Tonight, Kobe Bryant, will take the court for the final time of his illustrious 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. The Utah Jazz have the honor of being invited for what is sure to be a Hollywood production, inside the Staples Center for Mamba Day.
The Lakers stink. And the remains of Kobe Bryant stinks. That’s because the all-time great Black Mamba Kobe Bryant left us 3 years ago, never to return.
The Lakers were home against the Golden State Warriors, who hadn’t yet become what they are now. The Lakers needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Kobe played that entire game leading up to those final fateful minutes, when his left Achilles tendon popped as he drove past Harrison Barnes. He scored 32 points, including back to back 3’s right before the injury. And in true Kobe fashion, he stayed in the game to shoot and make 2 free throws despite having a ripped Achilles, before exiting the court.
*It should be noted that Steph Curry scored 47 in this game, and Draymond Green did not play a single minute as former Warriors coach Mark Jackson buried him on the bench*
That was the last time we ever saw THAT Kobe Bryant.
For that 2012-13 season, Kobe Bryant averaged 27 points, nearly 6 assists, and 6 rebounds per game at age 34. Over his last 4 games before the injury, he averaged 37 points, 5 assists, 6 rebounds, and nearly 3 steals. The Lakers were 4-0 in those games.
That’s the Kobe that I will always remember. The remains of Kobe that has hobbled through the last 3 seasons has been painful to watch.
I will also always remember one of the distinct lowlights of Kobe Bryant’s career:
The career accolades speak for themselves. What made Kobe Bryant unique to me, was his incredible will to be great and to be himself no matter the circumstance. He refused to conform or settle. Kobe has talked about how he chose greatness over being social with friends. He’d rather destroy you than fly to your city for a joint midseason workout. He was loved and hated for the exact same reasons. The hate didn’t sink him. The love didn’t comfort him. Kobe was about winning over everything
If you have paid any attention to the NBA over the last few years, you’ll notice that’s missing, from the game. The NBA is filled with high fives, hugs, and chuckles amongst opposing players now. There are no killers (save Russell Westbrook).
But, this is #MambaDay. Kobe Bryant will be the center of the basketball world for one last time. I feel no sadness. As I said before, as a Kobe fan, it’s been brutal watching him crawl to the finish line. I’ve already mourned the Kobe Bryant that I grew up watching and admiring. And because he will suffer no more, I am at peace.
Whether you loved him or loved to hate him, appreciate his greatness. Kobe Bryant was a different animal. The last of a dying breed.