After twenty seasons in the NBA, Kobe Bryant’s reign has come to an end. In those twenty years Bryant has won five titles, a regular season MVP, two NBA Finals MVP’s and has been an NBA All-Star eighteen times, second only to the great Kareem Abdul Jabbar. There are more accolades of course but far too many to mention here. But Kobe Bryant and the Lakers introduced me to the game of basketball, a game I have loved passionately since.
I started following the Lakers just over ten years ago after stumbling across the game of basketball on TV. Basketball isn’t a big sport in the UK and I was immediately hypnotised by the game I’ve loved so much since then. And that first game was a Lakers game. I vividly remember the gold jerseys twinkling like a newly born star, the swish of the net after every basket, and the commentators uniquely colourful way of describing what was going down on the court. And I remember Kobe Bryant. I remember the hunger, the passion, the drive, the DOMINANCE. From that moment on I was hooked and I’ve bled purple and gold ever since.
For the last twenty seasons Kobe has etched his name into basketball folklore, forging a career and legacy many NBA players can only dream of. Three back to back titles from 2000-2002 guaranteed Kobe a permanent place in Lakers history but that wasn’t enough, it could never be enough. An 81 point game against the Raptors further solidified his legacy and another two titles in 2009 and 2010 confirmed, if it hadn’t been already, Kobe’s legend status, his God like basketball genius, his once in a generation ability as a basketball player and sporting icon. But today marks the final time Kobe Bean Bryant suits up in a Lakers uniform, the last time he’ll take the court as a player at Staples Center. Twenty seasons since he was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets and traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant has created a legacy in the NBA that rivals no other, for there will only ever be one Kobe Bryant. One Black Mamba. One Vino. Not many players can claim to have torn their achilles and then walked back onto the court to nail two free throws. Not many players can claim to have won five NBA titles. No other player has the second highest scoring performance in NBA history. Kobe is a one of a kind, the likes of which we’ll never see again. Just like we’ll never see another Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain or Shaquille O’Neal…we’ll NEVER see another Kobe Bryant.
Thank you Kobe.