Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game, against the Utah Jazz, was the kind of ending that seemed like it was a Hollywood script.
Entering his final game of the 2015-16 season, Bryant had averaged 16.9 points per contest and, after suffering injuries toward the end of his career, was not close to the player he once was.
But Kobe turned in one more legendary performance, scoring 60 points in a 101-96 win against the Jazz at Staples Center. He took over the end of the fourth quarter in vintage Kobe fashion and rode off into the sunset, declaring “Mamba Out!” after dropping his 60th point in on a free throw.
Mike Tirico, who now works at NBC Sports, called Kobe’s final game, and on a recent episode of the Ryen Russillo podcast, noticed former Jazzman Gordon Hayward stepped out into the lane in what appeared to be a lane violation on Kobe’s last free throw.
“Kobe gets fouled, he comes to the line. He’s eventually going to go out a couple possessions later. He hits the first one for 59. He’s at the line the second time and you’ve got to watch on the free-throw line, closest to Kobe, back to the camera, is Gordon Hayward. Gordon Hayward steps into the lane as Kobe’s about to shoot that last free throw for 60, in case he missed it, to give him another shot for 60,” Tirico said.
The reverence for greatness in the NBA is at a different level than in any other sport. @miketirico explains to @ryenarussillo how a moment between Gordon Hayward and Kobe Bryant was the truest embodiment of that.— The Ringer (@ringer) January 28, 2020
Full pod: https://t.co/TjAPJOEZTt pic.twitter.com/02sn3AFKNK
But Hayward, in a series of tweets Monday night, denied that he purposefully tried to get a lane violation.
“The past day has been incredibly heartbreaking for me. Kobe is someone that I looked up to and admired and developed a personal relationship with. I have struggled so much with trying to understand the devastating news and like many others I’m still trying to process it,” Hayward began.
“It has also come to my attention that there is a story going around tonight about an intentional lane violation that I took to ensure Kobe would get his 60th point in his final game and many are applauding me for the gesture. The fact of the matter is that is not true,” he tweeted.
“That was a night that I will truly never forget as I can remember almost every moment of it and my goal that night was to compete as hard as I possibly could against Kobe because that is what he was all about and I wanted to give him my very best,” Hayward continued.
“He got 60 on me and I didn’t give him anything free all night. What happened on the free throw line was not intentional. Kobe would have lost respect for me if I gave him something free. That’s what made him so very special!” Hayward said.
Hayward concluded by paying respect to Bryant.
“Rest In Peace Kobe. I’m so honored to have shared our time on and off the court together!” he tweeted.
After Hayward suffered his season-ending ankle injury in his first game as a member of the Boston Celtics, Bryant — who had his fair share of injuries at the end of his career — offered wisdom and support in an Instagram post.
What Kobe Bryant wrote after Gordon Hayward suffered his gruesome ankle injury in 2017: pic.twitter.com/svIafkMKog— Boston.com Celtics News (@BDCCeltics) January 27, 2020
Andy Reid is dressed for Miami
Peter King: “I asked to ride to work one morning in the Super Bowl off week with Kansas City coach Andy Reid. Sure, he said. Pick you up at your hotel at 3:15. A.M.
The Jazz honored Kobe Bryant last night.