Back on April 13th, 2016, I was a young faced 21-year-old college student. I was preparing to watch Kobe Bryant‘s final game in the NBA. I was totally unprepared, like many, for what I was about to witness.
As a kid from Philly and a Kobe stan, I was moved to emotions that night. I was motivated to write about what I had seen and how I was feeling about my favorite player going out the way he did– like a King.
It was a night basketball fans could only dream of. A night that will live on in basketball history forever. A night where one of the most meaningful, yet meaningless games ever took place and stole the attention from a record-breaking game that is unlikely to be duplicated again for a long time. A day nationally recognized by individuals all over as Mamba Day.
April 13, 2016.
It was glorified on Snapchat and even had its own filter. Kobe Bean Bryant’s last game in the NBA. Some will remember that day as the day we saw one of the greatest basketball players to grace this earth finish his historic career in a way only he could– scoring 60 points and willing his team to a 101-96 victory, but in the process throwing up a staggering 50 shots; but that’s not the point.
Honestly, if Kobe would have shot the ball 100 times there is not one single person that filled the seats of the Staples Center or watched on TV that would have complained. In a career where oftentimes people brutally critiqued Kobe for not passing, here we were on this night begging Kobe not to pass, begging to see Kobe put up shot after shot, hoping that one of the greatest would go out on top and that’s exactly what he did. As the game got closer to the end and the Lakers hung around it seemed destined to happen. Kobe would return to vintage Kobe, #8 Kobe, Kobe with the afro, or Kobe that scored 81 or Kobe that faced a 3-2 deficit against the Celtics on his way to his 5th title. The Kobe that poured every ounce of his being into the game of basketball, Kobe that literally played the game until his body literally could go no longer. Kobe is one of those players in sports you simply either, love or hate, maybe even one you love to hate, as signified by his “Conductor” commercial that comically pays homage to the Black Mamba, by all those who have fell victim to his wrath.
But on this night I don’t think there was one person Kobe fan, or Kobe hater, or anyone who was indifferent who was not hoping that the three he took off-balance from the left-wing with his team trailing by 2 didn’t go in. Watching this game, I found myself going absolutely crazy in the closing seconds. Kobe scored 7 straight points to give his team the victory in his final game. The atmosphere of this game was not that of two teams who were disqualified from playoff contention. This was an atmosphere of game seven of a Western Conference finals. This was an atmosphere only one of the greats in basketball history could replicate. Watching what happened on this night was so surreal. It probably has not hit a lot of people that Kobe Bean Bryant, a player who has revolutionized basketball and made so many spectacular plays over the last 20 seasons had played his last game in the NBA, and in his last game he scores over 50 points– just 21 short of his career-high 81.
He scored 60 points in his final game of what is by far his worst season ever. A season so tumultuous and filled with the emotions of his “Farewell Tour” that it’s the only reason you can actually believe it happened. Because it wasn’t supposed to happen… That has essentially defined his whole career, doing things that shouldn’t be done. Nobody is supposed to score 81 points in a game. Nobody is supposed to be willing to give every ounce of their body to a sport. Nobody is supposed to tear their Achilles, roll it back down their leg, hit two free throws, THEN walk off the court under their own power. Nobody should be able to do what Kobe does. Nobody should be able to take the spotlight from a guy who just hit a mind-boggling 400 three-pointers in a season, nobody should be able to take the spotlight from a team that just won 73 games in 82 tries. Nobody should take 49 shots in a game, yet still have teammates, coaches, media, and everybody else beg to see you take number 50. But doing what people should not be able to do is what made Kobe Bean Bryant one of the greatest basketball players to ever play. It’s what will undoubtedly make him a Hall of Famer. It’s what people will always remember.
Rest In Paradise, Kobe Bean Bryant.