record number of All-Star Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards
Number of Olympic gold medals (2008 & 2012
@kobebryant A storybook ending to a storybook career! Enjoy retirement brethren!
— Lennox Lewis @LennoxLewis
Honoring a legend #mambaday
— Rafa Nadal @RafaelNadal
#kobebryant I'm in tears. Congrats Kobe. You inspire every athlete for a lifetime
— Serena Williams @serenawilliams
What an incredible feeling,I couldn't miss it,I was there to applaud you
— Alessandro Del Piero @delpieroale
An amazing exit for an incredible player @kobebryant ! #MambaDay
— Sugar Ray Leonard @SugarRayLeonard
60 points in his last game. What an incredible way to finish #ThankYouKobe
— Mahesh Bhupathi @Maheshbhupathi