Kobe Bryant‘s long goodbye continues this week with his final Christmas Day game, a matchup between Staples Center co-inhabitants the Lakers and the Clippers as the finale of a quintuple-header. Over the course of his 20-year career, Kobe has essentially owned Christmas. He’s played more Christmas Day games than any other player (15) and has played on December 25 more than any other calendar date.
The last time he played in the holiday showcase was a 2012 win against the New York Knicks, when he passed Oscar Robertson as the all-time leader in scoring on Christmas Day. He averages 25.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists on Christmas.
The Christmas Day slate has historically featured rivalries and grudge matches over the years, and Kobe has been a big part of those narratives. The most memorable was probably the 2004 game between the Lakers and Heat, which was Kobe’s first meeting against Shaquille O’Neal after their ugly, high-profile split the previous summer. And it didn’t disappoint. Kobe drew several hard fouls from Shaq. In fact, Kobe fouled Shaq out of the game late in the fourth quarter en route to 42 points, but the Heat would end up gutting out a thrilling overtime victory.
We probably shouldn’t expect anything that exciting to happen Friday given the current state of the Lakers, so just try to savor every final Kobe Bryant moment while you still can.