On Monday night, thousands filled the Staples Center, and even more had their eyes glued to the television as one of the greatest to ever play the game of basketball was honored. For his whole 20 years of playing in the NBA, Kobe Bryant played solely and loyally only for the Los Angeles Lakers. Besides leading the Lakers to five NBA championships, Bryant is also an 18 time All Star, 12 time member of the All Defensive team, 15 time All NBA team member, 2 time NBA Finals MVP, and more. In his whole career, Kobe scored a total of 33,643 points and accumulated 7,047 rebounds and 6,306 assists. Yes, the numbers on paper are astounding, but what mesmerized people the most was actually watching him play. Bryant played with an intensity that has only been seen in a few players in NBA history. One of the most debated topics in the NBA is “Who is better- Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan?” It is a topic that will always be debated, but the consensus is that it is a very close competition. The truth is that legends do not only follow in the footsteps of those who came before them, but pave a new path and style of their own. That is exactly what Bryant did. He took inspiration from Jordan's style and shaped his own. Doing so, Bryant helped the Lakers dominate in the NBA for a large majority of his career. Whether people hated him or loved him, nobody could question that they were watching a legend and one of the best to ever play.
The Lakers franchise makes sure to honor their legends in a big way by retiring their jerseys. But, one jersey was not enough to be retired for this Laker legend. The Lakers decided to retire both Kobe's #8 jersey and his #24 jersey. To people who did not follow the Lakers too closely, this seemed a bit confusing, but for those who looked at the stats, it was a completely logical course of action. During Kobe's retirement ceremony, Jeanie Buss, CEO and owner of the Lakers, explained why they decided to retire both jerseys by saying, “if you separated each of the accomplishments under those numbers, each of those numbers would qualify for the hall of fame.” When Kobe wore the #8 jersey, he gave the Lakers three championships and two under the #24 jersey. The organization thanked him a big way for these accomplishments on Monday night.
Before the game, there was a carnival called “Kobeland” outside of the Stapels Center and a gift given to each fan as they entered the building of both a #8 and a #24 jersey. During the game, there were constant videos of interviews and highlights from Kobe's career. During halftime is when the retirement ceremony took place. Kobe was introduced by both Magic Johnson, President Of Basketball Operations, and Jeanie Buss. Their speeches were both filled with nostalgic reflection on Kobe's career, emphasis on the mark he left on the NBA, and the almost unattainable standard that he has given other players to aspire to.
As Kobe's jerseys were slowly revealed, there was a level of heightened emotion as Bryant gave his last bow to the NBA as a player. After his moving speech for his fans, he left the floor surrounded by both his past teammates like Shaquille O'Neal and NBA legends from both the Lakers and other teams like Bill Russell who played for the Celtics.
One could see in the moments that players, both young and old, displayed their appreciation for Bryant, that his presence in the NBA was invaluable, and his absence is something that will take years to get use to.