Gordon Hayward clarifies moment from Kobe Bryant’s last game

"Kobe would have lost respect for me if I gave him something free."

Gordon Hayward says he would not let Kobe Bryant get any free points against him — even during the final seconds of the last game of Bryant’s career.

On Monday, the day after Bryant died in a helicopter crash, sports announcer Mike Tirico shared a story of how Hayward intentionally committed a lane violation so that Bryant could notch 60 points in the last game of his 20-season NBA career.

With 14.8 seconds remaining, Bryant made the first of his two free throws to reach 59. To ensure Bryant would get 60, Tirico said Hayward, then with the Utah Jazz, willfully stepped into the paint early on the second free throw. Had Bryant missed the shot — he didn’t — he would have received a do-over and another chance to get 60.

Advertisement

But Hayward denies he deliberately committed a lane violation.

“It has also come to my attention that there is a story going around tonight about an intentional lane violation that I took to ensure Kobe would get his 60th point in his final game and many are applauding me for the gesture,” Hayward wrote in a five-tweet thread Monday night. “The fact of the matter is that is not true.”

Hayward said committing a lane violation on purpose would not align with Bryant’s competitive spirit.

“My goal that night was to compete as hard as I possibly could against Kobe because that is what he was all about and I wanted to give him my very best,” he wrote. “He got 60 on me and I didn’t give him anything free all night. What happened on the free-throw line was not intentional. Kobe would have lost respect for me if I gave him something free. That’s what made him so very special!”

After Hayward issued the clarification, Tirico said he was “glad” Hayward could explain the sequence from the memorable April 2016 game.

“Please check out this thread from @gordonhayward,” Tirico tweeted later Monday. “So glad he clarified what I had always assumed was intentional that night. Our paths have never crossed since that night.”

Advertisement

Earlier Monday, Hayward also expressed what Bryant meant to him in an Instagram post.

“I’m so grateful for the time Kobe spent with me to grow as a basketball player and his words of encouragement for when I was injured,” he wrote. “My prayers go out to his family and the other families who are suffering from this tragedy.”

Jump To Comments