Mamba Day

April 13, 2020

THE date: April 13, 2016.

The place: Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.

Kobe Bryant exploded with a game-high 60 points, including the game-winner with 31 seconds in the Lakers' dramatic, come-from-behind 101-96 win over the Utah Jazz.

Nicknamed Black Mamba,  the five-time NBA champion made 22 shots in career-high 50 attempts, including 6-of-21 from three-point area, in 42:09 minutes of action before an overflow crowd of 18,997.

Bryant also scored 13 unaswered points in the final two minutes with the Lakers down by 10 points and only 2:36 left in the game. He scored 23 of the Lakers' 35 fourth-quarter points to finish with 60 points -- the fifth highest-scoring game of his spectacular  career.

The 37-year-old Bryant also had four rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block before checking out for good with 4.1 seconds remaining. He was swarmed on the court by teammates and coaches.

It was Bryant's farewell game in a spectacular 20-year NBA career with the famed purple-and-gold franchise.

"I can't believe how fast 20 years went by," said the 6-6 Bryant as he thanked his loyal fans, his teammates and his family during fitting ceremony.

Then Bryant said the now famous words: "Mamba out."

On the same day -- April 13 --  Nike paid an emotional tribute to the 18-time NBA All-Star by calling it the "Mamba Day".

(In addition, the Los Angeles City Council, also declared Aug. 24 to be Kobe Bryant Day -- 8/24 representing the two jersey numbers  he wore during his brilliant career).

Before his farewell game against the Jazz, Bryant had announced that 2016 season would be his last.

In a  "Dear Basketball"poem he wrote on The Players' Tribune.

"This season is all I have left to give."

"My heart can take the pounding. My mind can handle the grind. But my body knows it's time to say goodbye.

"And that's OK. I'm ready to let you go."

"I want you to know now. So we both can savor every moment we have left together."

Last Jan. 26, the whole basketball world said goodbye to Bryant, who perished with his young daughter Gianna and seven others in a fatal helicopter crash in the mountains of Calabasas, California.

Four years after his memorable farewell NBA game -- and less than three months after his untimely death --  Bryant is lovingly remembered today in the basketball universe now dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic It's "Mamba Day", afterall.

NOTES -- Belated happy birthday to my son John Michael, who celebrated last April 6. Michael, my only daughter Steffi and sons Robert and Paul are all loyal LA Lakers and Kobe Bryant fans who would  wake up early to watch and cheer with me on TV ...

Birthday greetings, too, to Malabon Chess Club president Greg Rellorosa (April 6) and Ramon Ypil (April 8).

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