Kobe Bryant is set to play his final game in the NBA on Wednesday after 20 years of playing in the league.
Bryant, 37, has had a legendary career playing for the Lakers. With five NBA championships under his belt, the player known as the Black Mamba is now considered to be one of the greatest players the league has ever seen. Having played for the Los Angeles Lakers for his entire career, Kobe will go down as one of the franchise’s greatest legends alongside Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Jerry West.
Kobe Bryant’s final game as a Laker and an NBA player will be held at Staples Center in Los Angeles against the Utah Jazz. After 20 years of playing for the franchise, it’s only fitting that Bryant’s farewell game will be staged at home.
Moments after playing his final road game on Monday, the Philadelphia native talked about how much it meant to him to have donned the purple and gold uniform throughout his entire career.
“It means everything,” the future Hall of Famer said. “I grew up a die-hard Laker fan. It’s like a dream come true, for a kid to grow up, play for his favorite team and play here for 20 years, his entire career. I’ve seen the city grow. I’ve seen the city develop and vice versa. There’s no place I’d rather end my career.”
In November last year, Kobe announced that this season would be his last, via a poetic letter posted on The Players’ Tribune. The poignant letter was entitled “Dear Basketball.”
“This season is all I have left to give,” wrote Kobe. “My heart can take the pounding. My mind can handle the grind. But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.
“And that’s OK. I’m ready to let you go.”
Soon after Kobe announced his retirement from the NBA, ticket prices for Los Angeles Lakers games — both at home and on the road — started to soar. With every fan wanting to see one of the league’s best players play the game one final time, tickets for every Lakers game in the season sold out early. As previously reported in the Inquisitr, the list price for Bryant’s final game on Wednesday jumped 134 percent between Sunday night and Monday morning, according to secondary ticket vendor TiqiQ. Within that period, the cheapest seat in the stadium cost $888 while the most expensive is at courtside for $25,700.
“I’ve grown up in front of this crowd from the age of 17,” Bryant said. “A lot of faces that I saw in the crowd in my very first game are still here. That’s very special. Kids that are sitting there now, that were kids when I first came in, now come to the game with their kids. You know, that’s pretty cool to see.”
Bryant’s fellow athletes around the world signed under Nike will be paying tribute to the legendary NBA player by wearing special Nike shoes on Wednesday, which the shoe company dubbed “Mamba Day.”
Coach Byron Scott said that he’ll play Kobe Bryant for more than 37 minutes, and that every player in the Lakers roster will be feeding the ball to Bryant in almost every possession.
Around 30 of Kobe’s former teammates, led by none other than Shaquille O’Neal, will be in attendance to honor the 18-time All Star player. Flea, the Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist known for being a die-hard Laker fan, will also honor the star by playing the U.S. National Anthem.
In an interview with USA Today on Tuesday, Bryant said that he doesn’t feel any sadness about his coming retirement.
“I’m thankful,” Bryant said. “I’m not sad at all. I left no stone unturned, I gave everything to the game for 20 years in the NBA and more before that. So I feel very thankful to be able to play this game this long.”
[Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images]