Co-written with Sam Valentin.
Published April 21, 2016.
April 13 was not just another night inside the sold out Staples Center. It was a special night, a night filled with energy and emotions. The game ended with confetti falling from the rafters while number 24 exited the building one final time after putting on one last spectacle, an encore, dropping 61 points.
Kobe Bryant obviously knows how to go out with a bang.
The NBA great walked into the court his last game and played as if he was in the prime of his career. It was the sixth time he had scored 60 points, or more, in his career.
The night was filled with wonder, tears and many heartfelt goodbye videos April 13. Fans and celebrities, past and present, all came together to watch the Los Angeles Lakers go up against the Utah Jazz. At the end, he said his goodbyes, followed by the chill-inducing phrase, “Mamba out.”
Still wet behind the ears, he was drafted into the NBA at 17-years-old. He was slated to be part of the Charlotte Hornets, but Jerry West, then-Laker manager, traded one of their players to get the rights for Bryant’s contract.
Bryant continued with the Lakers for the entirety of his 20-year career. While doing so, he was part of the All-Star team for 18 years, and led his team to victory five times in the NBA Championship while being named finals MVP twice.
December 23, 2007, Kobe became the youngest basketball player to hit 20,000 points. He also has two Olympic gold medals, and was crowned one of the NBA MVPs.
His impressive track record has led him to be compared with another one of NBA’s greats, Michael Jordan.
In sports we love to make comparisons, some that are far-fetched or unfair. So to compare Bryant with any other player than number 23 is truly unjust. Bryant was the Jordan of our generation.
The Black Mamba always relished the nights he got to lace up against another superstar. His favorite matchup was Michael Jordan. The man he looked up too, a man he saw as a mentor. For Kobe was merely a student of Jordan’s game such as Plato is to Socrates. Many say that Jordan is the original while Bryant is the remix. Either way they both changed the game forever.
The NBA will never see such a player quite like Kobe. He defined the greatness of his generation. You either loved him or hated him because he was simply the best. Our generation grew up watching Bryant hug championship trophies. Future generations missed out on one of the true greats of the game for we may never be blessed enough to see another player do the unthinkable that Bryant did night in and night out.
Was there any doubt he would go out in any other way than with greatness, gracing us all with memories for a lifetime? He went out in the only way Bryant knew how to; like a legend that he is channeling that inner number 8 one last time while showing everyone the tenacity and talent that headlined two decades.