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Mamba Madness: Relive Kobe Bryant’s Most Iconic Playoff Moments

Mamba Madness: Relive Kobe Bryant’s Most Iconic Playoff Moments NBA Playoffs

“The goal is to win a championship.”

“Second place just means that you are the first loser.”

For Kobe Bryant, winning is everything. Time and again, whether it’s the regular season or the Playoffs, Kobe’s shown his ultra-competitive drive and hunger for success, through his game and relentless work ethic.

As we countdown to the 2017 Playoffs, we look back at some of Kobe’s most memorable Playoff moments:

‘I Got This’

After three years of Playoff disappointments, the superstar duo of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal had finally carried the Lakers to the NBA Finals in 2000 to face off against the Indiana Pacers. Coming into Game 4, the Lakers led the series 2-1, but Bryant had missed most of Game 2 and all of Game 3 due to an ankle sprain. In Game 4, both teams were equally determined to win. The result?

Overtime. And midway through the extra period, Shaq was called for his sixth foul and was forced to watch the remaining contest from the sidelines. That’s when Bryant took over. The 21-year old superstar, who finished with 28 points while playing 47 of a possible 53 minutes, knocked down a pair of clutch jumpers and followed it up with a clutch reverse putback layup with only 5.9 seconds to go to seal the win for the Lakers.

The Lakers went on the win the Finals in six games to clinch the franchise’s first NBA Championship since 1988.


Husssshhhhh!

Possibly the greatest Playoff team in NBA history saw some great individual performances. The 2001 Lakers, en route to the repeating as champions, breezed through the post-season with a 15-1 record, best ever in the NBA.

Yet, in the Western Conference semis, during Game 4 at Sacramento, Shaq was facing foul trouble. And once again Bryant stepped up to the task. The 22-year-old played all 48 minutes and registered then career playoff highs of 48 points and 16 rebounds to carry the Lakers to victory. Kobe was so hot, he was telling the crowd at ARCO Arena to quiet down.


‘Kobe Bryant has hit a shot at the buzzer’

First, it was a tough contested floater in regulation to send the game to overtime. Then, a game-winning jumper from the elbow to wrap things up. The stamp of Bryant’s clutch gene was all over Game 4 of the Lakers’ 2006 first-round matchup against the Phoenix Suns. The shot and the Jordan-esque celebration that followed will go down as one of the Lakers’ greatest playoff moments ever.

Unfortunately, the Lakers couldn’t clinch the series and had to bow out in the first round (3-4). However, leading an inexperienced seventh-seeded team to a 3-1 lead against the second-seeded, 54-win Phoenix Suns, was a testament to Bryant’s will.


Kobe’s Game Face

After Finals losses in his last two appearances (2004 – Pistons, 2008 – Celtics), Bryant was focused and locked in, when the Lakers were facing the Orlando Magic in Game 1 of the 2009 Finals. He wasn’t going to allow any slip-ups this time. Bryant made a strong first impression, dropping 40 points (8 assists as well), leading the Lakers to a comfortable 25-point Game 1 win.

Los Angeles would end up clinching the Finals in Orlando, with a clinical Game 5 win. Bryant had won again, becoming a four-time NBA champion, but what he added to his trophy resume that night was his first ever NBA Finals MVP award.


Nice Try

In their quest to repeat as champions, the 2009-10 Lakers faced stiff competition from the Suns in Conference Finals. After relatively comfortable home wins in Games 1 & 2, Phoenix’s zone defense ensured they protected their home floor in Games 3 & 4. A Metta World Peace put-back game-winner saved the day for the Lakers in Game 5.

In Game 6 at Phoenix, it was time to close things out. Bryant went off for 37 points, nine of which came in the final two minutes of the game. After draining an impossible fadeaway jumper over Grant Hill, that sealed the deal at 107-100 with 34 seconds to go, Bryant calmly tapped buddy Alvin Gentry (Suns’ coach) and brought out the wings while running to his bench.