By Kyle Packnick,
Sports Business Writer
After a remarkable 20 seasons, 18 All-Star game appearances, 5 NBA championships, and 33,643 points, Kobe Bryant officially retired on April 13, 2016. In typical “Black Mamba” fashion, Bryant went on with a bang, scoring 60 points and leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a come from behind 101-96 win over the Utah Jazz. His 60 point effort marked the highest point total of NBA player this season.
Among the numerous accolades received and records he attained, Bryant is the first player in NBA history to play 20 seasons with the same team. His loyalty and success with the Lakers has made him a beloved figure amongst the Los Angeles community. A proper send-off was only right. In his final NBA game, Bryant broke Led Zeppelin’s record for most money earned through merchandise sales in a one-day event at an arena. According to Los Angeles’ Times’ Bill Plaschke, “No matter where you were in the city, if you listened close, you could hear the fans chanting, ‘Ko-be, Ko-be, Ko-be’ until those chants dissolved into a solid roar that may never end.”
It has been a frustrating string of recent seasons for Bryant and the Lakers. Each of the last three years, the Lakers have set a new franchise record for losses, since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1960. This season, the team finished 17-65, second to last in the league, only ahead of the abysmal Philadelphia 76ers. Their last playoff appearance was in April 2013, one week after Bryant tore his Achilles, which would sideline him for the next eight months.
He was never quite able to return to full form after sustaining that injury.
The stage was set long before last Wednesday’s final regular season game. Bryant made a public announcement of his retirement via The Players’ Tribune website in a poem titled “Dear Basketball,” back on Nov. 29, 2015.
At the time, the Lakers were 2-13. With the team going nowhere, the entire focus of the team and fan base shifted to the “Kobe Bryant Finale.” During several road games, Bryant was honored by opposing teams and prominent NBA figures. However, no city or team could ever pale in comparison to a Hollywood ending.
Bryant held back tears during his farewell video, before addressing Laker nation one last time at Staples Center Arena. In the opening minutes, Bryant missed his first five attempts.
It appeared that any storybook ending performance was not in the cards. Then Bryant made his next five shots. From there, it was just another game for the legendary shooting guard.
The crowd would cheer whenever Kobe Bryant touched the basketball. Entering the final 10 ten minutes of play, the Lakers trailed by 14.
Kobe subbed in one last time and never looked back. Behind 23 fourth quarter points, which included scoring on five consecutive possessions in the final three minutes, Bryant’s career concluded with a victory. An exhausted Kobe Bryant stated, “I gave my soul to this game. There’s nothing else I can give.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 26th print edition.
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