Mamba out – Kobe’s official farewell to the game of basketball. He went out with a legendary 60 points performance that sealed an iconic NBA career. It was a day of celebration and a day of admiration. It was a day to reminisce about the glory days but also to think about all the obstacles he had to overcome to reach legendary status. For the fans, it was the last glance at Kobe as a fierce competitor on the basketball court. A player who was barely standing on his feet, but was able to score 15 points without missing a shot in the last three minutes of the game, while also draining a game-winner. Typical Black Mamba. Something he had done countless times for the Lakers. Lastly, in the 2012-13 NBA season.
Coming into a 2012-13 regular season, Lakers’ fans had a lot bo be excited about. The Lakers completed a blockbuster four-team deal to acquire Dwight Howard and were also able to trade for two-times MVP Steve Nash from the Phoenix Suns. They also paired Nash with his former coach Mike D’Antoni in whose offensive system Steve had thrived. With the two new additions, combined with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Metta World Peace, the team looked great on paper. Fans around the world were eager to see them in the action. However, the season wasn’t turning out as we all expected, and the Lakers reached the all-star break out of the playoff contention. That’s when Kobe made it his mission to lead the Lakers to the playoffs.
“I was like a conductor. We had to get our team to the postseason. I called every play. I positioned everybody on the floor, and I manipulated the entire defense according to my will.”
Kobe Bryant, via TrueHoop
A 34 years old Kobe went on a fantastic streak post-All-Star break. Throughout 24 games, Bryant led the Lakers to a 17-7 record while averaging 28.3 PPg, 6.1 RPG, and 7.2 APG with a TS% of 58% on 39 minutes per game. It’s even more impressive what happened throughout the last seven regular-season games. Kobe single-handedly led the Lakers to a 6-1 record while playing 45.5 minutes per game. He averaged 29 PPG, 7.3 RPG, and 8.4 APG. In 4 of the games, he played the entire game, including the final stretch of 3 games in 4 nights, with the final game being the one against the Warriors. In the 45th minute spent on the floor, Kobe tore his Achilles and famously hit 2 one-legged free-throws in the clutch before walking off the court. Kobe’s heroic effort secured the Lakers’ a playoff spot where they got swept by the Spurs.
There was a lot of controversy surrounding coach D’Antoni about the number of minutes Kobe had spent on the floor. A lot of people were arguing that the playing overload caused Bryant to injure his Achilles. However, there were also reports about Kobe refusing to come out of the game. That sounds more like Kobe to me. It’s hard to argue that heavy minutes he spent on the floor didn’t have anything to do with Bryant’s injury. However, Kobe surely wasn’t compelled to be in court. If anything, he forced his way on the court.
After all the injuries, the Lakers faced during 2012-13 regular-season with their projected starting lineup only playing together in 19 games, just reaching the postseason was a huge success for the LA team. However, making the playoffs was never the question for Kobe, and he was excited to do some damage in a seven-game series, fearing no one.
“It’s not a question of if we make the playoffs. We will and when we get there, I have no fear of anyone—Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver—whoever. I have zero nervousness about that.”
Kobe Bryant, via BR
Kobe did his part but unfortunately was never able to play in those playoffs. The Achilles’ injury marked the end of Mamba. But it was also the peak of one man’s effort in reaching a goal he had set for himself and his team. A goal that was eventually reached, but at a cost of never being in the playoffs contention again.
Kobe’s 2012-13 season is very underrated, considering how old he was and all the troubles his team went through, and it perfectly personified him as a basketball player. We haven’t seen that version of Black Mamba anymore. Kobe’s last few seasons were marked with more injuries until his body finally gave up on him, and he decided that it was time to say goodbye.