The end of the “Mamba” era

DANDAN BANTUGAN COLUMN

Reports said fans’ final vision of Kobe Bryant in a purple and gold uniform was like many before as the Lakers’ legend scored a spectacular 60 points in his farewell NBA game.
The third-leading scorer in NBA history, hit in recent years by injuries that made too many of his final contests a struggle, completed his glorious 20-year career with the style that made him a five-time NBA champion.
The 37-year-old showed the tenacity, toughness and talent that made him one of the all-time greats in basketball history. And unlike many games this season, Bryant’s heroics helped to bring victory. The Lakers trailed the Utah Jazz for most of the night, but Bryant sparked the Lakers in the fourth quarter, rallying them single-handedly to a 101-96 win.
Bryant, who left the game with 4.1 seconds remaining, was swarmed on the court afterward by former teammates and coaches.
“I can’t believe how fast 20 years went by,” he told the Staples Center crowd after the game. Bryant thanked the Lakers’ fans, his teammates and his family.
He recalled how it was his dream to play for the Lakers, his favorite team growing up.
“You can’t write something better than this,” he said.
Bryant, who made 22 of 50 shots, laughed in his farewell speech because he’d been told for two decades to pass the ball.
On the last night, he said, his teammates were telling him: “Don’t pass it!”
Bryant, whom Magic Johnson referred to in a pregame ceremony as the greatest Laker, finished his speech with “Mamba out” — a reference to his nickname, “The Black Mamba” — a kiss, and a literal mic drop.
How great was Bryant on Wednesday? He outscored the Jazz in the fourth quarter 23-21. With his team trailing with just under six minutes to go, Bryant scored 17 consecutive points for his team.
Bryant got the ball with his team down 1 point and 40 seconds remaining. It was a scene NBA fans have seen so many times before. Bryant dribbled the ball upcourt, surveyed the defense, headed to his left then reversed course to use a screen. With his man respecting Bryant’s ability to drive, the legend pulled up from just inside the 3-point line with 31 seconds remaining.
As soon as the ball left his shooting hand he knew it, the Jazz knew it, 19,000 Lakers fans knew it and the growing TV audience knew it.
Quintessential Kobe. He knocked it down. Another game-winner for a highlight reel full of mesmerizing moments.

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