March 1, 2009
30 years, 190 days
Kobe Bryant did all he could in a clash between NBA greats — and former teammates — but Shaquille O’Neal would not let Phoenix fall.
Bryant exploded for 49 points and 11 rebounds, while O’Neal parried with 33 points of his own, as the Suns defended their home floor, 118-111.
O’Neal was a force for Phoenix, which won despite Steve Nash sitting out with a sprained ankle. But it wasn’t just a former teammate that thwarted Bryant, as a future one did as well.
Matt Barnes collected 26 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists to aid O’Neal, who was busy battling down low with Pau Gasol (30 points).
Bryant was at his best in the second half, when he piled up 30 points. His 17-point third quarter was huge for Los Angeles, which used a 19-2 run to take a 75-70 lead midway through the frame.
During this surge, Bryant had one of his teeth knocked out of place.
“Don’t ask me nothing funny,” Bryant told reporters. “I’m not smiling. You’re not seeing my tooth. It feels foul. It feels like I can’t chew anything, like Roger Rabbit or something.”
But the Suns had plenty to respond with, retaking the lead shortly after. Though L.A. brought its deficit within two, Phoenix’s offense was simply too efficient to stop.
The purple and gold took 17 more shots than their hosts, but the Suns nonetheless hit one more basket in a seven-point victory.
Kobe performances on this day in history: