NBA

Jordan Clarkson says Lakers used ‘illegal’ screens to get Kobe Bryant open in his final game

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Kobe Bryant’s 60-point finale was so incredible in large part because of how rare such performances had become in his later years. The Hall-of-Fame guard averaged only 17.6 points per game in his final season on a dismal 35.8 percent shooting, and he hadn’t even reached 40 points at any other point in that season. Yet in his finale, he was able to get to 60. What changed? 

Well, he had some help. Astute viewers of the game notice Julius Randle setting a number of illegal screens to help get Bryant open for clean looks, and finally, a teammate of Bryant’s has copped to that. Jordan Clarkson spoke to The Athletic’s Bill Oram about that game and was incredibly forthright with how the Lakers helped Bryant perform his masterpiece. 

“Oh, it was illegal as s—,” Clarkson said, laughing. “I think the whole world is Kobe fans. Either you love or you hate him, but at the end of the day, you’re still a fan of what he does. I think the refs even let some things slide during that game.”

If we’re being honest, the officials had no reason not to let things slide. The game had no stakes. It was the final game of the regular season and the Utah Jazz had been eliminated from playoff contention earlier that night. The Lakers, deep in a years-long slump, never really had a shot at reaching the postseason. The game mattered for Bryant and Bryant alone, and fans didn’t want to see the moment ruined because Randle’s feet weren’t set on screens. 

Ultimately, Bryant’s career got the Hollywood ending it deserved. NBA history was made, and following the letter of the rulebook would have only ruined that. Whether intentional or not, the officials made the right call by swallowing their whistles. 



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