Gordon Hayward has denied a circulating anecdote that the then-Utah Jazz forward attempted to purposely commit a lane violation in Kobe Bryant's career finale in 2016 in order to help the late Los Angeles Lakers icon score his 60th point.
"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!" Hayward said in a series of tweets Monday reacting to Bryant's sudden death.
The story first began to go viral Monday after it was recounted by NBC Sports broadcaster Mike Tirico on The Ringer's Ryen Russillo Podcast. With Bryant at the line and sitting at 59 points, Tirico believed Hayward intentionally stepped into the lane in order to give Bryant another opportunity to get to 60 if he missed his second free throw.
However, Bryant made the shot. Shortly after, he was removed from the game with seconds left in order to receive a lengthy, standing ovation. The Lakers won 101-96.
After Hayward refuted the story, Tirico thanked him for the clarification and explained he hadn't spoken with the now-Boston Celtics star since that game.
Bryant played the last game of his NBA career on April 13, 2016. ESPN reaired the contest Monday as a tribute to Bryant following his death in a helicopter crash the day prior. The accident also claimed the lives of eight other people, including Bryant's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.