20 years ago, 18-year old Kobe Bryant had his first taste of NBA. He was fresh out of high school, an excited kid about to share the court with basketball players he looked up to. His total playing time in that game versus the Minnesota Timberwolves was six minutes. He didn’t score a point. Two days after, against the New York Knicks, his playing time was cut in half, but he did score his first NBA point.
20 years ago, that kid Bryant could have had no idea that his last game would be superlatively the opposite of his first day – a sold out Staples Center with basketball fans flying in from different parts of the world, with much anticipation, with much fanfare. On April 13, as had previously announced, he played his final game. He led Los Angeles Lakers to a victory over Utah Jazz, 101-96.
Kobe Bryant scored 60 points. The wildly common thing between his first and last NBA points is that they were both free throws. Coincidence? Definitely, maybe. It does add such a cool touch to the grand scheme of things that is the Black Mamba.
The Mamba Phenomenon
Kobe Bryant exited NBA a legend. He was (IS!) a phenomenon in himself. His final game sold out all 18,100+ seats in Staples Center. In attendance were big name celebrities in Hollywood, music, and sports including David Beckham, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, and power couple Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo. Also in attendance were people willing to pay an obscene amount of money to see the Black Mamba in his epic last performance.
A typical Laker game ticket sells at an average of $208.39 for regular seats, while courtside seats are at a thousand to $2,000, but this is not your typical Laker game. Tickets to Kobe’s last game sold at an average of $1,403.22 for regular seats although some lucky fans were able to purchase theirs for merely $700. The most expensive tickets sold were two courtside tickets at $27, 500 each.
His Final Moments
After Kobe’s unforgettable 60-point game, he attended his press conference in his LA Lakers jersey, an unusual sight as it was his common practice to head straight to the locker room and change. It was different this time. The Black Mamba couldn’t let go.
He spoke to his fans, “I can’t believe it’s come to an end. You guys will always be in my heart.”
He also left his LA Lakers family with valuable wisdom. “The most important thing is that you work together. I gave my soul to this game. If you don’t give all you’ve got, you’ll regret it.”
When the crowds had left and the Staples Center was almost empty, Kobe marched to his now retired “24” jersey inscribed on the court floor and wrote, “Laker for life”.