This past Saturday, Dec. 12th, 2015, I attended the Los Angeles Lakers vs. Houston Rockets game in Houston, Texas. Ever since Kobe announced his retirement, I promised myself to see him grace the floor with his legendary presence in his last season. Let’s just say, the experience I received was well more than what I expected.
My expectations were reasonable for this game. I anticipated Mr. Bryant to receive a standing ovation during the starting lineup announcements, play approximately 20 minutes, and wave at the crowd before he took his final seat in the game. As the announcer called out Bryant’s number, the crowd rose to its feet and cheered him on as if he was wearing a Rockets jersey.
Seeing him walk through the Lakers huddle with an aura of peace was amazing to see. It was as if he was thinking, “I’m really going to miss the game, but it’s time for me to leave it behind.” Before tip-off, Kobe could be seen laughing and talking with former Rockets players, Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis, who were sitting courtside.
The exchanges between Bryant and other members of the Houston Rockets starting five were interesting, as well. James Harden greeted Kobe with a special handshake (Harden also wore the Kobe II shoes to pay homage to Bryant) while Dwight Howard received a cold stare and a backhand pat on the shoulder from the Black Mamba.
Kobe fired so many 3-pointers in the game! The slot right section of the arc was his go-to spot all night. Even if you were not a Kobe fan, you could not help but enjoy watching someone become so lost in the game that every movement made seemed effortless. For most of Bryant’s time on the floor, he sagged off defenders and even stayed on one end of the court for 5 consecutive possessions. At one point, James Harden crossed over Kobe causing the crowd to roar with excitement. One fan even yelled out, “Take it easy on the old man, James!!”
Kobe finished the game with 23 points (not bad for the old man). The Black Mamba turned back the clock with his performance. Witnessing Bryant drain 3’s and perform his signature fist-pump was a priceless moment. The Mamba even made a 3-pointer in Harden’s face. Kobe did not hold back at all.
In the final minute of the game, I accepted the fact that Kobe was leaving the game for good. I became very grateful that I saw him (in person) play during the championship years with Shaquille O’Neal and his final season in LA.
After the buzzer sounded, I met with a good friend from college (Tony Davis) who was also at the game (big Kobe fan, too). Unbeknownst to me, my friend had floor access after the Rockets game in which we could mix and mingle with the players. We reached the tunnel outside of the Lakers’ locker room and waited on the players to come out.
As I sat in the third row of section 105, I met Los Angeles’ Brandon Bass, Jordan Clarkson, Head Coach Byron Scott, Ron Artest, Roy Hibbert, Robert Black, and Houston’s Corey Brewer and Marcus Thornton. Plus, Clyde Drexler walked right in front of us heading into the Lakers’ tunnel. While talking to my friend’s nephew, he received numerous texts and pics of my friend with different players. All we could do was laugh and live in the moment of being surrounded by current and future NBA legends. My friend Tony even grabbed a picture with the Black Mamba, himself. It was a good night.
More pics from the game: