Shock came over the NBA and the sports world early Sunday as reports surfaced that Los Angeles Lakers’ legendary guard Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine dead in a Los Angeles-area helicopter crash.
That evening and in the days since, NBA teams and players have done their part to honor the memory of Bryant, who passed at just 41 years old. In Sunday’s contest at the Amway Center between the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Clippers, the teams traded violations to honor Bryant.
The Clippers controlled the tip and took a 24-second violation. Orlando reciprocated with an eight-second violation. During Bryant’s 20-year NBA career, he wore jersey Nos. 8 and 24. Throughout that career, Bryant was an 18-time All-Star, a five-time world champion, four-time All-Star Game MVP, two-time scoring champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP and a league MVP.
With the exception of the 2008-09 season, Bryant and the Magic saw each other just twice per season. Still, there were some connections between the late legend and Orlando that were worth noting.
Over the next few days, we’ll be looking at several aspects of Bryant’s legendary career as it relates to the Magic. In Part II, we looked at the battles between Kobe and Tracy McGrady. In this next piece, we’ll be looking at the best regular season games between Bryant and Orlando. For games to qualify, Bryant had to have played in the game – not just be on the roster:
10. T-Mac vs. Kobe I
L.A. Lakers 95, Orlando 90
March 18, 2001
The first meeting between Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady in Orlando saw the Lakers win the game, but McGrady take the match-up. McGrady finished with 29 points and 10 rebounds while Bryant totaled 16 points and seven assists. The Magic got as close as one in the final quarter, but were unable to ever take the lead.
9. Lakers outlast Magic
L.A. Lakers 109, Orlando 106
Jan. 12, 2007
In a nail-biting contest, the lead changed 12 times in the fourth quarter between Orlando and Los Angeles. Bryant scored four straight points in the final 1:06 to put the Lakers ahead for good. After Smush Parker missed a pair of free throws, Jameer Nelson’s game-tying three-pointer went awry. Bryant finished with 28 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
8. Magic outlast Lakers
Orlando 106, L.A. Lakers 103
Dec. 20, 2008
Another thriller between the Magic and Lakers saw Orlando superstar center Dwight Howard put him team ahead for good from an unlikely spot – the foul line. After Derek Fisher tied the game with a three-pointer off a steal for the Lakers, Howard knocked down a pair of free throws with 1:04 to go to put the Magic ahead for good. After Sasha Vujacic missed a three that would have put the Lakers ahead in the final minute, Bryant missed a triple at the buzzer that would have forced overtime.
7. Magic always have an answer
Orlando 96, L.A. Lakers 94
March 7, 2010
In a contest controlled by Orlando for most of the second half, the Lakers closed to within two points six times in the fourth quarter, but could not get over the hump. Howard, Nelson and Vince Carter all split free throws late for the Magic while Bryant made a pair of long jumpers to keep the Lakers alive. Bryant however, couldn’t hit a third as his jump shot at the buzzer was no good.
6. Bryant delivers late
L.A. Lakers 117, Orlando 113
Feb. 8, 2008
Four straight points from Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu gave the Magic a 112-111 lead with less than two minutes to play, but Kobe Bryant had an answer. Bryant knocked down a pair of free throws with a minute to play to put Los Angeles ahead for good. After a basket from Lamar Odom pushed the Laker lead to three, Rashard Lewis missed a three-pointer that would have tied the game. Bryant knocked down two more foul shots to put the game away.
5. Lakers rally from 24 down
L.A. Lakers 115, Orlando 104
March 21, 1999
During the NBA lockout-shortened season, it look as though the Magic would blow the Lakers out at Amway Arena. The Magic led 63-39 late in the second quarter, Los Angeles responded with a 54-30 run to draw even midway through the fourth quarter. With less than five minutes to play, Derek Harper’s three-pointer put the Lakers ahead for good. Bryant finished with 38 points in the win, including 33 in the second half.
4. Kobe takes over to break Magic’s heart
L.A. Lakers 113, Orlando 110
March 15, 2004 (Overtime)
During their worst season since before Shaquille O’Neal arrived in Orlando, the Magic appeared on the verge of pulling quite the upset. Orlando led the Lakers 102-92 with less than four minutes to play, but Bryant scored the final 10 points of regulation to force overtime. In the extra period, Bryant found Gary Payton for the winning three-pointer. Bryant finished with 38 points in the while Tracy McGrady added 37 for Orlando in the defeat.
3. Nelson’s clutch trey lifts Magic
Orlando 109, L.A. Lakers 103
Jan. 16, 2009
The Magic earned their first season sweep of the Lakers ever and in dramatic fashion. Over the final two and a half minutes, there were three ties and seven lead changes. With 35 seconds remaining, Orlando went ahead for good, 104-103, on a triple by Jameer Nelson. Bryant would miss two clutch shots down the stretch as Nelson made four straight free throws to put the game away.
2. Shaq’s steal saves the Lakers
L.A. Lakers 107, Orlando 99
Feb. 18, 2000 (Overtime)
In just his second game back in Orlando, the Magic looked to be on the verge of souring their former center Shaquille O’Neal’s return. After a Pat Garrity three-pointer tied the game, Darrell Armstrong’s layup with less than 30 seconds to play gave the Magic an 88-86 lead. The Magic were able to force a turnover on the next possession, but O’Neal would come up with a steal on a bad pass and a dunk to tie the game. After Michael Doleac missed the game-winner for Orlando at the end of regulation, the Lakers used an 8-0 overtime run to pull away.
1. Anderson spoils O’Neal’s return
Orlando 96, L.A. Lakers 94
Feb. 22, 1998
After battling through injury the season before, former Orlando center Shaquille O’Neal made his return to the city in February 1998, but it would be the Magic’s first-ever draft pick that stole the show. With the Lakers clinging to a 94-93 lead, Orlando guard Nick Anderson came off a screen and calmly knocked down the go-ahead three-pointer with seven seconds remaining. Eddie Jones would get an open look from deep on the other end, but missed as time expired. Anderson led all scorers with 30 points.