Kobe Bryant had one of the most iconic final games in NBA history.
With the Los Angeles Lakers well out of the playoff race in his last year, the team's final regular season game served as a send-off for Bryant. In the outing, Bryant dominated the game, took as many shots as he wanted, and ultimately scored 60 points to cap off a comeback win over the Utah Jazz.
It was a great way to end an amazing career.
And Mike Tirico suggested that Gordon Hayward may have actually played a part in ensuring that Bryant would be guaranteed to get 60 points late in that game.
As Tirico detailed on a recent episode of The Ringer's Ryen Russillo Podcast, Hayward, then playing for the Jazz, committed a lane violation on Bryant's final free throw that Tirico believes was just to give him a chance to to get to 60 in case he missed it.
And to Tirico, that decision stands out and makes him "a fan of [Hayward's] for life."
That, to me, was the most unique example I could give to people of the fraternity of the NBA. And the reverence for greatness in the NBA is at a different level that any of the other sports that we watch or cover.
He had the complete wherewithal at 59 to just put a foot in the lane and look over at the ref just in case Kobe missed it to make sure he got another shot at 60.
That is just one of those things that nobody ever remembers, that very few people see, but every time I see Gordon Hayward, I think of that. I'm like, 'You know what, dude, you get it. You get it at a level that other people don't and I'm a fan of yours for life for that.
It's easy to see why Tirico would admire Hayward's sportsmanship if he did, in fact, intentionally commit that lane violation. But Hayward took to Twitter to deny that it was intentional.
He got 60 on me and I didn't give him anything free all night. What happened on the free throw line was not intentional. Kobe would have lost respect for me if I gave him something free. That’s what made him so very special!— Gordon Hayward (@gordonhayward) January 28, 2020
Either way, this moment and the memory of Bryant's 60-point finale is even more poignant after his tragic passing. Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, were among the nine people killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday afternoon.
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