It was considered a Hollywood ending.
Kobe Bryant, the legendary Los Angeles Lakers guard, carried his team on his back against the Utah Jazz and scored 60 points in the 101-96 win.
The entire Staples Center crowd standing, Bryant made a 3-pointer with 59 seconds left. He hit another with 31 seconds to play, putting the Lakers ahead 97-96. He finished with an assist before checking out for good with 4.1 seconds left in just the Lakers’ 17th win of the season.
“The perfect ending would have been a championship,” Bryant said. “But tonight was (me) trying to go out, play hard and try to put on a show as much as I possibly could. It felt good to be able to do that one last time.”
Byrant, along with his teen daughter and seven others died Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif.
There’s something magical about a legendary athlete’s last game. They’ve aged with their fans and the cheers during these farewells have a sadness to them, perhaps because they remind us of our own mortality.
Bryant was sprayed with champagne in the locker room that night, but according to the Associated Press, he did not appreciate the gesture.
“That’s only for championships,” said the five-time winner.
NBC Sports announcer Mike Tirico, who called Bryant’s final game, told the “Ryen Russillo Podcast” that the player defending Bryant displayed an act of sportsmanship when he stepped into the lane as Bryant was taking a free-throw at the end of the game that would give him 60.
“Gordon Hayward steps into the lane as Kobe is about to shoot that last free throw for 60, in case he missed it to give him another shot for 60,” he said.
But on Monday night, Hayward took to Twitter to clarify the report.
Hayward, who now plays for the Boston Celtics, said he’s been heartbroken over the tragic death of Bryant, but he said the report on the intentional line violation was not true.
“That was a night that I will truly never forget as I can remember almost every moment of it and my goal that night was to compete as hard as I possibly could against Kobe because that is what he was all about and I wanted to give him my very best,” he said. “He got 60 on me and I didn’t give him anything free all night.”
Hayward said Bryant was a fierce competitor and would have lost respect “for me if I gave him something free.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report