20 seasons. Five NBA championships. Third All-time in points. 18 All-star games, two NBA Finals MVP, 11-time All-NBA First team, and 9-time All-Defensive team. That's just a small section of Kobe s marvelous list of accomplishments.
In his last game ever, the Black Mamba added another mark to that historic resume. Kobe "Bean" Bryant finished with 60 points to lead the Los Angeles Lakers past the Utah Jazz, 101-96, at Staples Center on Wednesday night.
This will be one to remember for the ages. The storybook ending to the career of one of the best players to ever play the sport, or any sport for that matter.
This was awesome from start to finish. Even from early on Wednesday morning, Lakers fans were gathered outside Staples Center, reporters posted in front of LA Live, anchors standing in front of cameras talking and celebrating the past two decades of the legendary seasons of Bean.
There were tons of banners hanging outside Staples Center, and before the game the Lakers presented Bryant and his wife with beautiful Retirement Rings. After the introductions, Magic Johnson gave a tribute speech about the times of Bryant. The Lakers played tribute after tribute before and during the game, every chance they had.
The montage video of current NBA players and past NBA players was touching, to say the least, and even Jack Nicholson added a few words for Bryant at the end of the montage. It was truly a special event, an occasion beyond any other.
To make this night even more special, the Lakers won the game. On top of that, Kobe Bryant scored 60 points. 60. On 50 shots.
Kobe was Kobe for one final time. One last time running out the tunnel, one last time sitting on the sidelines in a uniform. One last fadeaway, and one last and-one.
Byron Scott said he had planned on Bryant going 36 minutes. Bryant went 42 minutes in his final game, shooting 22-50 from the field and 10-12 from the free throw line to finish with 60 points. Bryant struggled from beyond the arc, going just 6-21 from three-point land, but nobody cares about that.
Bryant addressed the fans after the game, grabbing the mic and giving a speech on the court where he played the majority of his 20 seasons.
"I think the most important part is that we all stayed together throughout," Bryant said. "You'll always be in my heart, and I sincerely, sincerely appreciate it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you guys."
Kobe was content from start to finish, not shedding a single tear on a very emotional night. The Mamba was able to laugh and smile, which we haven't seen a whole lot of from him during his career.
"The thing that had me cracking up all night long is, I go through 20 years of everybody screaming to pass the ball," Bryant said. "And then the last night, they're like, 'Don't pass it!"
The 50 shot attempts were a new career high for Bryant, whose previous high was 47 shots in Boston in 2002. Kobe scored 15 of the Lakers last 17 points down the stretch, because who else would do that in their final game.
Jazz miss out on playoffs
The Jazz came in needing a Rockets loss to even have a chance to make the Playoffs. The Rockets won less than a half hour before the tip in Los Angeles, and the Jazz were knocked out of contention before they even made the first shot.
For this young Jazz team, this won't, by at means, be a disappointing season. Just a win or two more in the past week or so and the Jazz would be in the playoffs. For the NBA's youngest team, the future is bright for Utah.
The Jazz played well all game, but Bryant took over and dominated down the stretch in the final moments of his career.
Utah had five players in double figures, but Bryant was the star of the show. Gordon Hayward had 17 points, but Trey Lyles led all Jazz scorers with 18 points.
Jeff Withey got the start at center and finished with 10 points, while Shelvin Mack adeed 12 points.
The Jazz have no reason to hang their heads, and if it weren't for the Sacramento Kings resting a big chunk of their team against Houston, things might have been different for Quin Snyder's team.
The Jazz will be back, and stronger, next season. There is no question about that.
Torch passed to the youth
Bryant will hang them up for good, or so he says. The age and era of number 24, and number 8, is gone.
Now enters the time of the youth for the Lakers.
Los Angeles is another team will a bright future, as D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Larry Nance Jr. are the pieces the management will look to build upon.
Two of the above are rookies, one is a second-year, and the other is a second-year who only played half of a game in his rookie year. They are all under 24, and are all viewed as the future of this storied franchise.
However, the only other Laker to finish in double figures was Jordan Clarkson, who finished with 12 points. Not to worry, because this night, and at times, this season was all about Kobe.
If you think the winning days of the Lakers ends here, think again.
With a strong core of young guys, and rookie Anthony Brown along with a potential top-3 pick (if the lottery is in their favor), not to mention a ton of cap space for the Lakers to play with, this team should be back to its winning culture in no time.
Farewell to one of the greatest
This was all about Kobe. It was outstanding from start to finish. From season 1 to season 20, from the first title to the last, truly amazing and a storybook career for a true competitor, a true professional, and a man who sounded very much at peace with his decision to retire.
With the grand farewell tour, with sold out venues across the entire continent, and with the outpouring of support ad love for the man himself, the time has finally come for Bryant to clean out his locker, and start a new career.
Kobe has started to work on his own brand, Kobe Inc., as well as develop and support a company he invested millions in, which is Body Armor. His basketball career, as we know it, has come to an end and couldn't have been scripted much better than that.
Kobe will surely be in the Hall of Fame, will certainly have one if not both of his Jersey numbers hanging in the rafters of Staples Center, and will always and forever be remembered as one of the greatest to ever play the sport.
There will more than likely be a statue outside Staples before 2017, and his 81-point game will go down in history as an all-time great performance in any sport. His 60 points on Wednesday night is the most ever by an NBA player in their final game, and is a record that might not ever be challenged.
Bryant is a grinder, a leader, a champion, and a guy who has played through countless injuries in his career. From 1996 until 2016, Kobe has been a huge part of this franchise, a key component in the five titles the Lakers have had since he's been there, and a huge figure in the city of Los Angeles and all throughout the entire world.
The stage of this game will never be topped, and the performance of this game by number 24 himself will be cherished and remembered by sports fans all over the globe for years to come.
Kobe Bryant came into the NBA with Byron Scott on the bench, and will leave his career with Byron Scott on the bench, just in a different role. For 20 years Kobe has grown with us, through us, and because of us. For 20 years the city of Los Angeles, the Lakers fan base, and the entire sports community has grown with Bryant.
Kobe Bryant, we truly thank you for the great times over the last two decades. Lakers fan or not, NBA fan or not, Kobe fan or not, it is impossible not to cherish what he has done for the city of LA, for the Lakers, and for the sport.
His name will be talked about with the all-time greats, and his name will forever hang in the rafters of Staples Center. The Mamba Mentality will be remembered for generations to come, and the NBA as we know it will never be the same.
Thank you Kobe Bryant.