It's hard to believe, but Kobe Bryant turned 40 today. In honor of the Mamba's birthday, here are the eight most unforgettable moments from his amazing career.
8. Kobe Not Backing Down From Matt Barnes
It was a normal March 2010 game. Except it wasn't. Matt Barnes and Kobe Bryant were going at it.
Bryant was grabbing and elbowing Barnes in an attempt to get in his head. Barnes then got a putback dunk and put his groin in Kobe's face.
Barnes jawed at him and then we got the infamous moment. Barnes faked throwing the ball in Kobe's face and he didn't even flinch.
Kobe after the game: "I knew he wasn't going to do s***."
7. Bryant to Shaq!
Ahhh look how happy they are! Before their well-publicized feud and breakup, Shaq and Kobe were the best duo we've seen since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
They showed it on this play. After completing a 15-point comeback in Game 7 of the 2000 Conference Finals, this play was the dagger.
Kobe crossed over his defender at the top of the key as Shaq cut to the rim and pointed up. Kobe tossed one up to the rafters and Shaq slammed it home. Poetic.
6. Kobe Drops 61 at the Garden
It was the fourth-most points ever scored at the Garden. Kobe showed the Knicks his full arsenal. Pull-up jumpers off the dribble, catch-and-shoot threes, post-up and fadeaway, you name it, Kobe did it, to the tune of 61 points.
He also used one of the most creative moves ever. With 57 points already, he drove right, stopped on a dime and pumped. His defender jumped. Once the defender reached the ground, Kobe spun off his pivot foot and drained a jumper as the MSG crowd gasped.
5. Kobe vs. Michael
Kobe got the chance to face off against his idol. Yup, 19-year old Kobe didn't disappoint, as he dropped 33 points off the bench on Jordan, who scored 36 of his own. Kobe made Jordan's patented fadeway right in his face, but His Airness answered right back on the other end.
This 1997 game is worth watching on YouTube. It produced the famous picture of the two bent over and talking. Kobe asked Jordan for tips on footwork.
In this game, the student was on par with the teacher.
4. Kobe Has Shaq's Back
It was common ammunition for Kobe haters. "Shaq carried Kobe." A simple look at the stats trumps this argument, but Kobe trumped it himself in Game 4 of the 2000 NBA Finals.
Clinging to a 2-1 lead against the Pacers, Shaq fouled out with 2:33 left in the game. It was up to Kobe. He had failed in this same moment his rookie year.
Not this time. Bryant scored three crucial baskets down the stretch on iso plays and then scored eight points in overtime.
It remains one of the most clutch performances ever. His eight points are the second-most ever in an NBA Finals OT.
3. Mamba Out
On April 13, 2016, Kobe Bryant played in his last NBA game. He did exactly what we would expect. After only scoring 17 PPG on 35 percent shooting for the season, the 37-year old Bryant dropped 60 on the Jazz on 44 percent shooting.
And he was clutch. The Lakers were down 10 with just 2:36 remaining. Kobe scored the final 13 points unanswered and single-handedly led the Lakers to victory.
No one was surprised.
2. Kobe Wins His Fifth Title With a Broken Finger
Not only did he play through the playoffs and the Finals with a broken finger, but the entire regular season too. Despite having the broken index finger on his shooting hand, Kobe scored 27 PPG on 45 percent shooting.
Then, he and the Lakers navigated through the KD-Westbrook Thunder, the Deron Williams-led Jazz and the run-and-gun Phoenix Suns.
Finally, Bryant led the Lakers to a victory in seven games over the Big Three Celtics, despite losing big man Andrew Bynum to injury. Kobe scored 10 of his 23 Game 7 points in the 4th quarter.
1. Kobe Scores 81
Kobe put up the second-most points scored ever, 81. Incredibly, he did it on 60 percent shooting from the field and 53 percent shooting from three, with seven made triples.
In typical Bryant fashion, he scored 28 of his 81 in the fourth quarter. What's truly incredible is that Kobe wasn't satisfied with his performance.
Via Yahoo Sports, Bryant felt he missed open looks and a couple free throws. he thought 90 was possible and didn't rule out 100.