Kobe Bryant had nothing to prove on Wednesday night. He could have easily taken a backseat, knowing very well that the adulation and respect of his peers and fans alike were intact. But Bryant wanted to put on a show, not so much for himself but to entertain them, one last time.
For 20 years, Bryant was the No. 1 Box Office attraction in all of basketball. Not just in L.A. In recent years, the likes of LeBron James and Stephen Curry have swooped in. But during his last night on the court, Bryant showed why he’s still The Boss and the most must-see athlete in history. When they say Michael Jordan passed the torch to Bryant, it wasn’t meant to be metaphoric. It was fact.
Kobe Bryant shoots away to glory…
Prior to the game, Lakers coach Byron Scott gave Bryant the proverbial license to shoot away to glory. Not that Bryant hasn’t had that license for the better part of his career. But tonight was different. Bryant summed it up best in his emotional post-game speech: “The thing that had me cracking up all night long is, I go through 20 years of everybody screaming to pass the ball,” the Laker legend said with a grin.
“And then the last night, they’re like, `Don’t pass it!” (Watch his farewell speech above)
Indeed. Bryant jacked up 50 shots in his last hurrah. He may as well have jacked up another 20 and nobody would have complained. The Black Mamba scored 23 points in the fourth quarter, posting his first 50-point game since February 2009. And fittingly, he helped the young Lakers squad erase a 15-point deficit to finish with a win in an otherwise mediocre season, the worst in franchise history.
Hollywood ending for Hollywood legend…
Bryant admitted that his final night at Staples Center was about putting on a show for his legion of fans. “The perfect ending would have been a championship. But tonight was (me) trying to go out, play hard and try to put on a show as much as I possibly could. It felt good to be able to do that one last time. It’s hard to believe it happened this way. I’m still shocked about it.”
Fittingly, Bryant’s attempted 50 shots set a new career-high, eclipsing the 47 shots he took against the Boston Celtics on November 7, 2002. Talk about a volume shooter doing justice to his reputation.
Except for the tumultuous 2006-07 season when Kobe Bryant demanded a trade, he always bled Purple & Gold. “I grew up a diehard Laker fan. I think the most important part is that we all stayed together throughout. You’ll (the fans) always be in my heart, and I sincerely, sincerely appreciate it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you guys,” Bryant addressed the fans.
“Mamba Out” and drop the mic. Thanks for the entertainment, Kobe Bean Bryant.