LOS ANGELES — It was a night that Kobe Bryant saw coming and was long waiting for since his NBA career came to a conclusion over a year ago.
The Lakers went the full distance with Bryant in a similar fashion to his final career game of his holding events outside Staples Center calling it “Kobeland” with thousands of fans outside congregating around in celebration of the future Hall of Famer. This included Grammy-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar host a miniconcert for him when he entered the arena.
Prior to Monday’s game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors, Bryant voiced much appreciation for the unique honor that only nine other players in franchise history received.
“It’s hard to put in words, Bryant said. “It means so much to you. Growing up and watching all these great players play and learning so much from them, to now be a part of that wall means everything to me. I think what a legacy means to me is how will it impact the next generation.”
At the half, the Lakers began the jerseys ceremony by displaying Bryant’s Shortlist Oscar-nominated “Dear Basketball” film that was based on his retirement letter. It was followed by both Hall of Famer and Lakers team president Magic Johnson and team owner Jeanie Buss speaking glowingly about the 39-year-old’s longlasting impact on the franchise during his illustrious career.
“What we’re celebrating tonight is the journey that you took us on for those 20 years,” Buss said. “We are retiring both your numbers because if you separated each of the accomplishments under those numbers, each of those players would qualify for the Hall of Fame.”
This all led to the moment of Bryant’s jerseys were then unveiled slowly next to legendary play-by-play announcer Chick Hearns’ jersey up in the rafters.
It saw many of his former teammates and other players alike present on the floor with him such as Shaquille O’Neal, Derek Fisher, Elden Campbell, Caron Butler, Ronny Turiaf, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jamaal Wilkes, Byron Scott, Allen Iverson, Bill Russell and James Worthy.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 19, 2017
Bryant voiced more appreciation for the honor that he received by stating that it was the players before him up in the rafters that pushed him to pull the best out of him throughout his career while looking ahead toward the influence he hopes to bring to the franchise moving forward.
“It’s not about my jerseys that are hanging up there for me,” Bryant said. “It’s about the jerseys hanging up there before, and without them, I couldn’t be here today. They inspired me to play the game at a high level. Magic, Cap, Shaq pushing me every day, Balor, Chamberlain, Goodrich, West, (and) Worthy. It goes on and on.”
“It’s also about the next generation. It’s about this current Laker roster that we have here. It’s about embodying the spirit that exists in those jerseys up there and carrying this organization forward so that the next 20 years are better than the past 20 years.”
— NBA (@NBA) December 19, 2017
Following what turned out to be a thrilling game that took overtime for Warriors to top the Lakers 116-114, head coach Luke Walton voiced much appreciation and gratitude toward what Bryant brought to the court throughout his illustrious career behind his relentless dedication to the craft.
“The man sacrificed everything to be as good as he was, to have the career he had,” Walton said. “He played through injuries that would shut down 99% of the NBA. He tore his plantar fasciitis and just kept playing. He sacrificed, he gave to the game, he gave his body, his time, relentless work, so it is really nice to see him rewarded when it’s all said and done.”
Meanwhile, Brandon Ingram took away a strong personal message from Bryant’s jerseys retirement speech and overall career.
“I heard him say something about the journey and the process,” Ingram said. “The way I worked is the way I’m going to come out and play. Like I said before, he really touched on the defensive end, about how I can be a really good defender and how I can just push to another level.”
Ultimately, it was the sentiment that Kevin Durant expressed that embodied the impact that Bryant has left on the league and the next generation of players after him.
“You want to be honored for the work you put in as a basketball player, the impact you had in the community, to the organization, and to the whole state of California,” Durant said. “It makes you think that if you just keep putting in the work, you see what happens at the end of your career and maybe you can be honored that way too.”
Bob Garcia IV
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