LOS ANGELES—The Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant finally has something to brag about over childhood hero Michael Jordan. The Los Angeles Lakers, made the wonderful and ultra Hollywood decision to honor Kobe Bean Bryant in a grand Tinseltown way. L.A. Live was transformed into Kobeland. Thousands of fans without tickets came out to celebrate their hero, one final time.
During Halftime Of Monday night’s game against the defending NBA Champions, the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers legend Shooting Guard Kobe Bryant was honored during halftime.
Along with Bryant’s 33,643 points, the five-time NBA champion and 18-time all-star selection leads the Lakers in games played (1,346), 3-pointers (1,827), steals (1,944) and free throws (8,378). Bryant is the third-leading scorer in league history. Also, he had over 6,000 assists proving ball hogs can’t win five titles.
Alongside Kobe was Shaquille O’Neal, Derek Fisher and a slew of former teammates witnessed as both No. 8 and No. 24 Jerseys were simultaneously unveiled.
It is the first time in NBA history a player from the same team has had two different jerseys hanging from the rafters. The Lakers have always been genius at marketing- BIG picture stuff for the NBA. Everything from Showtime to huge contracts to stardom! (HINT:LeBron next year)
Yes, this is highly unusual for anyone not named Kobe Bean Bryant. Yet, it becomes necessary when one wraps around his historic mind boggling achievements wearing both numbers. Any future Laker who dare wear either number would be scrutinized mercilessly for not being Kobe.
“I FEEL GREAT!” Bryant said after entering Staples Center while pushing a stroller containing Bianka Bella Bryant, his infant daughter. “I’m very proud I get to come here with my family. It feels good as a father to have my family come in and share this.”
Bryant is the 10th player with a retired jersey for the 16-time NBA championship winning Lakers. His numbers were revealed high on the Staples Center wall, flanking the banner honoring longtime Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn.
“It’s not about the jerseys that are hanging up there for me,” Bryant told the cheering crowd. “It’s about the jerseys that were hanging up there before. They inspired me to play the game at a high level.”
In his retirement from the game, Bryant has allowed the media and public to catch a different glimpse of the man.
Anyone who is a basketball fan has to recognize what Kobe Bryant has meant to the NBA. Polarizing since he entered the NBA Draft fresh out of Lower Merion High at 17, he was brash, cocky and he took pop star Brandy to his prom.
Bryant was chosen number 13 in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets. He was promptly traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vlade Divac, GM Jerry West was floored with Kobes’ workouts. Especially his defense and footwork.
He learned several of his signature moves from Michael Jordan whom he actually strived to best. More importantly, their killer instinct is what bonds Jordan and Kobe for eternity. Anytime an opponent is gnawing away- a fade away jumper from Kobe which appears off, inevitably rattles into silence the crowd.
The beginning of Kobes journey is unlike previous lottery picks. Players such as LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Stephen Curry were given keys to the organization and nurtured rather than being scolded.
In 1996, L.A. went bonkers about acquiring the Big Fella Shaq, similar to the Lakers landing Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain in previous decades. At no time, Kobe wasn’t interested in playing Robin to Shaq’s Batman. SIDEBAR: Shaq actually prefers the Man of Steel: Superman.
Bryant showed flashes of brilliance his rookie season, yet he was forced to the bench even though he was ready for the competition. Insiders blame then Head Coach, Del Harris, who was not conulted about Bryant. Others point to jealous teammates weary of the adulation and hefty shoe contract Bryant received.
In his second season, Bryant emerged as one of the games brightest, young stars. He won the slam-dunk contest, and nearly beat Michael Jordan in the NBA all-star game.
Fast forward to 1999, although the Lakers were on the cusp of a title, something was still missing. Enter “Zen Master,” Phil Jackson named new head coach. He led the Chicago Bulls to 6 NBA Championships.
The Lakers also moved into Staples Center from the Inglewood Forum the same year. The Lakers, who ran the triangle offense surged through the regular season. The 2000 NBA Playoffs were outrageous. The Portland Trailblazers in the Western Conference finals had us on the ropes in Game 7 before a flawless fourth quarter. Remember Kobe breaking Scottie Pippens ankles before Shaq hammered down the alley hoop.
The Shaq- Kobe Lakers went on to beat the Indiana Pacers in the 2000 Finals. During the next two years, despite a grasp for control, Bryant and O’Neal put aside their differences it meant another two titles for the legendary team.
The Lakers are THREE-peat Champions of the World. How long will this last? Sadly, after losing to the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat. A majority of Lakers Nation held Bryant responsible.
Making matters worse, Shaq was celebrating an NBA Finals victory two years later with his new sidekick, Dwayne Wade. Years later, Shaq explained the sticking point was his upcoming contract negotiations, and being upset at Dr. Jerry Buss for feeling he was being taken for granted.
Kobe became enemy number one. The epitome of all that’s wrong with professional athlete today.
In one instance, Bryant was booed in Philly, his hometown during an All-Star game.
Ouch! I don’t care how much resolve or inner fortitude you possess the jeering had to be a depressing moment for the Mamba.
Determined to not let the pundits have the last word Bryant pushed himself even harder. His last year donning No. 8, he torched the Toronto Raptors for 81 points in a single game. Second only to Wilt the Stilt Chamberlains 100 points.
In the summer of 2007, Kobe demanded to be traded. He was sullen and disheartened to be mired in mediocrity. He then switched to No. 24, in an effort to distance himself from Shaq’s enormous shadow, and to show us how he grew as a man. It was the best selling NBA jersey that year.
In February 2008, Pau Gasol joined the Lakers from the Memphis Grizzlies. The lanky power forward jelled instantly with Bryant. At the end of the regular season, Bryant won his 1st MVP trophy. The Lakers reached the NBA Finals to meet their sworn enemy. The Boston Celtics.
The Celtics had the luck of the Irish, steamrolling the Purple and Gold in six games. The final blow was a 37-point drumming to secure a title for Boston.
Bryant quickly recovered in time to help Team USA Basketball reclaim the Olympic Gold Medal the US inexplicably lost in 2004. Down the stretch, Kobe was stellar when Spain trimmed the lead to just two points.
After Kobe won his first gold medal, it was back to the grind. After a difficult run through the Playoffs, the Lakers met the Orlando Magic. The Lakers won the series 4-1, however, two games went into overtime. It was an insult watching Sports Center that night.
The talking heads acting as if Bryant had just won his first title, it was his FOURTH! Name a professional athlete who finally got their due credit after their fourth championship? Neither can I.
In 2010, Kobe became the greatest Laker by beating the Boston Celtics In an epic 7 game series. The Lakers were trailing by 13 points in the second half. Kobe had a terrible shooting night; 6 of 24 from the field. Thank God Gasol cared so deeply about defeating Kevin Garnett.
Bryant still scored 23 points, pulled down 15 rebounds. The play of the game was Bryant finding Ron Attest at the three-point line. Attest drained the shot, the Lakers held off the Celtics 83-79. It was a career defining moment for Kobe
President of Basketball operations, Magic Johnson boldly declared Bryant, ”The Greatest to ever wear Purple and Gold.” Love the modesty Magic, but right now you are the most important Laker.