Last Wednesday provided one of the most captivating nights in NBA history.
Who would have guessed at the beginning of the year that Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors breaking the regular season win record of Micael Jordan’s ’96 Bulls on the last night of the season wouldn’t be the biggest headline the following morning?
Maybe it was the fact the Warriors’ run was so overhyped that diminished some of the excitement.
Regardless, the night will forever belong to Kobe “Bean” Bryant.
While the Warriors were finishing their business against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Los Angeles Lakers were playing a game against the Utah Jazz, in which the basketball world said “goodbye” to Bryant.
Bryant is the third all-time scorer and no doubt one of the greatest players ever to don the regal purple and gold.
According to LA Weekly, floor seats for this nearly-meaningless regular season contest ran north of $20,000.
Rarely do nights such as these live up to the hype, but in true Mamba-style, this game leapt over the hype with electric ease.
Before the game started we saw highlights, buzzer-beaters and a dream team of NBA peers giving their appreciation for Bryant in the moments before he took the floor.
He even got a word from actor and courtside Laker faithful Jack Nicholson.
Of the many things mentioned about Bryant’s historic career, there remained one constant: his work ethic.
Bryant’s career has more than its fair share of asterisks and blemishes, but nobody can deny his work ethic and determination is inspirational.
Once the game tipped off, the ball coincidentally continued to gravitate into the hands of No. 24.
Bryant resembled an old western, as the gunslinger fired off shot after shot, finishing 22-50, for a game high of 60 points.
Toward the end of the fourth quarter he hit a crucial jumper to put the Lakers up by one with 30 seconds left, and shortly after would hit a pair of free throws to seal the deal for a Laker’s victory.
Congratulations to the Warriors for winning 73 games and eclipsing the Chicago Bulls, but it only seems fitting Bryant stole the show one last time.
Now all that’s left to decide is if they retire No. 8, No. 24 or both.
He had 10 seasons, multiple championships and over 16,000 points in both numbers.
They are representative of two different eras in his career and nearly symmetrical statistically, but would it be too much to retire both numbers for a player who just had a season-long farewell tour and already has so many accolades?
For every other player I would say no, but everything with Bryant feels different.
Bryant’s confidence was commanding from the moment he made the herculean leap from high school to the pros.
Over the years, he reminded us God-given talent is a tender plant that needs perpetual watering from the blood, sweat and tears of hard work.