Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant turned in a farewell performance for the ages in the final game of his 20-year NBA career, scoring 60 points for the sixth time in his career as Los Angeles came from behind to beat the Utah Jazz 101-96.
It was an emotional night from start to finish. There was fanfare celebrating his career before the opening tip and a number of people from Bryant’s various travels were in attendance from Rick Fox to Gary Payton to Runny Turiaf to Derek Fisher to even Shaquille O’Neal, with whom Bryant famously feuded earlier in his playing days.
And Bryant’s fourth quarter was reminiscent of his early career, with the man known as “The Black Mamba” taking every shot under the sun and demanding the ball as he often did during his prime. He shot 22 of 50 from the field, but that didn’t even matter.
“I can’t believe 20 years went by so fast,” Bryant said as he addressed the crowd after the game. “We’ve been through our ups and downs, but what’s most important is that we stayed together…All I can do here is just thank you guys. Thank you for all your years of support. Thank you for the motivation, and thank you for the inspiration.”
Bryant then spoke for a couple more minutes before ending with a “Mamba out!” and blowing the crowd a kiss.
It’s certainly the end of an era, and Bryant will certainly be missed. He led the Lakers to five championships and played in 18 All-Star Games, winning one MVP trophy and two scoring titles. He was one of the most polarizing figures in the game, but he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Simply put, Bryant is the closest thing many fans ever had to experiencing Michael Jordan and if there is ever another player like him, in terms of skill and pure competitiveness alone, it probably won’t be for a very long time.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports