Monday morning provided the dreadful confirmation that Sunday’s unthinkable events were true: Kobe Bryant is gone.
The Lakers and NBA legend was killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, CA, along with his daughter, Gianna, and seven others. He was just 41 years old.
The ensuing hours have prompted tributes and prayers from the biggest names in sports, politics, and culture around the world.
While he’ll always be remembered for his contributions on the court as a Laker and for Los Angeles, Bryant had a knack for making the most of his appearances in New York City — making 16 regular-season visits to “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” Madison Square Garden, while averaging 29.3 points per game.
“Kobe Bryant was one of the greatest performers, competitors, & winners in history,” long-time Knick Allan Houston wrote. “I admired the combination of his talent, intelligence, self-awareness, maturity, determination, fearlessness, charisma, passion, will, and desire to WIN. It was an honor to share the court and stage with him. I’ll forever be grateful to have that.”
“The New York Knicks join with the entire NBA community to mourn today’s sudden and tragic accident that claimed several innocent lives, including NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his young daughter, Gianna,” the team released in a statement. “We are heartbroken at this incomprehensible loss of life, and send our thoughts and prayers to Kobe’s wife, Vanessa, the Bryant family and the Lakers during this difficult time.”
While the world reflects on all the memories Bryant left us over his 20-year playing career, amNewYork takes a look at his best moments at “The Mecca.”
“The Mecca of basketball right here. New York City. MSG. Madison Square Garden,” -Kobe Bryant
11/5/1996: First NBA point
It was a less than auspicious start to Bryant’s NBA career. There was plenty of buzz surrounding the then-18-year-old as he made the jump straight from high school to the pros.
After sitting the season opener, Bryant was held scoreless in six minutes against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
In the third game of the season, he got just 3:16 of playing time against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, but it was enough time for him to get his first point as a pro — a free-throw.
It was the first of 33,643 points, which ranks fourth in NBA history.
2/8/1998: First All-Star Game
In just his second NBA season, Bryant was selected to his first-ever All-Star Game, which just so happened to be hosted by Madison Square Garden.
At 19 years old, he became the youngest All-Star in NBA history at the time, leading the Western Conference with 18 points in the process.
While it came in a losing effort, he showed up on the big stage and held his own against the legendary Michael Jordan, who won All-Star Game MVP.
2/2/2009: 61 points
One of the signature moments of Kobe’s career as the 29-year-old Bryant dropped 61 on the Knicks at MSG. It was a Garden record for a visiting player for almost 10 full seasons before Houston Rockets superstar James Harden put up 62 last year.
Bryant shot 19-of-31 from the field, including 3-of-6 from downtown, and 20-of-20 from the free-throw line in a 126-117 victory.
He was pulled from the game with 1:48 remaining, exiting to a standing ovation from the Knicks fans.