Few 18-year rookies would come back strong after shooting four airballs in the crunch time of a Conference semi-final. But because Kobe Bryant was not just any basketball player, he could bounce back from a potential career-destroyer.
Los Angeles Lakers were playing Utah Jazz, a must-win encounter, in the Western Conference semi-finals. As the game was closing in on a tight finish, Bryant threw four airballs with two of them coming in Overtime. The Jazz eventually won the contest, and Bryant had become the scapegoat.
Nearly 20 years later, what Kobe said about the game was truly a justification for his Mamba mentality. In January 2016, Bryant played the final game of his NBA career, also against Utah Jazz. Prior to the match, Bryant said that after the four airballs in his rookie season, he went back and kept shooting all night. He believed it was a failure needed to boost his career.
“It was an early turning point for me. At 18 years old, it was gut-check time. I look back at it now with fond memories of it, but back then, it was misery.”
“It helped shape me. A lot of times as a young player, you don’t see how a situation like that can pay off in the end. But if you use it to drive you, use it to motivate you, then, you can stand where I’m standing now and look back at it with a lot of fond memories.”
What a legacy. pic.twitter.com/hmBeAuOubL
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) April 14, 2016
In his final game, the legend signed off in a typical Kobe Bryant fashion. His illustrious career ended with a 60-point performance at the Staples Center.
The final shot chart of Kobe Bryant’s NBA career pic.twitter.com/5s0WqZGTxW
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 14, 2016
“I appreciate the journey we’ve been on…ups and downs … I think the most important part is we all stayed together throughout,” Bryant said. In a manner synonymous to the player, he said that he would go back and workout.
Four years later, Bryant passed away in a tragic helicopter crash.