March 28, 2003
24 years, 217 days
In his final game against his childhood hero, Kobe Bryant gave Michael Jordan a retirement gift for the ages.
The superstar Laker erupted for 55 points, leading his team to a 108-94 victory over Washington.
“That was an incredible demonstration,” head coach Phil Jackson told the media. “It came to a point where there was that curiosity factor: Was he going to hit 80? I’m sure it went through his head.”
The Wizards took a quick 22-15 lead in the opening frame, but Bryant elevated to a new level from there.
He scored all of the Lakers’ next 23 points while hitting nine shots in a row.
“He was hot,” Jordan said. “We tried to keep him on the perimeter. We went out on him and he was still hot.”
By the end of the first half, Bryant had racked up 43 points with eight 3-pointers.
From there, Shaquille O’Neal took over, scoring 21 of his 26 points in the second half. He also hauled in 13 rebounds.
Bryant ended the night 15-of-29 from the field, including 9-of-13 on triples. He also hit 16-of-18 free throws, while managing to pick up five rebounds, three assists and three steals.
It initially looked like it would be Jordan’s night, as the six-time champion hit his first four shots. Though he led the Wizards with 23 points, it was clearly Bryant in charge.
“Normally, I would try to control the offense,” Bryant said. “But this morning Phil gave me the green light offensively for tonight.”
Kobe performances on this day in history: