When the Lakers traveled to D.C. on Dec. 2, 2015, for what was Kobe Bryant’s last game in Washington, they were out to one of their worst starts in franchise history.
At 2-15, Los Angeles was in the midst of a 17-win season—still the lowest win total the franchise has ever had. But the 2015-16 campaign will always stand out in the memories of Lakers fans for being the final season of five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant. He announced prior to the year that it’d be his last, setting the stage for a farewell tour as he traveled to opposing arenas for the final time.
Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among the nine people who died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday. His death sent shockwaves across the sports landscape, prompting players, fans, coaches and team executives from across the globe to reminisce on some of his greatest moments and achievements.
During that final season, Bryant is most remembered for scoring 60 points in his final game. But those vintages performances were few and far between, as he statistically had the worst year of his career.
Washington wasn’t so fortunate to catch him on one of those off nights.
The Lakers were playing in the second game of a back-to-back, but 37-year-old Bryant wasn’t taking the night off. After receiving a tribute on the scoreboard and standing ovation from the crowd of just over 20,000, Bryant came out of the gates looking like the Mamba of old. He scored 18 points in the first half on 5-of-11 shooting (.455) as Los Angeles went into the break up 57-51.
Heading into the contest, Bryant was averaging just 15.8 points per game. His season high to that point was 24, which he scored in the season opener.
John Wall wouldn’t let the Wizards, who entered the game 7-8 on the year, go down quietly. He flirted with a triple-double, scoring a game-high 34 points with 11 assists and seven rebounds. The Wizards closed the gap and held a one-point lead with a minute to go.
That’s when Bryant took matters into his own hands.
On the ensuing possession, he found some separation and sank a three-pointer to put the Lakers up by two. Marcin Gortat forced in a layup seven seconds later, so Bryant worked himself into a one-on-one situation with Bradley Beal and hit a fadeaway jumper with the same form that had kids everywhere shouting, “Kobe!” every time they shot a crumpled-up sheet of paper into a trash can.
The shot gave Los Angeles a lead it wouldn’t relinquish, and Bryant finished the night with 31 points—including 12 in the fourth quarter.
Washington would get its revenge, beating Bryant and the Lakers on the West Coast later that year. But of all the moments throughout his farewell tour, Bryant’s turn-back-the-clock performance in D.C. stands out as one of his best.
Goodnight Washington! https://t.co/YH6Lo7jip9— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 3, 2015
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