While Lakers’ fans bask in the afterglow of Kobe’s final game and wait on front office decisions on the head coach, the draft, and free agency it looks as if some decisions are being made for them already. Or at least one of them is as Brandon Bass has decided how he will handle his player option for the 2016-17 season.
It’s been nearly a week since the Lakers’ season ended with Kobe Bryant adding to his myth by scoring 60 points on 50 shots while also slaying a dragon and eating an entire extra-large pepperoni pizza at the same time. Okay, two of those things didn’t happen, but maybe in 50 years, and the story is retold they will have.
In the days since the performance, the focus of those who we look to for Lakers’ news has been undeniably and unabashedly Kobe. This was to be expected, of course. 20 years of playing the game at the heights he did with the approach he took requires, no, demands, a retelling. The good, the bad, and everything in-between.
If you’re looking for more of that, look no further than Ramona Shelburne’s latest for ESPN/The Undefeated. Shelburne used great access to give us a peek inside Kobe’s world, from the rehab table to his Kobe Inc. office to the training room to the diner breakfast table and so many other moments that have not been told to this point. The entire thing is a fantastic read and is worth your time.
It’s articles like that, though, that you need now. You need them because while the rest of the basketball world moves forward, the Lakers’ world has not. The playoffs are in full swing, teams are letting go of their current coaches, hiring new ones, and interviewing big names with aims of managing the sideline and running the front office all at the same time.
Meanwhile, we wait.
After Kobe made the announcement this season would be his last, every “last game” against a road opponent became a chance for that team (and, on April 13th, the Lakers) to pay tribute to Kobe in some way shape or form. Some teams did nothing at all, but others took the chance to say “thank you” in some way.
Maybe it was a highlight montage, a former teammate or longtime opponent speaking about playing with/against him, a special lineup introduction, or a shout-out during a quarter break or timeout. What I have tried to do is find every tribute video put together for Kobe and have it live below. If I missed one, let me know. Enjoy.
We might still be basking in the glow of Kobe Bryant bringing in his retirement with an epic farewell performance, but that doesn’t mean the business of the Lakers has stopped. The team performed their exit interviews on Thursday and Friday, and with that we got every player (save Kobe), Byron Scott, and Mitch Kupchak all on the record discussing this past season and looking ahead to the next one.
It’s that looking ahead which has grabbed Lakers’ fans interest, especially in relation to Scott’s status as the head coach. If you ask Scott, he’s confident he will return next season and has sharp words for anyone who questioned his approach this season. ESPN’s Baxter Holmes has the story:
Scott, who has one more guaranteed year on his deal, said he has not yet met with Lakers management to discuss his future with the team, nor has he been given assurances that he’ll coach the team moving forward.
“I don’t need that,” Scott said. “There’s going to come a time where we’re going to talk, I do understand that, and I do understand this business…
Scott has faced heated criticism from Lakers fans and others all season for his tough-love approach and harsh public criticism of the Lakers’ promising young players, whom he frequently moved in and out of the lineup, varying their minutes.
“I roll with the punches because you guys, they, those guys — they’re not in here every day,” Scott said of his critics. “They don’t see what we’re doing in practice. They don’t see how we’re preparing these guys, so they have no clue … all they’re doing is voicing their opinion, and to be honest with you, I’m much smarter than all of them when it comes to basketball.”
To some (okay, to me), Scott’s confidence might seem misplaced. After all, he’s overseen the two worst seasons in franchise history, winning only 38 games in his two seasons as head man. Claiming intellectual superiority — even if doing so while speaking truths about fans and media not having all the information — isn’t the best look when the vessel you’re shepherding keeps running into things and crashing.
It’s been two days since Kobe shocked everyone, including himself, by scoring 60 points in his epic farewell game.
In the lead up to and the aftermath of the game there have been so many great stories to read, podcasts to listen to, and videos to watch that I haven’t gotten close to getting through all of them. I joked I might get through them all until the summer is over, which is more accurate than hype.
There is one video, though, that is worth your time right now. Watch this fantastic highlight/tribute video from @Maxamillion711 from Kobe’s last game:
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 the 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.
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.