The rest of the 2015-16 regular season for Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers will be an emotional rollercoaster ride for everyone in the organization and the team’s fan base. It marks the end of a 20-year era of one of the greatest players to ever lace them up and step on a basketball court, and arguably the greatest player that this illustrious franchise has ever employed.
It’s no secret that Bryant has struggled this season, as he endures one final battle with father time. However, even through his struggles, the 37-year-old still shows us glimpses of the player we have adored for the past two decades.
After losing in the last game he would ever play in his hometown of Philadelphia against the then-winless 76ers, Bryant provided a performance for the ages, just 24 short hours later.
His farewell tour is barely underway, but Wednesday could very well prove to be the sweetest moment of it in terms of on-court success. Bryant led the Lakers to a hard-fought, 108-104 victory over the Washington Wizards, burying a handful of clutch jumpers down the stretch. He scored 12 of his 31 points in the final 9:10 of play en route to a performance that was reminiscent of so many games in years past. The team turned to him late in a close game, and he delivered … again.
Beyond his patented fallaway jumpers as the clock ticked away, we saw vintage Kobe Bryant in the form of something he has shown everyone his entire career: Perseverance.
Not only was this the second night of a back-to-back for the 37-year-old, but it was the fourth game in five nights. He logged another 35 minutes to put his season average at 31.4 per game. Bryant mentioned after Tuesday’s game against the Sixers that his legs tend to get stiff as the night goes on and when he comes out of the game. In Washington, he kept doing little exercises and stretches just to retain as much spring in his legs that he possibly could.
How many times have we seen this man suffer an injury or some sort of physical limitation, only for him to find a way around it? The bounce in his legs, the lightning quick first step, and the elevation in his jumper are all gone, but the guts and resolve are still there.
Just when you think he’s done and the tank is empty, he somehow finds an extra burst that leaves us gazing in awe. It won’t be something he can sustain for all of the games he has left, but tonight showed us that it’s still in him. Here’s to hoping that we see a few more classic performances as he approaches the finish line.
Tonight was a perfect encapsulation of his 20 years donning a purple and gold uniform. He captured our undivided attention and our hearts once again as he sent an opposing stadium into a frenzy.
While Bryant will continue to get heat for his inefficient shooting and poor shot selection, it’s important to enjoy one last ride with No. 24. It’s the last we will ever see of him, and he has spoiled us thus far. So soak it in for the final 64 games, because we may never see anything like him ever again.