Kobe Bryant Day: Remembering Kobe’s Final Game

Apr 13, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) waves to the crowd as he walks on the court before a game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center. Bryant concludes his 20-year NBA career tonight. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 13, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) waves to the crowd as he walks on the court before a game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center. Bryant concludes his 20-year NBA career tonight. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /

On this inaugural “Kobe Bryant Day”, we remember the day his illustrious career finally came to an end

April 13th, 2016, dubbed “Mamba Day” by Nike represented a roller coaster of emotions for die-hard Lakers fans and Kobe Bryant worshipers. On one hand, it was a celebration of Bryant’s career and all of his highlights and accomplishments. On the other hand, it was a reminder that our favorite player was finally leaving for good after 20 years of memories.

I may have physically been at work for the entire day, but my mind and soul was at Staples Center as I couldn’t escape the Kobe fever that day, whether it be the endless amount of social media coverage or the Lakers gear worn by nearly everyone in Los Angeles. As the day wore on and I watched tribute after tribute, I could feel myself getting emotional. I was being forced to comprehend that my all-time favorite player and athletic idol would be playing his final game.

For NBA fans, they were given two all-time memorable games that unfortunately overlapped as the Golden State Warriors were going for their record-breaking 73rd win at exactly the same time as Bryant’s farewell game. Like many other dedicated basketball fans, I couldn’t miss either so I set up my laptop to stream the Warriors game while Bryant and the Lakers were on my TV. As much as I would have loved to get the full experience and be in Staples Center for this unforgettable game, my bank account made it clear that was not an option.

I had friends invite me to bars to watch the game, or even viewing parties at their apartments. I turned them all down because I wanted to truly enjoy Bryant’s last game without all the noise and distractions of people who weren’t truly invested. This was more than just a player’s career ending, it was saying goodbye to a childhood hero.

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Before the game even started, I was already tearing up along with most Lakers fans. The tribute videos and messages from former teammates and current NBA players highlighted the immense impact Bryant had on the game of basketball.

Even Kobe, the constant competitor on the court, was visibly emotional as he witnessed the outpouring of respect that was given to him by everyone. Yet, in true Mamba fashion, he put on his game face and prepared to go to war one last time.

As the game tipped, I quickly forgot about the Warriors pursuit of history and my full attention was on Bryant and how he would fare in his finale. Sitting on the edge of my couch, I waited for his first basket. His teammates quickly revealed their simple strategy to help Bryant go out with a bang: Give Kobe the ball, no matter what.

Even with his teammate’s nearly forcing him to shoot, Bryant struggled out of the gates, starting 0-for-5. Fans watching began to wonder whether the Mamba would have another poor shooting night like we had seen far too often over the past few years.

However, after getting through the pre-game nerves and 20 seasons of NBA play on his tired body, he broke through and ended up scoring 15 points in the first quarter. At that point, I thought we had probably seen the high point of the game as there was no way he could keep up the pace. How wrong I was?

Always the ultimate gunner with the permanent green light to shoot, Bryant outdid himself in his final game. He had 22 points at halftime on 20 shot attempts and did not slow down at all in the 2nd half.

In one last vintage Mamba performance, he scored 13 unanswered points in the final two minutes to bring the Lakers back to a win from a 10 point deficit with 2:36 remaining in the 4th quarter. While I may not have been at the game, I was going crazy on my home watching this unfold. After the rough few years Bryant had been through with injuries, it was great to see him deliver a show we had taken for granted for so long.

Bryant finished with a remarkable 60 points, the most ever in a player’s final NBA game. He definitely took way too many shots (50 in total), the defense played by the Utah Jazz was not top-notch and the rest of the Lakers attack seemed allergic to shooting the ball. But watching Kobe push, or even drag, himself to the finish line of his career was inspiring to watch. He was determined to finish out this season on a high note and give Lakers fans, and basketball fans everywhere, a performance to remember.

As the buzzer sounded on a rare Lakers win, it began to sink in. Kobe’s NBA career was over. I watched as he said his final words to the Staples Center crowd and walked down the tunnel. I couldn’t help but stand up in my apartment and give him a standing ovation along with the rest of the crowd and started to think of everything Bryant had done over his illustrious career.

He gave us countless game-winners and clutch shots. He showed us endless dedication and passion for the game that he loved and never took it for granted. He showed us that even on his worst nights, he was determined to push through and lead his team to succeed in any way possible. Even through all the injuries and tough times, he never stopped giving it everything he had. His heart was in it until the end, but his body finally said “It’s over”.

Thank you Kobe for giving us all that you possibly could and proving your willingness to leave it all on the floor once again in your final game. While there were certainly some low points in your career, you always found a way to persevere and continually work harder than we could all imagine possible.

Of course, despite the tough last few years, you were able to leave the game in the same way you entertained us for two decades: by capturing the audience’s attention, for better or worse, and not letting go until that final buzzer sounded on one last Lakers’ victory.

Next: Kobe Bryant Day: Remembering Game 7 of the 2010 Finals

It’s definitely been one hell of a ride Kobe, and once again on Kobe Bryant Day, thank you for taking us all along with you. As you summed it up perfectly, “Mamba out”!