Well, today was the day. After 20 years on the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe "Bean" "Black Mamba" Bryant retired today.
I almost bit everyone's head off at work when my lunch time was being squeezed shorter and shorter by meetings. I had already planned to take my time at lunch to walk to Staples Center, take pictures, buy stuff, and soak up all of the #ThankYouKobe atmosphere. I finally got out of my meeting and high-tailed it on down to Staples. A LOT of people were there, and they seemed to have posters in their hands, and someone was raffling off something, maybe tickets to the game, I don't know. I didn't have time to find out. I was on a mission, and I only had 25 minutes to do it. Oh, let's be cute and say it was 24. :) I took a couple of pictures and quickly walked through the store to check out the merchandise. Wow. The entire store had been transformed to the "24 Collection". Everything was KOBE and the Lakers. Maybe they had some Clippers and Kings stuff in the closet, I don't know. There was some of that in the art gallery portion of the store, but not much, and we weren't allowed to take pictures of anything in there anyway. Had I gone with someone to the store, I would have asked them to take a picture of me at the photo op, but that's OK. I kept liking stuff that was way too expensive, but found cheaper stuff that wasn't really cheap, but whatever. I'm wearing my brand new Kobe tank top as I write this. I wanted to go to the Metro station because they had renamed it "Kobe Station" for the day, but I needed to go back to work for yet another conference call. Why must work interfere with the enjoyment of life?
Then I tried to leave work on time but people kept making me work. I mean, what? But at least I left relatively early for me. I saw a lot of people walking toward Staples as I walked in the opposite direction, jealous as all heck. Then the Gold Line was delayed, and I tried not to lose my mind. People! I need to get home to watch the game!!! But I made it, and I got to watch the video tributes and cry. Of course, I cried. My favorite written tributes by former Lakers were those written by Derek Fisher and Magic Johnson. I liked the videos showing him at such a young age, the Nike commercial of those who hate him as he conducts them like a maestro, and the pre-game video. Probably my favorite part of watching that video, though, was seeing his smile on the split screen. I was a mess and the game hadn't even started.
Then the game. The Lakers had a difficult time just getting the first basket. But they finally got one in, and trailed for most of the game. But Kobe was Kobe. He finally started getting the ball into the basket, and he was off and running. I was incredulous at how tough he was. He was still carrying the team on his shoulders. He got to 40 and I was amazed. Then 50 and I was screaming. Then 60 and I had lost my mind, along with everyone else in the arena. SIXTY. His last game. And he ends it with an assist. He, the selfish one. And they won after being behind for almost of the game. What a storybook ending.
I remember when Kobe joined the Lakers. I was, like, "He never even went to college. Does he even have the team fundamentals that you need to learn there?" He was a punk to me. Then he met Vanessa and I thought that he'd lost his mind because he was so young, but it was love at first sight for him. Then the allegations in Denver, and I was disappointed, but he eventually rose above it, and I forgave him eventually. Besides, he was put on this earth to play basketball. And play he did.
My favorite player of all time is Michael Jordan, because of his work ethic and his competitiveness. It is for those same reasons that I have admired Kobe and his determination, his will to get his team to win those games. He ain't bad to look at, either. Kobe is one of the greatest basketball players of all time, and I was lucky to witness him in person and on TV.
One of my favorite moments was actually off the court. During a press conference after the Lakers won the championship over the Celtics, he was asked how much he wanted to win. Prior to that press conference, Kobe had played it cool, acting like it was no big deal, like they just needed to take one game at a time, no matter the opponent. Not on this day. Kobe admitted that he lied to the media. That this is what he wanted the most. As a diehard Lakers fan himself, Kobe NEEDED to beat the Celtics and get the championship. I loved his honesty at that moment. It's what a diehard fan like me thought he should approach that series.
Hearing Kobe in the post-game press conference, I got tears in my eyes as he talked about how much he loved Magic, and how much his statement of Kobe being "the best to wear the purple and gold" meant to him. We forget sometimes that our favorite players had their own favorites. Also, I love hearing him speak Spanish and Italian.
Thank you, Kobe. Thank you for staying in LA for all of these 20 years. Thank you for the drama. Thank you for your determination, your competitive spirit, your frankness, and your talent. Thank you for bringing LA the 5 championships. Thank you for making me scream at my TV. Thank you for everything you've brought to the game of basketball. Thank you for making so many kids happy by granting so many wishes. You deserve the accolades, and now, you deserve a wonderful retirement. Turn the page. I look forward to seeing your next fairy tale come true.
Congratulations and best wishes. In your own words, "Mamba. Out."