WRITTEN BY KARAN TELI
Last night Kobe Bryant stepped on the hardwood of the Staples Centre one last time. Rumour has it that courtside seats to Kobe’s final was were as much as $31,000, but to anybody that loves the NBA and grew up watching Kobe, they know the experience is priceless.
We all would have loved to see Kobe Bryant retire while holding the Larry O’Brian championship trophy one last time and equalling Michael Jordan’s championship tally, leaving on the highest of all highs (Peyton Manning-esque). But basketball realists know that with the state of the LA Lakers currently, and Kobe’s unquestionable loyalty to the purple and gold; that this was not going to be the case. So Kobe gave us a finale that only he could. On the same night the Golden State Warriors became, by record, the greatest team to ever play in the NBA, Kobe Bryant somehow, someway, stole the show.
60 Points. His 7th game ever with 60 or more points, and other than his 81 point miracle, this might have been his most special game yet. The last 3 years of his illustrious and all-time great career have been mauled by injuries and sub-par Laker rosters. But on April 13, 2016, he knew that everybody was watching him one last time. Jay-Z, Jack Nicholson, Kanye West and Snoop Dogg; just a few of the A-List stars that came out to see Kobe play one more time, and he did what he does best; shoot.
He came out shooting. Equalling his all-time record for shots in a game (50), Kobe left everything on the Staples Centre floor for one last time. Throughout his whole career he has heard criticism from some about his lack of passing and his selfishness, but last night, the whole NBA family wanted nothing more than to see him shoot. While his shooting percentage was not great (22-50), in the last 2 minutes, Kobe left us doing what he’s been doing best for the better part of 20 years; making it when it counts.
Down 8 with 1:56 to go, Kobe had already entered his vintage ‘Black Mamba’ mode and made his next 5 shots in a row, and then 2 straight FT’s to turn an 8 point deficit into a 3 point lead. He drove to the rim, he hit turnaround jumpers and pull up 3’s, just to show the world that even though the last 3 seasons have been a trainwreck, he is still Kobe Bryant.
He showed us that he is still one of the 10 greatest to ever step on an NBA court. He is still arguably, the greatest Laker of them all. But most importantly, he showed us that he can still single-handedly put on a show; and he did it his way.
While it wasn’t the fairy-tale championship ending, Kobe’s last points in the NBA came at the Free Throw line, just how his first points came. With 4.1 seconds left and a 5 point lead, he checked out of the game for the final time, to an ovation so loud and filled with so much love and emotion, it’s amazing the man himself wasn’t brought to tears, the way many of his fans were.
I can imagine the reaction around the league, from other players to NBA analysists is similar to that when Jordan retired, but one thing I know is that, no matter what, there will never, ever, ever be another Kobe Bean Bryant. #MambaOut.