Mamba Day is here, and athletes across the world of sports are coming together to remember Kobe Bryant on the final day of his 20-year NBA career.
The Los Angeles Lakers legend will close out his career on Wednesday against the Utah Jazz. With the Lakers closing out what is one of their worst seasons of all time and no playoffs to end his career, the final game of the regular season has taken on the significance of a Game 7.
The final game itself will have plenty of tributes, including Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea playing the national anthem and appearances from more than 20 of Kobe’s former teammates, including Shaquille O’Neal.
Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson told ESPN that the team has been keeping a lot of the celebration under wraps, but said, “I think everybody should prepare for a show in terms of the stuff before and after and during the game, and after the game.”
The day itself has been filled with tributes to Kobe Bryant, with everyone from Tiger Woods to LeBron James to Roger Federer honoring Kobe and his incredible career. Nike even dubbed it Mamba Day in honor of Bryant’s “Black Mamba” nickname.
Nike also put together a 90-second video for Mamba Day filled with athletes talking about Kobe Bryant and the influence he’s had not only on the NBA but all of sports.
It included some funny moments, as Tennis.com noted that Roger Federer had an amusing story to share.
“Nadal labels Kobe a ‘fighter’ and Federer posits that he’s a ‘winner.’ Not exactly rousing stuff there, but Serena gets more verbose, offering that Kobe ‘always played because he loved the sport, not for any other reason.’ That’s something the 21-time Grand Slam champion knows a good deal about.
“It’s Federer who ultimately steals the show, though, finding it impossible not to invoke his love of emojis in saying, ‘I have once used his name as an emoji. Ko and then a bee. So it was actually quite funny.'”
LeBron James left his own salute, posting a picture on Instagram showing himself and Kobe in uniform for the U.S. Men’s Olympic team.
Plenty of others chimed in, from former teammates to some of Kobe’s fiercest on-court rivals.
Magic Johnson wrote his own tribute to Kobe Bryant for Mamba Day, posting a letter calling him “an example to your teammates and fans all over the world.” Magic noted the laundry list of accomplishments Kobe has racked up during his career — the five NBA titles, 18 trips to the NBA All-Star Game, his NBA MVP awards, and two NBA Finals MVP awards — but said it was the amazing play that stands out the most.
“Every night you played, I couldn’t wait to watch knowing that I would witness an unbelievable shot or move that I had never seen on the court,” he wrote. “I marveled at the skills and loved the energy you brought to the game wearing that purple and gold uniform. You never disappointed the city, Laker fans, and basketball fans worldwide. All you cared about was winning games and championships and that’s why so many people love you.”
Mamba Day will culminate on Wednesday night when Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers take on the Utah Jazz. Those who want to see the Hall of Famer’s career come to an end can check here for a link to streaming video of the game.
[Picture by J Pat Carter/Getty Images]