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It is hard to think about it this way now after 20 years of amazing play that has made the sublime routine, but Kobe has built a career, no, a legend, off defying odds. It seems strange to say this about someone whose father was an NBA player and has the pedigree he does, but it’s true.

A prep-to-pros guard wasn’t supposed to make a successful jump from highschool to┬áthe NBA. He wasn’t supposed to be an All-Star so soon. He wasn’t supposed to be a champion. He wasn’t supposed to win without Shaq. Wasn’t supposed to come back from a torn achilles. Or a broken knee cap. Or a torn up shoulder.

And he sure as hell wasn’t supposed to score 60 points in the final game of his 20 year career.

But he were are. I guess after 20 years of turning impossible moments into expected ones, we shouldn’t be so surprised. Again, though, here we are.

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This is it. The end of a season. The end of a career. Both of these carry meaning, but only one of them really matters to me today.

Thank you to Kobe for a wonderful 20 years with the franchise I root for. There has been much written and said over the years, but there has been way more good than bad and the highs provided are ones which will stick with me forever.

I really have nothing else to add. Enjoy the game, folks. Regardless of the outcome and the final score, I know I will.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet and ESPN2 nationally. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.

Thank You, Kobe

Darius Soriano —  April 13, 2016

Over the years we have said so much. Now, on this final day of his career, there’s only one thing left: Thank you, Kobe.

(video by @MaxaMillion711)

While the last game of Kobe’s career is Wednesday, April 13, 2016, a concept I have discussed with more than a handful of fans over the past few years is that Kobe’s career really ended on that fateful night in April 2013 when he ruptured his achilles tendon.

Sure, these last three seasons — two of which ended with injuries to his knee and his shoulder — actually happened, but that wasn’t really Kobe. Kobe ran roughshod over the league. Kobe healed like Wolverine and not only played in games with injuries he shouldn’t have, but played well. Kobe was the guy who would play any amount of minutes it took to try and keep his team competitive and then go that extra mile to then win the game.

What we’ve seen in these recent seasons has been a guy who looks like that player and sometimes even plays like him. But, for the most part, we’ve seen a guy who has failed more often than he has succeeded and, to the shock of most who’ve watched him compete for most of his career, seemed at peace with it.

It all started, of course, with the play where he pushed off his left leg to drive by the Warriors’ Harrison Barnes and, instead of exploding to the rim as he had so many times in the previous months of pushing towards a playoff berth, he fell to the floor like a sprinter who lost his footing out of the starting blocks. He clutched at his heel with his thumb and index finger feeling for a tendon which was no longer intact. He endured the pain (and blocked out any frustration of what he’d known occurred) to shoot — and make — a pair of crucial free throws, then limped off the court under his own power.

That walk off the court was symbolic.

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After losing to the Rockets on Sunday, the Lakers are in Oklahoma City on Monday for their final game of the season against the Thunder. It also concludes their three game road trip serving as the final setup to the game against the Jazz on Wednesday. Sort of amazing to think the season is already over. In a way, I liken how it’s passed to those first few months of being a new parent. The days have been so long, but time has passed by so quickly.

Though it was back in December, it feels like just the other day Kobe announced, officially, this season would be his last. Now his final game is in two days. I know the time between then and now has been filled with losses, missed shots, fits and starts from the young players, and a whole lotta #byronquotes. Those tough moments have had me, more than once, wishing for the end to finally come. Now that it’s here, I can’t say I’m particularly thrilled about it. Yes, I want the negativity and suffering to end. But saying goodbye to Kobe isn’t something I’m looking forward to all that much, even though I know it is time.

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With only 3 games left in Kobe’s career, the focus is almost entirely on the final moments of his brilliant career whether he wants it that way or not. After the Lakers were handled by the Pelicans on Friday, Kobe didn’t express much approval of his point guard saying the goal was to get Kobe the ball as much as possible. On the other hand, Kobe took 10 shots in the 1st quarter of that game, including seven 3-pointers! So if he doesn’t want the ball, he’s got a weird way of showing it.

Again, though, whatever Kobe wants or doesn’t want, isn’t really that relevant at this point. The retirement train left the station long ago and now we’re all on the tracks together. There’s no adjusting course so we might as enjoy the scenery. If that involves a few more forced passes into #24, what does that matter at this point (with 3 games left in the season and his career)?

So, we celebrate the player and his career however we want to. For some, that might mean continuing to root for his departure as quickly as possible. Kobe’s not the most lovable figure in sports — Nike has done a great job of playing that up lately — and I think Kobe is fine still wearing the black hat to a portion of fans. If that means eating up career highlights and reveling in what once was, that’s totally fine too. I mean, he has clips all over the web of him dominating every team in the league. Today’s opponent included.

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Mamba Day is Coming…

Darius Soriano —  April 10, 2016

Nike has labeled April 13th “Mamba Day” in celebration of Kobe Bryant’s last game of his career. They’re dropping commemorative shoes and will surely have more product for your consumption as the day rolls around.

They have also released a great video with their signature athletes (and others, including Phil Jackson) talking about Kobe, telling stories, and describing him in a single word. It’s a great clip. Check it out below.

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I’ll be 100% honest: I have little to say about this game. The Pelicans’ injury situation is so dire, here is their projected starting lineup: Toney Douglas, James Ennis, Dante Cunningham, Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca. Say whatever you want about the Lakers and them producing the worst season in franchise history, at least they’re fielding a roster of names you can recognize.

With that, I thought this might be the best preview available when considering all the variables.

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