Future Hall of Famer and Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant couldn’t have envisioned a better way to end his 20-year NBA career. In his final game against the Utah Jazz, the Black Mamba finished with 60 points, four rebounds, and four assists—incredible stats. Kobe went out with a roar, but other NBA superstars have not been so lucky. Here are five NBA legends who went out with a whimper.
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1. Shaquille O’Neal
This ex-Kobe teammate was one of the most dominant big men in NBA history. Shaq Diesel was a 15-time All-Star who won four NBA championships. But as Shaq got older, he team-hopped, ending his career with the Boston Celtics, for whom he played in 37 games, averaging 20.3 minutes, 9.2 points and 4.8 rebounds—a big comedown from his prime, when he averaged a double-double.
O’Neal’s final game as a Celtic was especially bad. He played only 3:31 minutes and had zero points, zero rebounds and two fouls. Not the type of game you want to be remembered for.
2. Magic Johnson
Another Laker great, Earvin “Magic” Johnson was one of the best ever. He won five NBA championships and was an 11-time All-Star. After taking four seasons off due to his HIV diagnosis, Magic came back to play one final season, in which he averaged 14.6 points, 6.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds. Not bad, especially considering his situation; but in his final game, he went 2-for-8 from the field, scored 8 points, and had four turnovers in 30 minutes.
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3. Oscar Robertson
At one point in his career, the Big O averaged [!] a triple-double. The 12-time All-Star was the epitome of a stat sheet stuffer. During his 14 years in the league, Oscar Robertson won one NBA championship and one MVP Award (in 1963-64). But even the man who averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, 11.4 assists did not have a good last game. Robertson scored six points on 2-for-13 shooting and grabbed three rebounds. That’s a .154 shooting percentage. Not good.
4. Karl Malone
Karl Malone is arguably the best power forward in NBA history. The Mailman is currently second in career scoring with 36,928 points. He was twice named MVP, and he was a 14-time All-Star. In his last season, he almost averaged a double-double (13.2 points and 8.7 rebounds). But he performed poorly in his final game, scoring 2 points with 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 turnovers in 21 minutes.
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5. Kareem Abdul Jabbar
Kareem Abdul Jabbar may have the longest list of accomplishments of any basketball player. He is No. 1 in career points with 38,387, won six NBA championships, six league MVPs and 19 [!] All-Star selections. The man known for his signature skyhook could do it all. The only thing that was not glorious was his final game, in which he scored 7 points on 2-of-8 shooting, had two turnovers and three rebounds in 29 minutes.
Kobe, you stand alone for excellence in your final game. Could you be pondering a comeback?