Love him or hate him, Kobe Bryant hit some ridiculous shots over his 20 year career. And he would do so in the most intense and pressure-packed moments.
Today we travel back in time to April 14, 2004, to remember when Kobe helped the Lakers win a game they had no business winning. It was the last game of the 2003-04 season for his team with a lot on the line. A win against the Portland Trailblazers meant the Lakers would win the Pacific Division and secure a second seed in the Western Conference. But the Blazers had a secret weapon on their hand, the self-proclaimed “Kobe-Stopper,” aka Ruben Patterson.
For those that might know the name, Patterson was actually drafted by the Lakers in the 1998 Draft and played with Kobe. However, he only played 24 games for the team, moved to the SuperSonics, and eventually got with the Trailblazers. It was there he became known as a above-average defender and decent shooter. It was also this time he gave himself a nickname that Kobe thinks belongs to someone else. But on that night during the 2003-04 season Patterson had a chance to prove to the world he deserved the name. Well, he failed.
The Lakers trailed by as many as 10 points before rallying in the fourth quarter behind Kobe who had Patterson on him for much of the game. With 8.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter the Blazers had a three point lead and Patterson had two free throws to ice the game. He missed them both, the Lakers called a timeout with 8.0 left on the clock.
On the inbounds play Kobe received the ball by the midcourt line, tightly guarded by Patterson. As he moved towards the three point line he tried to create space but was bodied up. He twisted, creating a small space and shot an off-balance three to his right. Bucket. Game tied and headed to overtime.
The first overtime ended in a tie so they headed to a second overtime. There the Blazers had control. Damon Stoudamire was able to hit a clutch jumper to tie the game and hit a running layup to give the hometown team a 104-102 lead with 2.2 seconds left. Another Lakers timeout, 1.0 on the lock. Gary Payton was the inbounder at half court. Set play, solid screen, Kobe comes racing down the key towards the three point line. Pass, catch, turn, swish, game. Mamba out.
The loss pushed the Trailblazers out of the Playoffs for the first time in 22 seasons. The “Kobe-Stopper” was anything but that night. At least he got a personal momento, Kobe gifted him the pair of Zoom Huarache 2K4’s he wore to light him up that night. We’ll miss these moments Kobe.