Phillip Barnett: In basketball, there are few things more magical than big nights at Madison Square Garden. Jordan’s double-nickel had been the litmus test for opposing players heading into MSG, and until 2009, no one had ever really come close to inspiring awe in the NBA’s most famous arena.
What was supposed to be just one game on the Lakers 82-game schedule turned into one of the most memorable nights of Bryant’s career. Bean would knock down a barrage of mid-range jump shots and put on a foot work display unmatched by any of his peers who spend the majority of their time on the perimeter.
There was one shot in particular that was essentially the zeitgeist of the player Bryant has grown to become — a mid-range specialist who uses footwork and fundamentals to make up for his deteriorating athleticism. Late in the fourth quarter with Wilson Chandler guarding him, Bryant drove right from the left wing to the right elbow, stopped on a dime, pump faked and reverse pivoted with Chandler in the air then proceeded to knock down the 15-footer.
Not only was it a brilliant move, but a move that he would go on to use a few more times that season, and a move that you won’t even see attempted from another player in the league. Kobe would drop 61 points on the Knicks in MSG that night, and it was the last time he recorded more than 50 points in a game.
Elizabeth Benson: It is difficult for me to narrow down just one favorite shot from Kobe Bryant during the last 17 seasons with the Lakers considering the amount of amazing moments he has given to Lakers fans.
While his game-winning jumper against the Suns in the 2006 postseason and his game tying and game-winning three-pointers against the Blazers in 2004 (his greatest game-winner in my opinion) are automatic standouts, his game-winning three-pointer over Dwyane Wade against the Miami Heat in 2009 is most likely (I still find it difficult to narrow it down to one) my favorite shot from Kobe Bryant.
With 3.2 seconds remaining in the game, the Lakers were down by two points, 107-105. Ron Artest threw a chest pass from out of bounce to Kobe Bryant. Kobe takes three dribbles to the center point of the three-point line and throws up an off-balanced, off the wrong foot, well defended by two opponents (Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem) prayer that beautifully banks in. This shot was the first of six game-winners in the 2009-10 season by Bryant.
Call it luck; call it drawing from childhood experience from riding BMX bikes (or so Kobe said). I call it just another Laker day with Kobe Bryant. That shot epitomizes what Kobe has showed fans over and over again. When the game is on the line, the ball is in his hands.
Sometimes he comes up short. Other times, the stars align, and miraculous shots become reality. It’s dramatic. It’s Hollywood. It’s the Lakers. It’s Kobe Bryant.
Ryan Cole: Few things are more exhilarating than a game-winning basket. Game 4 of the Lakers first round matchup against the Phoenix Suns in 2006 was a beauty. The match had been an up and down affair, with the Suns and the Lakers virtually trading baskets throughout regulation. With 7.8 seconds remaining in the 4th, trailing 90-88 without possession of the ball, the Lakers found themselves in a tough predicament.
However in typical Laker fashion, they found a way. Smush Parker stole the inbound pass from Steve Nash and immediately got the ball to Kobe. With time running out and the game on the line Kobe drove to the basket and made a very difficult floater over Boris Diaw to force OT. An amazing shot that most would miss in that situation, but these are things you expect from Kobe Bryant.
In Overtime, Kobe would marvel basketball fans again. My favorite two points that I’ve ever seen Kobe score came in the form of his go-ahead fadeaway over Raja Bell to defeat the Phoenix Suns and take a 3-1 lead in that series. From Kobe’s reaction and the crowds excitement, to Mike Breen’s epic call on that play, this moment will forever live in my memory.
Corey Hansford: So many shots to choose from, but if I had to choose one I’m going to go with his shot to ice Game 6 of the 2010 Western Conference Finals. The shot really encapsulates everything that we have grown to know and love about Kobe. The Lakers are trying to hold off the Phoenix Suns and advance to a third straight NBA Finals. You know Kobe is taking the shot, the degree of difficulty is insane, defense is right in his face and it just doesn’t matter.
And the cockiness to slap Alvin Gentry on the butt after the shot, as if to say ‘better luck next time,’ just took it over the top. There are so many memorable Kobe shots, but factoring in the game, the shot, and the actions after, this one stands above to me.