Kobe Bryant cemented himself as an all-time great behind his illustrious 20-year NBA career. The former Los Angeles Lakers great played the game with the utmost confidence in his ability, which shined through on numerous high-pressure occasions. One of those examples sits forever ingrained in former teammate Caron Butler’s mind.
Caron Butler recounts Kobe Bryant’s game-winner against the Bobcats
Beyond Bryant’s tremendous work ethic and talent, he held unwavering confidence that fueled his success on the court.
The five-time NBA champion possessed the utmost conviction in his ability at any moment, especially in game-deciding shots. His former teammate Caron Butler recently recounted one of those instances as Bryant put that confidence on full display before hitting a game-winning shot against the then-Charlotte Bobcats in March 2005.
“I’ve never told this story,” Butler said during an appearance on The Long Shot podcast with Duncan Robinson. “We was in Charlotte, and we was in the huddle, and he was like, the game was tied, there was only four seconds, three seconds on the shot clock. Rudy T (Rudy Tomjanovich) drawing up all type of s— on the board, and he swiped it off again, and Kobe said, ‘F— that. Just give me the ball right here.’ He was like, ‘Whoever want to take the ball out going to be part of history.’ And Lamar [Odom] was like, ‘I want to be part history.’ He threw that s— in, man. Kobe hit the shot, blouses, game.”
It was a back-and-forth contest that Bryant led with his game-high 32 points, highlighted by his last-second jumper after a double pump fake that sealed the 117-116 road win. The star guard knew what he wanted to do and where to take the shot, hitting it in his sweet spot with a right-elbow mid-range danger.
It was a matter of him getting to that spot on the floor to drill the tough game-winning jumper. It was a moment that left Butler mystified, but it further cemented the different breed of player Bryant was mentally.
Kobe Bryant ranks second to Michael Jordan in game-winner buzzer-beaters
Bryant’s game-winner against the Bobcats is one of many shining examples of his calm, collected approach with the game on the line.
The former Lakers star guard excelled in late-game moments with the ball in his hand as he never held fear of taking a shot. According to ESPN’s SportsCenter, Bryant’s 101 game-tying/go-ahead field goals in the final minute rank first over the last 25 years.
He had 26 game-winning shots throughout his career, including eight buzzer-beaters. Bryant remains second all-time in that category, sitting behind Michael Jordan (nine) for the top mark.
The five-time NBA champion’s hit list ranges from shocking the Phoenix Suns in overtime in Game 4 of a 2006 first-round playoff series to banking in a 3-pointer from the top of the arc over Dwyane Wade to beat the Miami Heat.
Ultimately, Bryant stepped up to the challenge every time, setting up the possibility of an unforgettable moment.
Kobe’s illustrious career was built off big moments
Bryant spent two decades in the NBA, where he established himself as one of the game’s greatest players.
Hitting game-winning shots was only a part of his legacy and greatness. His hard work, combined with his talent, guided him toward tremendous sustained success in a Lakers uniform.
He earned five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVP awards, a regular-season MVP award, 15 All-NBA selections, 12 NBA All-Defensive nods, and two jerseys retirements with the Lakers.
Bryant hung his hat on leading his team to championships, bringing the best out of himself when he needed to most. He never backed down from any situation, garnering a strong reputation as one of the game’s greatest closers.
He accomplished it all on the court, but what truly defined him as a player was his ability to perform in those pivotal moments. Beyond that, Bryant left an everlasting imprint that has impacted the generations of talent after him, creating aspirations to reach his level of greatness.