It was one year ago today that Kobe Bryant played his last NBA game. Around the league, it was #MambaDay – a celebration of a player whose 20 year career influenced the league like few have. Kobe did not disappoint in his farewell performance, either. Scoring an astounding 60 points on an equally astounding 50 shots, it was more than a night to remember – it was a night which added to a mystique and legend few players in the history of the league possess.
After the game, I wrote the following:
Kobe provided us a night for the ages; he gave us a moment to seal away as ours forever. He turned a night which was supposed to be a sad one filled with teary-eyed goodbyes into a celebration filled with smiles and cheers and did I really just see that? reactions.
In other words, he was Kobe Bryant again.
I will remember this game for the rest of my life. It wasn’t a championship sealing win. There will be no parade down Figueroa. But the feeling of watching a player who has meant so much — to me as a person, to an organization, to a city, to so many fans around the world — was more than just a regular game.
It was one last glimpse into what made 20 years of watching him play such an event and reflective of how he, more often than not, seemed to understand how to turn those events into unforgettable memories. Kobe Bean Bryant. There will never be another quite like him. Goodbye, one last time.
Re-reading those words now, a year later, I still have trouble grasping it actually happened. But now that we are a year removed, it allows us to look back and remember all that went into that night and all the special moments it produced for fans and those in attendance. With that, here are a few of the best posts, videos, and reflections floating around the internet today. Hope you enjoy a trip back in time as we remember #MambaDay.
First, a great read from ESPN’s Baxter Holmes who got to talk with Kobe about that day and what he was feeling throughout. A brief sampling:
“After the first couple minutes, I was like, ‘Oh, s—,'” Bryant says. “It became apparent really, really quickly that this night was not going to go down with me just playing OK. It was either going to have to be an epic one or the worst one ever, because they were just going to keep throwing me the damn ball and the crowd wanted me to shoot every time — almost to the point where I felt bad for my teammates, because if they took a shot, the crowd was ready to boo. So it was like, ‘Oh, s—. I gotta go.'”
Bryant laughs now at the irony of that sentiment, noting how funny it was that he went through 20 seasons of everyone screaming “Pass the ball!” before a night when they screamed “Don’t pass it!” But his finale did not begin well. He opened the game by missing his first five shots.
What unfolded from there would mark not just one of the most memorable games in Bryant’s career, but in all of sports.
There’s also this well done piece from Bleacher Report’s Dave Schilling, who spoke to people who were in attendance that night about the atmosphere and what it was like to witness the game from their perspective.
One of my favorite things on the internet is the “things you missed” video series Jade Hoye of TrueHoop TV does for big shots/moments from around the league. Well, he went into the archives this morning and did a “13 things you missed” from Kobe’s finale:
Kobe’s Finale – 13 Things You Missed pic.twitter.com/tx5FlWSMxz
— TrueHoop TV (@TrueHoopTV) April 13, 2017
And, finally, a video of that night’s highlights:
I think a better read from Baxter Holmes is his story about Kobe’s last 2 weeks as a relevant NBA player prior to tearing his Achilles tendon.
For me, “Mamba Day” was the capstone on everything wrong with the post-Achilles Kobe era.
An “average” NBA player shoots 45% from the field, 35% from 3pt range, and 75% on free throws. Plug Kobe’s shot attempt numbers from Mamba Day into an average player and you get 56 points. So Kobe was 7% better than an “average” player on that day. Of course, Kobe wasn’t paid 107% of an average NBA salary. Instead, he was paid 1.5x a maximum salary.
For 3 years, the Lakers’ needed rebuild project was delayed because the club opted to sell the Kobe Bryant Retirement Tour and Hero Ball Chucking Show. I prefer to remember Kobe before he became the NBA’s Norma Desmond.
Thank you, Kobe for 15-17 spectacular years. Good luck with your future endeavors.
Watching his final game – that was sour grapes. Kobe put bu**s in the seats and inspiration in the dreams of so many of us. You don’t measure Legends by statistics. Here’s to Kobe and Kareem and Magic – the greatest Lakers.
@CraigW — I fully respect and have great love for the first 17 years of Kobe’s Laker career (and Magic and Kareem are probably #1 and #3 on my all-time NBA favorites).
But much like Kareem stayed a year too long (the 1989-1990 season) and Magic didn’t do his legacy any favors by his 1996 comeback, Kobe hung on 3 seasons longer than he should have.
Had Kobe either retired after his Achilles injury or accepted the bit player/veteran mentor role basically every long-term NBA player has to fill late in their careers (cf. Duncan, Tim or World Peace, Metta), I wouldn’t have this complaint about Kobe.
But Kobe still wanted to be The Man for 3 interminable seasons while nobody in Lakers management/coaching was willing to say “No” to him. I understand everyone in the situation had their reasons for behaving as they did. But I feel we Laker fans suffered because of it.
He played a total of 41 games in the first two of said interminable seasons, and only 6 in 2013-14. So, as is pretty much always the case when you bring up this topic, you let the raw emotion driving your narrative override pertinent facts and contribute to poorly-constructed arguments, as Alexander explains below.
Check that. As Anon explains.
Fair points on a number of levels, as I agree the franchise went the “wrong way” with the retirement tour…
However, I have to quibble at least a little bit on the stats. An “average” NBA player might post a slash line of 45/35/75 taking an “average” number of “average” shots. However, most players, average or otherwise, see their efficiencies drop as they take more and more shots above the statistical mean, i.e., as their usage increases. And how many even “average” players were wearing Laker uniforms that night?
The Bryant extension was a true indictment of the Jim Buss FO. Buss was incompetent. He did not know how to rebuild the Lakers so he used Bryant as a security blanket — someone to put butts in the seats and deflect criticism while he hoped a plan would materialize in his vacant head.
Buss was so lost and in need of cover that he wouldn’t deviate from his plan even though Kobe was injured and offered little hope of being the player he once was.
Jim shouldn’t get all the blame though. Jeanie was in charge and certainly knew her brother wasn’t up to the task. She used her brother as a shield — deflecting blame from herself — as the Lakers languished at the bottom of the conference and put joke rosters on the floor.
There may have been historical reasons at play for that obvious overpay, such as an implicit “agreement”/expectation that Kobe (who’s value to the franchise always far exceeded his salary) was going to get that big money deal. In that case, screwing Kobe would not have gone well for the franchise, either. The Moz/Deng deals were the real doozies.
At the time, the Bryant extension was touted by some (some fans, anyway) as a means to show prospective FAs that the Lakers take care of their own and as an inducement to lure stars.
And boy, has it ever paid off, with the retentions of Pau, Dwight Coward, and the signings of Deng and Mozgov.
Well, 2 out of 4 ain’t bad.
Pelinka talked to the media today and demonstrated that he learned something from the demise of Jim Buss. Quoting:
“I can’t put a timetable on it, I can’t do that,…. “
P. Ami says
20 years of Kobe in FB&G were a great 20 years to be entertained by. I would not trade any of them for a quicker reboot or more wins. I didn’t go see ‘Get Out” to find out who lives. I didn’t buy tix to Bottle Rock to see who will noodle more notes, Tom Petty or Dave Grohl. I’m not looking forward to July to see if Jon Snow’s dragon is bigger than Tyrion’s. Those three activities were for entertainment and to witness greatness. Kobe Bryant played a game and did so beautifully. Of course wins and loses impact the entertainment level. Watching our team play for a ring means watching higher quality basketball. I’ve said it before. One of my favorite games was the game when Kobe tore his Achilles. It was dramatic, tragic. It displayed heart and skill. I loved that moment when he walked to the line all on his own and sunk two free-throws. That was post-Achilles Kobe and it was every bit as impressive as winning a championship. Kobe’s efficiency never impacted the food I gave my kids. His shot selection never impacted my grades in school. Kobe’s assist totals didn’t get me a raise at work.You know what Kobe’s performance did? It entertained me for 20 years. #MambaDay #EveryDay #ItsJustAGame #AreYouNotEntertained