Back in 2003, during Michael Jordan’s final NBA season, his Wizards went into Staples Center to face Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and the three-time defending champion L.A. Lakers. It was the last time Jordan faced off with Bryant, whom he has long been compared to, and also O’Neal. All three are widely considered to be among the 10 best players in NBA history.
It was also the final time Jordan played in a game featuring Phil Jackson. The game actually pitted Jackson against Doug Collins, another one of Jordan’s coaches in Chicago.
That night all sorts of storylines. Here is a look back through a modern day lens using GIFs and screenshots to illustrate the best moments…
Kobe vs. Jordan
Bryant and Jordan’s final meeting was clearly a major event at the time. Everyone knew Jordan was riding off into the sunset and everyone knew Bryant was well on his way to becoming a legend, already with three championships on his resume.
Kobe and Michael Jordan face off for the last time (2003)
Kobe had 42 points, including 8 three-pointers, in the FIRST half for the Lakers 🐐
— Kobe Highlights & Motivation (@kobehighlight) September 17, 2021
And early on, both players delivered to make for a really fun first quarter. Jordan had 13 and Bryant had 19 as they traded off buckets back-and-forth and back-and-forth. It seemed like everyone on the court knew the deal; just get out of the way and let two legends go at it.
Jordan hit his first four shots and Bryant wasn’t far behind.
Jordan was too far past his prime to keep up with Bryant, but he was still very good. He poured in 23 points on 10-of-20 shooting and he still made a surprisingly big impact on defense. He didn’t have the quickness of his youth, but he was a constant disruptor.