Lakers legend Kobe Bryant owns a vast library of clutch moments. There’s plenty to choose from. In his regular season catalog, Kobe’s pair of buzzer-beaters against the Portland Trail Blazers in the final game of the 2003-2004 campaign rank right near the top.
The Lakers had acquired Hall-of-Famers Karl Malone and Gary Payton in the summer of 2003. Paired with Shaq and Kobe, it was presumed that the Lakers would run away with the number one seed in the West that year.
However, the Lakers entered the final day of the season tied with the Sacramento Kings for the best record in the Pacific Division (55-26). The Kevin Garnett-Timberwolves had already wrapped up the top spot in the conference.
A Lakers victory in Portland assured LA of the two-seed. If the Lakers lost and the Kings won, Kobe and the rest of the Lakers Hall-of-Famers would fall to the four-seed.
Kobe Bryant made damn sure that didn’t happen.
Sacramento lost to the Warriors earlier that night. The Lakers controlled their playoff destiny.
With the 1.1 seconds left in regulation, Kobe drained a game-tying three-pointer with the Blazers Ruben Patterson draped all over him to send the game to overtime.
The two teams battled to a 95-95 stalemate in the first overtime.
The Blazers held a 104-102 lead with a single second left in the second overtime period. The Lakers hope of securing the two-seed was on it’s last breath. Gary Payton inbounded the ball to a streaking Kobe. Kobe launched a a fadeaway-three-pointer over the outstretched arm of the Blazers 6’10” Theo Ratliff, the NBA’s blocks leader that season.
As Kobe fell the floor, his majestic shot hit its mark.
Game. Set. Match.
Kobe had saved the Lakers season.