LA Lakers star Kobe Bryant bows out in a blaze of glory
Basketball legend ends 20-year NBA career with astonishing 60-point display against Utah Jazz
Kobe Bryant bowed out from the NBA with an "unbelievable offensive showcase" as he scored 60 points and masterminded an incredible comeback for the LA Lakers against Utah Jazz.
In the final game of his 20-year career, the 37-year-old basketball legend took 50 shots, more than anyone in an NBA game for the past 30 years, and scored 23 points in an incredible final quarter.
It was the fifth-highest scoring game of his career and his first 60-point game since 2009. He also became the oldest man ever to score 50 points in an NBA game.
"It was one last classic from the Black Mamba," says The Guardian.
The entire night was set up as a tribute to the veteran, with tickets changing hands for almost £20,000. "With the entire Staples Center crowd standing, Bryant drained a three-pointer with 59 seconds left. He hit another with 31 seconds to play, putting the Lakers ahead 97-96. He finished with an assist before checking out for good with 4.1 seconds left in just the Lakers' 17th win," adds the paper.
Bill Plaschke of the LA Times called it "a final act unmatched in Los Angeles sports history", adding: "He didn't walk away, he flew away, on the wings of legend, through the clouds of Hollywood."
Kobe's performance meant that "when the balloons fell and the corner cannons blasted confetti, the celebration was more than a salute for past greatness", says Tyler Kepner in the New York Times, even though the season has been the worst in LA Lakers history.
But the evening was all about Bryant and his farewell generated an atmosphere of "excitement crackling in Staples Center for the kind of A-list party the Lakers haven't been able to host for years", says Mark Heisler of the LA Daily News.
Kobe has been a divisive and controversial figure, but his farewell season and last game will have ensured his place in the hearts of basketball fans.
"Once scorned by NBA fans... Kobe went out with a farewell tour that stamped the end of his career like a smiley face emoticon," says Heisler. "Until this Bryant was a lightning rod for controversy... At the end, whatever NBA fans thought of Kobe, he had been a constant in their lives for 20 years, the last star link to [Michael] Jordan's 1990s heyday."