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With five championships, two Finals MVPs, 18 All-Star appearances, and a host of other accomplishments, the late Kobe Bryant was one of the greatest players the NBA has ever seen. Throughout his 20-year career, which he spent entirely with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant was known as a player who could score almost at will and was not afraid to take the last shot with the game on the line. Bryant was also known for his steely determination and willingness to do whatever it took to help his team, whether it was taking over a game or playing through pain and injuries.
Throughout his legendary career, he had many nicknames, from the Black Mamba to KB24 (after one of his jersey numbers) to vino. That last one is a fitting moniker, for Kobe indeed aged like fine wine during his time with the Lakers. In honor of Bryant’s vino nickname, here are five types of wine from Boozy’s selection that you can enjoy while watching some of his greatest performances:
1. Heartland Shiraz - 81-point game vs. Raptors (2006)
The Shiraz is one of the original grape varieties brought into Australia and is considered the country’s iconic grape. The Heartland Shiraz, therefore, is an expression of the Australian variety that is true to their winemaking style that has a balanced structure and appealing texture. It has aromas of anise, cracked pepper, and classic blackberry and a taste of mint and Limestone Coast fruit, which captures the iconic Australian style of wine.
Image from @heartlandwines
Similarly, Bryant’s most iconic performance is his 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors, the second-highest scoring total in a game in NBA history. With the Lakers struggling early against the Raptors, Kobe put the team on his back, scoring 55 points in the second half and shooting 28-of-46 from the field, including seven three-pointers and 18 free throws. The Lakers needed every one of his points as they pulled off a 122-104 comeback victory as Bryant etched his name in the history books. These days, basketball fans think of the number 81 as synonymous with this iconic Kobe game.
2. Matsu El Picaro - Takeover in Game 4 of 2000 NBA Finals
The Matsu El Picaro has an intense aroma that comes from dark fruits such as blackberries, blueberries, and mineral notes that give this fresh wine complexity. Its taste, meanwhile, gives off fruitful and lickerish sensations because of the maturity of the grapes from which it was made. The wine’s great robe and profound color, however, are an expression of its young age compared to the other wines on this list.
Similarly, there was a time when Kobe was a young player who had to prove himself. One of those moments happened in Game 4 of the 2000 NBA Finals against the Indiana Pacers. With All-star teammate Shaquille O’Neal fouling out, the Lakers relied on the 21-year-old Bryant, who played 47 minutes and scored 28 points while playing through a sprained ankle to help Los Angeles emerge with a 120-118 overtime win. With Kobe’s help, the Lakers took a 3-1 lead in the series and would wrap up the series in six games, winning his first title.
3. Bread and Butter Pinot Noir - 61 points at Madison Square Garden (2009)
One of the best-known grape varieties to make red wines is the pinot noir, which is found all over the world but is associated with Burgundy, France. The Bread and Butter Pinot Noir boasts aromas of juicy red fruit like cherries and raspberries with hints of cedar and bay leaf. On the palate, it has the same luscious fruit bouquet with oak and savory notes and a long, beautifully smooth finish.
A great way to enjoy this wine made from a famous grape is to watch Bryant’s greatest performance at the world’s most famous arena: Madison Square Garden, which has been the setting of some of the greatest sporting events. One of those events was a masterful 61-point performance by the Black Mamba against the New York Knicks, which at that time was the highest points scored at the Garden. That record may no longer stand, but Bryant’s stats (19-31 from the field and 20-20 from the free-throw line) and performance at the iconic arena will surely stand the test of time.
4. Septima Malbec - Game 7 of 2010 NBA Finals vs. Celtics
One of Bryant’s greatest achievements was helping the Lakers beat their rival Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals to win his fifth title. But his performance in this game didn’t involve scoring binges or a game-winner. In fact, he struggled mightily, making just six of 24 shots. But he made up for it by pulling down 15 rebounds and dishing off two assists for an all-around, balanced effort that helped earn him his second Finals MVP trophy.
If there’s a wine that is known for its balance and consistency, it is the Séptima Malbec, an Argentine wine made in Bodegas Séptima. Aside from its bright ruby red color, the wine’s aroma is well-defined and persistent, with notes of plums and figs and vanilla notes, while its taste is sweet and dense with a long finish. Aside from its aroma and taste, the Séptima Malbec perfectly balances historical heritage as well as innovation in its winemaking process.
5. Jacob’s Creek Merlot - 60 points in final NBA game (2016)
A bit of the old, a bit of the new. The Jacob’s Creek Classic Merlot is described as a modern take on the classic Australian merlot and has a medium body and a soft, approachable style. With a generous fruit and savory backbone combined with soft tannins, this is a wine that goes well with different kinds of food such as pizza, pasta, as well as barbecued and smoked meats. With aromas of blackberry jam with a spicy dried herb lift and tastes of black fruits, structural tannins, and a long juicy finish, this wine gives a modern twist to the classic Merlot wine.
Bryant’s final NBA game also offered a bit of the past and present. The old Kobe made one final appearance, finishing with 60 points in a 101-96 win over the Utah Jazz. Bryant eventually made 22 of 50 shots in his first 50-point game since 2009. With the Lakers trailing, he scored 23 points in the fourth quarter to get the win. The game also showed a glimpse of the future, with Bryant celebrating the victory and the end of his illustrious career with promising young Lakers Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, and Jordan Clarkson. While none of them remained in Los Angeles, they have each become stars in their own right, with Randle and Russell being named All-Stars and Clarkson winning the Sixth Man of the Year.
Bryant’s Hall of Fame career is filled with gutsy performances that cemented his status as one of the game’s greatest players. And whether you’re a fan of the Black Mamba or someone who simply appreciates good basketball, watching his best games while sipping on a glass of wine goes well together like Kobe and that iconic Purple and Gold jersey. So the next time you rewatch these games, you may want to check out any of these drinks from Boozy’s extensive wine selection as you relive some of Kobe’s greatest performances.