4. Game-Winner in the 2000 playoffs
Six years and ten days before his 2006 playoffs game-winner, Kobe Bryant made his first, crushing the Phoenix Suns’ hopes of potentially upsetting the heavily-favored Lakers in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Following a Game 1 blowout loss (the Lakers won 105-77), the Suns had a chance to steal Game 2 in L.A. to send the series back to Phoenix tied at one apiece.
Phoenix led 96-95 with 43.5 seconds remaining and Penny Hardaway (27 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists) milking the clock. Both teams watched it tick all the way down to 23 seconds when Penny drove on Shaq – who fouled him – but no call.
Kobe recovered the ball and this time himself ran the clock down.
With five seconds remaining, he drove on Jason Kidd who played about as good of one-on-one defense as possible, but could not stop Bryant who from the left side of the free throw line nailed a jumper just as Rodney Rogers ran up on him to double.
Following a timeout, Penny got the ball near half court and was able to get off a running one-handed shot from just inside the 3-point line, but it fell far sort and the Lakers took a 2-0 series lead.
Surprisingly the Suns continued to play the Lakers tough and not only lost Game 3 by six points, but then ran the Lakers out of America West Arena in game 4 – although they were blown out in one of the worst playoff performances in NBA history, losing Game 5 (and thus the series), 87-65.
Who knows what might have happened had Kobe’s shot missed and Phoenix ended up with that Game 2 victory.