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Brilliant Kobe Bryant ends career on high

Associated Press Associated Press 14/04/2016

Kobe Bryant has ended his legendary career in spectacular fashion, scoring 60 points to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a comeback win over Joe Ingles' Utah Jazz.

The Jazz were up by 12 points with nine minutes to go, but thanks to a trademark Bryant barrage, which included six three-pointers, the Lakers stormed home in the final quarter to win 101-96.

It was a double blow for the Jazz, who missed out on the NBA Playoffs when the Houston Rockets defeated the Sacramento Kings to grab the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference.

With sweat and confetti all over his gold uniform for the final time, Bryant expressed humble thanks to his fans and family for their loving support over two decades in the NBA.

"What else can I say?" Bryant asked. "Mamba out."

Now that's a Hollywood ending to a remarkable career.

Bryant utterly dominated his final game Wednesday night, wrapping up 20 NBA seasons with one last offensive showcase in the Lakers' 101-96 victory over the Utah Jazz.

He scored 23 points in the fourth quarter, posting his first 50-point game since February 2009 and rallying the Lakers to win the final game of the worst season in franchise history.

"It's hard to believe it happened this way," Bryant said. "I'm still shocked about it."

With the entire Staples Center crowd standing, Bryant made a 3-pointer with 59 seconds left. He hit another with 31 seconds to play, putting the Lakers ahead 97-96. He finished with an assist before checking out for good with 4.1 seconds left in just the Lakers' 17th win of the season.

"The perfect ending would have been a championship," Bryant said.

"But tonight was (me) trying to go out, play hard and try to put on a show as much as I possibly could. It felt good to be able to do that one last time."

Bryant and his teammates conspired for one last omnivorous scoring performance by the third-leading scorer in NBA history. He played 42 minutes and took a career-high 50 shots, his teammates attempting to set him up for points on nearly every possession.

Kobe came up with the fifth highest-scoring game of his career. He became the oldest player to score 50 points in an NBA game with his highest-scoring performance since getting 61 against New York in 2009 - oh, and he had four assists and four rebounds.

The Lakers sprayed him with champagne in the locker room, although he didn't like it: "That's only for championships."

It was still one last classic from the Black Mamba.

"I think the most important part is that we all stayed together throughout," Bryant said to the crowd. "You'll always be in my heart, and I sincerely, sincerely appreciate it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you guys."

He also had a few laughs after finishing his 1,346th regular-season game with 33,643 career points.

"The thing that had me cracking up all night long is, I go through 20 years of everybody screaming to pass the ball," Bryant said with a grin. "And then the last night, they're like, 'Don't pass it!"'

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