Over his 20 seasons in the NBA, Kobe Bryant attempted 26,210 regular-season field goals. This places him at third all-time in shot attempts behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. Bryant also attempted 4,499 playoff field goals — second all-time behind only LeBron James.
When a player shoots as much as Bryant did, a good amount of those shots are bound to come at big moments. The Black Mamba certainly wasn’t afraid to perform under pressure; his five NBA championships attest to that. Let’s look at the three biggest shots of Bryant’s career.
3. Game 4 of the 2006 Conference Quarterfinals
Bryant was no stranger to game-winning shots. In his career, he made a total of 36 buckets that sealed a win for the Lakers. With such a large number, it isn’t easy to pick Bryant’s best game-winner. Yet the most iconic may involve the two crucial shots he made in Game 4 of the 2006 Conference Quarterfinals against the Phoenix Suns.
The first of the two shots came in the last seconds of regulation. LA teammate Smush Parker swiped the ball from Steve Nash following an inbound pass. Then Parker made a smart pass to Bryant, who connected on a tricky side-step floater with less than one second left on the clock. The shot tied up the score and sent the game into overtime.
At the end of overtime, with the Lakers down by one point, Bryant corralled the ball following a jump-ball. As seconds ticked, he drove to the free-throw line and drilled a smooth jumper over two defenders as time expired. The Lakers ultimately lost the series, but those two shots are forever regarded as some of Bryant’s most clutch moments.
2. Kobe Bryant surpasses Jordan’s point total
If you didn’t think a free throw was going to make it on a list of Bryant’s greatest shots, think again. Let’s contextualize his legacy a little bit. During his career, Bryant was dogged by comparisons to one star: Michael Jordan. The Black Mamba was arguably the closest anyone had ever got to rivaling MJ’s greatness, but could he really overtake the GOAT?
Most people would say that, as great as Bryant was, Jordan will always be the better player. But in at least one area, he managed to top his rival and mentor. In a 2014 game against the Timberwolves, Bryant coolly sank a pair of free throws that moved him past Jordan on the all-time scoring list.
1. Bryant’s 81-point game
As with the playoff game versus the Suns, this one about just one shot; it’s about 46 of them. In a 2006 home game against the Raptors, Bryant scored a staggering 81 points. This total stands as the second-best single-game record ever, behind only Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game.
Not only did Bryant reach an incredible personal milestone in the matchup, but he also helped his team capture the win. At one point in the third quarter, the Lakers were down by 18 points. Bryant singlehandedly willed them to victory, scoring 55 of his 81 points in the second half.
Not a single Raptor could slow Bryant down. The Black Mamba was also incredibly efficient, shooting 61% overall and knocking down 18 of 20 free throws. In a career filled with highlights, that 81-point game best expresses Bryant’s greatness.
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