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The Greatest Goodbye: Kobe scores 60 in last unforgettable show

Kobe Bryant last NBA game was one to remember: 60 points on 50 shots and plays that brought to mind an NBA superstar once at the top of his game.

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LOS ANGELES — One-thousand-three-hundred-forty-six regular-season games, but when future generations examine the oeuvre of Kobe Bean Bryant, let them start with the last one. With Snoop Dogg dancing and Jay Z grinning and Shaquille O’Neal shaking his giant head. With the man in the lower bowl who was crying and the woman in the upper deck who was laughing and everybody else who was staring skyward in disbelief at two digits illuminated for all time on the Staples Center scoreboard: 60.

The number was both preposterous and predictable. The Achilles tendon had been torn. The rotator cuff had been ravaged. Twenty years had abused his body. But they could not steal his soul. Bryant left the way he came, bald head and jutted jaw, craving the rock and hunting the hoop. No one paid $10,000 for a seat to watch him pass. They shelled out for the same reason they always have, to witness a showman who takes the shots others aren’t bold enough to attempt or skilled enough to convert.

Fifty times he let fly, floaters mixed with fadeaways, pull-ups spliced with turnarounds, as if trying to purge every unconscionable jack from his system. No one will remember the misses, though there were plenty. Everyone will recall the makes, in the kind of detail usually reserved for Game 7s. The box score will show that his final field goal was a game-winner, from 20 feet, one more save for the quintessential closer. As Bryant sat on the bench during the ensuing timeout, towel draped over his shoulders, giddy teammates fanned him with their arms. He stared right through them. Here was the Kobe Bryant Experience, cold-blooded and hot-handed, somehow distilled into one spring night.   

• MORE NBA: Kobe timeline: From phenom to legend | The perfect ending

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