OTD: Kobe Bryant Dropped Massive Triple-Double to Lead Lakers’ Comeback vs Michael Jordan’s Wizards

Published 02/12/2024, 6:03 AM EST

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20 seasons, 5 championships, and more records than we can count. But why does Kobe Bryant‘s third triple-double out of 21 in his entire career matter? He reached that milestone exactly 22 years ago, on February 12, 2002. It’s more significant against whom he managed it. 23-year-old Bean was facing his childhood hero, Michael Jordan and he dominated.

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The Los Angeles Lakers were up against the Washington Wizards who now had 6x NBA champion, Jordan. The Lakers were trailing by 20 before a home crowd in Staples Center but Bryant was responsible for 23 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds. He was the key force to clinch the 103-94 win that broke the Wizards’ five-game winning streak.

Michael Jordan went into semi-retirement after walking away from the Chicago Bulls, signed with the Washington Wizards, and was contending with the new dynasty in the league led by the Shaq-Kobe combination. The Lakers were the two-time defending champions on the way to their third consecutive title. But His Airness was in the way.

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With Shaquille O’Neal sidelined due to pain in his arthritic big toe, he watched from the bench as Bryant led the squad against Jordan. The first half was certainly looking like the Black Cat’s game. He led the Wizards with a 13-point lead by halftime. Second half was Bryant’s. Because of the Black Mamba, Jordan, who made 22 points and six assists, felt what it was like to face a team coached by the legendary Phil Jackson.

Michael Jordan gets a taste of his own medicine via Kobe Bryant

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The iconic head coach led the Bulls dynasty throughout Jordan’s championship career. He too exited the franchise with MJ and signed with the Lakers. Bryant gave Jackson his first win against his former star player.

The Lakers turned a 63-43 deficit in the third quarter into 86-74 in the fourth. Bryant shot 9 of 20 and also rallied his teammates in the third quarter in place of Shaq. The 18,000+ crowd in Staples Center – now also known as ‘The House That Kobe Built’ since his statue was unveiled on February 2 – cheered the loudest when Bryant hit from outside over Jordan with a little over a minute left on the clock.

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Jordan was perhaps discovering what past opponents felt facing the Phil Jackson-led Bulls. Because after losing to Bryant and Jackson at this game, he conceded,We’re not quite in their league yet.” As Elton John put it, it’s the Circle of Life and the Lakers dynasty made Jordan say, “We folded under their pressure, and that’s what championship teams do to you.

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Written by:

Caroline John

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Caroline John is a senior NBA writer at EssentiallySports. She holds a Masters degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from a reputed university. With 8 years of experience in content writing and after judiciously covering the life of Shaquille O’Neal, she even earned an exclusive interview with the CEO of Shaq’s Big Chicken franchise, Josh Halpern.
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Edited by:

Aakash Nair

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