The NBA regular season has wrapped up and, if you have not heard, Golden State broke the all-time record of seventy-two wins with a victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on April 13. Yet that somehow was not even the biggest basketball story in the Warriors’ home state. Five hours south of the Oracle Arena, Kobe Bryant was putting on a show, his final one, for the Staples Center crowd of 18,997. The audience featured famous rappers Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, and Jay Z as well as Lakers court-side mainstay Jack Nicholson. 5.4 million others nationwide tuned in to watch Mamba’s final game.
After longtime teammate Shaquille O’Neal challenged Bryant to score fifty, Bryant took the extra step in scoring sixty, something he had not done since he set the Madison Square Garden scoring record with sixty-one points on Feb. 2, 2009. Bryant’s fifty shot, sixty point showcase exemplifies what everyone already knew about him: he likes to shoot. Bryant’s fifty shot attempts were more than any player had hoisted since the 1983-1984 season, a.k.a. the first season the field goal attempt was made an official statistic. Bryant actually shot better when contested, hitting eighteen of forty with a defender in his face, opposed to making four of ten when given an open look. His twenty-eight shots missed were two away from matching a career-high, yet he finished the game responsible for seventeen straight points, scoring fifteen of them and assisting in the game sealing dunk by Jordan Clarkson. Bryant truly left all he had on the court, spending forty-two of the forty-eight possible minutes on the floor.
The headlines did not stop when the buzzer sounded. Almost immediately after the game, an eBay listing appeared attempting to sell a bag of air from Kobe’s last game. A bag. Of air. Even more asinine, not only did people bid on this non-verifiable product, the bidding had soared to astronomical levels, eclipsing $15,000. E Bay eventually stepped in and removed the item from its website.
Arguably the worst season in Lakers history, securing a franchise worst seventeen wins, was not nearly enough to damper spirits on this historic night. Bryant let the emotions come out post-game when addressing his fans, and he left them on a simple note, “Mamba Out.” Within hours “Mamba Out” merchandise was up on Bryant’s website. On a night when he was to be honored by the masses, Kobe Bean Bryant flipped the script and thanked the fans, the game, and the city of Los Angeles with one last improbable performance.