Today would have been Kobe Bryant‘s 42nd birthday; many people sent out heartfelt messages over social media platforms. Bryant is my all-time favorite basketball player since the Los Angeles Lakers drafted him in the 1997 NBA Draft. I have many favorite Kobe moments through his 20-year career. But my favorite one was game four of the 2000 NBA Finals against the Indiana Pacers.
The Lakers won the first two games of the Finals, but Bryant injured his ankle in game two after landing on Jalen Rose‘s foot after a jump shot and missed game three in which the Lakers lost.
Bryant came back in-game four but started slowly because of his injury, but as the game went on, Kobe started to play better. Bryant finished the game with 28 points on 14-27 shooting from the field, but it was what he did overtime to make this performance memorable.
In overtime, Shaquille O’Neal fouled out of the game, and young Kobe Bryant took the game over from there. In the closing minutes of overtime, Bryant calmly hit two jumpers, one over Reggie Miller and the other over Mark Jackson.
With Lakers up three with under a minute to play. Bryant blocked an Austin Croshere shot attempt out of bounds. The Pacers were able to score to cut the lead to one. With the lead down to one, the Lakers had the ball and guard Brian Shaw missed a runner in the lane. Bryant worked hard for position to get an offensive rebound. Grabbed and put the ball in the basket to put the Lakers up three points.
On the last possession for the Pacers. Miller missed a three-point attempt, and the Lakers won the game 120-117 in overtime. The win gave Los Angeles a 3-1 lead in the series as they went on to win the NBA Finals 4-2.
With his clutch performance in game four, I knew Bryant was going to be an all-time great. Bryant went on to win five NBA titles and many more accolades in his 20-year career.