NBC’s Mike Tirico revealed a subtle play most fans never saw from Kobe Bryant’s final game that showed how much other players respected the NBA legend

NBC’s Mike Tirico revealed a subtle play most fans never saw from Kobe Bryant’s final game that showed how much other players respected the NBA legend

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7 mins read
  • Across the sporting world athletes, commentators, and fans are mourning the death of Kobe Bryant.
  • Speaking with The Ringer’s “Ryen Russillo, NBC play-by-play commentator Mike Tirico shared a small moment from Bryant’s last game that few remembered but had stuck with him.
  • With just seconds left in the game, Bryant had 58 points and two free throw attempts standing between him and a 60-point finale.
  • After Bryant made the first, Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz stepped into the lane early on Kobe’s second shot, which Tirico saw as a gesture to ensure that Kobe would have another chance at reaching 60 points in case he missed.
  • Tirico told Russillo the moment represented “the most unique example I could give to people of the fraternity of the NBA.”
  • Hayward later responded to the story saying that his move wasn’t intentional. “He got 60 on me and I didn’t give him anything free all night.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Lakers legend Kobe Bryant died on Sunday in a helicopter crash just outside of Los Angeles along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others on board.

In the wake of Bryant’s sudden and shocking passing, fans, former players, and others close to Bryant have been sharing their memories of the 20-year veteran.

On The Ringer’s “Ryen Russillo Podcast” NBC commentator Mike Tirico, who called the game of Bryant’s career, revealed one memory from the game that many viewers missed on the night that it happened.

As Tirico recalled, Bryant had been coming off of a rough stretch of games during what had proved to be quite a losing season for the Lakers in the final year of his career.

Heading into Bryant’s finale, “There is not one fiber of anyone, except probably Kobe, who thought that he could go for 30 points, or 40, or 50, let alone go for 60,” Tirico said to Russillo. “There was no chance that it was going to be that kind of night.”

But Kobe had one more brilliant game left in him, and put on a show for the home crowd at the Staples Center, scoring 60 points on 50 shots in a 101-96 comeback win over the Utah Jazz.

Kobe’s last shot from the field was a go-ahead 19-footer from the right elbow with just 32 seconds left, giving the Lakers a lead that they wouldn’t give up.

After Jazz forward Trey Lyles missed a layup, Bryant drew another foul on the ensuing Lakers possession. Sitting at 58 points on the night, Bryant had two free throw attempts that could get him to the historic 60-point mark.

“He hits the first for 59,” Tirico said. “He’s at the line a second time, and you’ve gotta watch on the free-throw line, closest to Kobe, back to the camera, is Gordon Hayward. Gordon Hayward steps into the lane as Kobe is about to shoot that last free throw for 60, in case he missed it to give him another shot for 60.”

The Ringer set Tirico’s memory to a replay of the final seconds of the game, showing what Tirico believed was a graceful moment of sportsmanship.

—The Ringer (@ringer) January 28, 2020

The moment has stuck with Tirico since, as he saw it as representative of the respect that Hayward and league as a whole had for Bryant.

As Tirico told Russillo:

“That, to me, was the most unique example I could give to people of the fraternity of the NBA. The reverence for greatness in the NBA is at a different level than any of the other sports that we watch or cover. It was like, Gordon Hayward and his team are losing in this game, they blew a lead, blah blah blah. 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, and 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.”

But on Monday night, after Tirico’s story had gotten some attention, Hayward stepped in to set the record straight, posting a series of tweets that made clear that he hadn’t done anything intentional to give Bryant points that night.

—Gordon Hayward (@gordonhayward) January 28, 2020

—Gordon Hayward (@gordonhayward) January 28, 2020

—Gordon Hayward (@gordonhayward) January 28, 2020

You can listen to Russillo’s entire podcast on Bryant’s life and legacy here.

  • Read more:

How Kobe Bryant became one of the NBA’s all-time greatest players and an almost mythical figure in the process

There are calls across the NBA world to honor Kobe Bryant’s legacy, from retiring his numbers league-wide to changing the logo

Tiger Woods heard cheers for Kobe Bryant while playing, but did not learn of his death until after tournament

‘Words cannot describe the pain I’m feeling’: Michael Jordan shares emotional statement on the death of Kobe Bryant

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