Gordon Hayward downplays Kobe Bryant’s final game, says he airballed 6 or 7 times and wasn’t great except for last 3 minutes

Peter Dewey
3 Min Read
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Current Charlotte Hornets forward and former Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward downplayed how great Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant was in his final game.

While Hayward did end up giving Bryant credit for his play at the end of the game, he shared that the Lakers star wasn’t exactly impressive early on in his 50-shot performance.

“I’m a big Kobe fan as well, so I don’t want to put that last game down for you, but we learned right before game time that the game didn’t matter,” Hayward said. “The game would have mattered for us making the playoffs, but we learned right before that the game didn’t matter. Somebody else had won.”

Hayward explained that before the game it was a “movie” with all of the buzz that was in the air. He said it was “unlike any game I’ll ever play in again.”

“But I will say, we were up pretty handily most of the game,” Hayward said. “He probably airballed six or seven times. He shot 50 shots.”

Hayward went on to give Bryant credit for how great he was in the closing minutes.

“I don’t think he was that good throughout most of the game,” Hayward said. “Now, the last three minutes, he was special. The last three minutes was unreal. It was vintage Kobe.”

Bryant dominated the final minutes of the game, getting several clutch buckets to will the Lakers to a victory.

While it may not have been as dominant as Bryant was in his prime, the five-time champion seemed to find an extra gear to close out his final game with a win.

Overall, Bryant finished his final contest with 60 points on 22-of-50 shooting from the field. He was 6-for-21 from beyond the arc and 10-of-12 from the charity stripe. The Lakers ended up beating the Jazz 101-96.

It was fitting that Bryant led the Lakers to a win in his final game, as he won five NBA titles with the franchise and was one of the greatest players in franchise and NBA history.

Bryant hit a litany of clutch shots in his career, and he capped off his final game with several buckets in crunch time to lift the Lakers.

It’s cool to hear Hayward – an opposing player at the time – talk about his perspective of Bryant’s final team on the floor in an NBA game, especially since it was an atmosphere that he doesn’t think he’ll play in again.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.