During the early 2000’s one of the hottest arguments in basketball was “Who’s the next Jordan?”. In his early years in the NBA, Kobe Bryant had a lot of pressure on him as he was always compared to Mike, but he stepped up and took on the challenge better than anyone ever could. Though he says he never wanted to be compared to Jordan, it’s almost hard to believe that Kobe didn’t love the comparisons, as a matter of fact, they seemed to push him to another level.
On March 28, 2003, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the then Michael Jordan-led Washington Wizards 108-94. In this very game, Kobe Bryant torched His Airness and band of misfits for 55 points.
There was a fan in the crowd waving a sign that said “Goodbye Michael, Hello Kobe” during Jordan’s final game vs the Lakers in 2003. It was the perfect sign for this “changing of the guards” or “passing of the torch” game.
The 40-year-old Jordan did his part in giving fans one last glimpse at his greatness by scoring 17 of his 23 points in the first half. The 24-year-old Kobe did his part in showing those same fans why he deserves the torch by torching the Wizards for 42 of his 55 points in that same first half. Kobe shot 15-of-29 from the field, an eye-popping 9-of-13 from deep.
“He was hot. We tried to keep him on the perimeter; we went out on him and he was still hot. He kept them in the game in the first half,” said Jordan.
Kobe’s play was probably inspired by Jordan’s hot start and an MJ video tribute shown between the first and 2nd quarter: Bryant made 9 shots in a row and scored 23 consecutive points for LA in the 2nd quarter.
At this moment the world saw Kobe Bryant pretty much take the torch from Jordan.
A game that Jordan would love to forget.
And a performance that Kobe will relish in forever.