Madison Square Garden demands the best out of all the stars that put on a show in this famous arena. Nobody, and I mean nobody, put on a show in the Garden like Kobe Bryant. Kobe owned Madison Square Garden and the Knicks. I sometimes think that Kobe staked a greater claim to the Knicks than James Dolan. On the world’s biggest stage, nobody shined brighter than Kobe Bryant.
Kobe Bryant’s Long Career Against the Knicks
On November 5, 1996 Kobe Bryant played his first game at Madison Square Garden. During this game, Kobe only played three minutes, but he did manage to score his first NBA point. At that point, I don’t think anyone, even Kobe, knew what would happen over the next 20+ years.
Kobe started making a habit of dismantling the Knicks, especially at Madison Square Garden. In 34 career games against the New York Knicks Kobe averaged 26.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.2 assists. That includes his first two career games against the Knicks in which he scored a combined one point.
In 16 games at Madison Square Garden, Kobe stepped it up a little bit averaging 29.9 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game, and 3.9 assists per game. In those 16 games though, there was one shining moment where Kobe stood out above the rest of the league.
The ‘Kobe’ Game
On February 2nd 2009, Kobe Bryant scored 61 points to set the record for most points scored in a single game at Madison Square Garden. Kobe put up one of the biggest games of his life on the biggest stage in the world, and everybody knew about it.
Knicks fans started “M-V-P” chants for the legend. There are only a few people who can generate those chants on the road, especially in New York.
I will never forget this night. I never knew that I could watch someone light up the Knicks and actually enjoy it. He scorched the Knicks and I had a blast watching it.
New York buzzed when Kobe came to town. He was must-see basketball in a city that had longed for someone like Kobe to join their franchise. Not only did Kobe deliver, but he thrived on it. He lived on the pressure of having to perform. He accepted every challenge thrown his way, and if you know anything about the New York media, you know that coming into New York as a star is an enormous challenge. If you don’t live up to the hype the media creates, they will crush you for it. Kobe never had that issue.
As he rose to star status in the league, the performances just got better and better. It all culminated with that 61 point performance in 2009. At that point everyone knew, Kobe owned Madison Square Garden and the Knicks.
Kobe Bryant Says Goodbye to the Garden
On November 8, 2015 Kobe Bryant played his final game in Madison Square Garden. Coming off a torn achilles, it was obviously not the same Kobe, but he still did everything he could to put on a show. He finished the night with 18 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists. Afterwards he was quoted saying, “To be able to come here and have the performances I’ve had in this building, I feel extremely, extremely fortunate.”
No Kobe, we the fans were extremely, extremely fortunate to be able to watch you perform. Thank you for what you did for the game of basketball.
R.I.P Kobe Bryant
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