It is only a matter of hours until Kobe Bryant – undoubtedly the greatest player of his generation – suits up one final time for the Los Angeles Lakers. With people scrambling for a chance to get inside the STAPLES Center to witness his greatness in-person, Lakers staff have even been forced to invent new words in the English language to best describe what they expect.
“The game is going to be a ‘zircus’ — a zoo and a circus,” said longtime Lakers publicist John Black.
Even the swarm of media personnel promises to be unlike anything the NBA has seen during the regular season. While an NBA Finals usually draws 600 credentialed reporters, broadcasters, producers and photographers, Black thinks the Black Mamba’s farewell will far surpass even that, saying, “It’s absolutely unprecedented for the regular season. Is it NBA Finals levels? ‘Yes.’ It might be even bigger than that.”
Kobe Bryant himself will even have a camera crew of five in attendance for Wednesday’s tilt with the Utah Jazz for a documentary in a similar vein as his 2015 film, Kobe Bryant’s Muse.
But for some, that is simply not enough for them to get excited for a game that promises little in the way of high drama like the Golden State Warriors game which will be airing concurrently and finds the team by the Bay attempting to break the 95-96 Bulls single season win record of 72-10.
If you needed a little more setup, look no further than these five subplots which should entice you to witness at least a piece of Bryant’s last run at STAPLES.
The courtside drama
In addition to being one of the best vantage points for watching the game, scoring courtside tickets to a Lakers game is affirmation that a person is really somebody. With names like Jack Nicholson, Dyan Canon, Flea, Anthony Kiedis, Ice Cube, Andy Garcia, Denzel Washington, Penny Marshall and Leonardo DiCaprio all notable regulars, Bryant’s final game will also determine Hollywood’s pecking order.
With business impresarios like WME’s Ari Emmanuel and Interscope’s Jimmy Iovine each owning four tickets respectively, their phones are surely ringing off the hook as established relationships are put to the test – while the men are also being forced to weigh how taking a potential client to the game could secure a future deal.
Former NBA All-Star, Gilbert Arenas, is so motivated to grab courtside tickets – despite them being unavailable – that he broached signing a 10-day contract with the Lakers just so he could sit on the end of the bench.
TDE CEO, Anthony Tiffith, took to Instagram to show that he would be in attendance – forking over $40,960 USD for two seats with the caption “sometimes you have2 pay to play.”
While many will be tuning in to see how Bryant fares, the evening also promises to be something like a red carpet event at the Oscars.
Will his parents be there?
While there is no question that tonight’s game will be a star-studded affair, it remains to be seen if Bryant’s retirement will help in repairing the strained relationship with his parents, Joe and Pamela.
In 2013, Bryant’s parents attempted to auction off a large amount of memorabilia that the All-Star had either given them, or which they had acquired given their relationship. Upon finding out, Bryant sued the auction house and his parents issued a public apology, saying, “We regret our actions and statements related to the Kobe Bryant auction memorabilia. We apologize for any misunderstanding and unintended pain we have caused our son and appreciate the financial support he has provided over the years.”
According to The Washington Post, “Since then, the two parties’ relationship has been strained, with Bryant rarely mentioning or publicly visiting with his parents.”
In a February 2016 interview with Andrea Kremer of HBO’s Real Sports, she asked him about the issue.
“The relationship with family is extremely important, but you also can’t force things,” Kobe said. ”And so I hope and I pray that one day, things will be better between us. Unfortunately, today’s not that day.”
When asked whether or not his parents would be in attendance, Bryant said, “I’ve thought about it, I’m not sure. Probably not.”
One last 50-point game?
In one of the most amazing feats in his entire playing career, Kobe Bryant managed to score over 50 points in four straight games in 2006 – highlighted by a 65-point and 60-point game six days apart.
This year, after scoring 20 points in a 107-100 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in March, Bryant was interviewed by Shaquille O’Neal for TNT’s Inside the NBA.
“Kobe, they’re doing a big celebration for you the last game,” O’Neal said. “A lot of us are going to be there. Can you promise me one thing?”
“What’s up?” Bryant replied.
“I need 50 that night,” O’Neal said. “Can you do it? Your last game, your last home game at the Staples, can you give us 50?”
“Uh, no,” Bryant said, laughing. “No. Absolutely not.”
Bryant’s season high is 38 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves on February 2, although he is coming off a 35-point performance against the Rockets.
The full 48 minutes?
Since December 2, Kobe Bryant hasn’t played more than 36 minutes in a game and has averaged a respectable 26.6 and 24 minutes-per-game over the last two months.
With the STAPLES Center sure to be rockin’, it remains to be seen how much Bryant actually plays in his final contest. Coach Byron Scott has commented, “I’ll be like, ‘KB, I’m just going to keep you out there until you tell me you want to rest.'”
When asked about the possibility of giving the home crowd one last dazzling performance which would see him on the floor for the entire game, Kobe cracked, “Stop it. Unless you’re playing on 2K.”
Be like Mike?
The similarties between Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan have been well-documented. Even the way they announced their individual retirements to the world had an eerily similar vibe.
In his last game as a professional for the Washington Wizards in 2003, Michael Jordan played 28 minutes – finishing with 15 points, four rebounds and four assists.
With the Wizards getting blown out by 21 points with nine minutes left, Jordan was on the bench.
“The game didn’t merit me going back in,” Jordan said.
However, the chants of “We Want Mike,” brought Jordan back in at the 2:35 mark.
If the Lakers’ woeful 16-65 record is any indication, Bryant could surely find himself with his team down by a lot, and the fans willing him back into the game. He may not have enough in the tank to put up 50, but here’s betting that he attempts to top MJ’s stat line.
- featured/main image: AP Photo/Nick Wass