A year has passed and it’s still hard to grasp that Kobe Bryant, at 37 years old dropped, 60 points in the final game of his illustrious NBA career.
April 14, 2016, was supposed to be a sad day.
After spending 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bean Bryant was going to finally hang them up. Like many fans my age, I had never known the Lakers without Kobe.
On Nov. 3, 1996, just over a month after I was born, Bryant played his first regular season game with the Purple and Gold against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He finished with 0 points, 1 rebound, 1 block in his six minutes of playing time. 20 years later and he was going to hang them up.
April 14, 2016, was supposed to be a sad day, but it was one of the memorable days of my life.
My family and I went to go watch the game at a pizza place called Michaelangelo’s. Even after four consecutive years without playoff basketball, the room was filled corner to corner. Only standing room. We were extremely lucky someone with a reservation for 12 didn’t show up.
Before the game started, someone in a black Kobe jersey yelled, “Bean’s going for 60 tonight!” and everyone laughed. If it were 10 years earlier, maybe it wouldn’t have been so funny, but we were talking about a 37-year-old Kobe Bryant.
37-year-olds aren’t supposed to drop 60 points, especially 37-year-olds coming off of three consecutive season-ending injuries. Especially 37-year-olds with more than 48 thousand minutes of NBA basketball under their belt. Especially 37-year-olds on the worst team in the Western Conference.
37-year-olds aren’t supposed to drop 60 points, and yet, Kobe did.
The cheers were numbing. The atmosphere was reminiscent of Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, even though this Lakers team had only won, at the time, 16 games. None of that mattered because, for that night, Kobe Bryant was back.
The fadeaway jumpers in the post, the midrange pull-up jumpers, the impossible 3-pointers with a defender in his face–everything was on full display. The Mamba didn’t just come to play, he came to win.
Jack was on the sidelines moving like he hadn’t in years. Snoop was in the stands having the time of his life. Jay was chillin’, ‘Ye was chillin’, what more can I say?
Not even the players could contain their excitement. With the exception of a handful of players on the team, they were seeing the Mamba in action for the first time. There’s nothing like it and there will never be anything like it again. Kobe Bryant was a different breed. He was wired differently than everyone else.
It’s for that reason his jersey will be hanging from the rafters one day. It’s for that reason he will have a statue outside of Staples Center one day.
It’s for that reason we celebrate Mamba Day.
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