Kobe Bryant Dazzles in Final D.C. Appearance
No. 24… The owner of this uniform number is a legend. Not just in his contributions to the Lakers and the L.A. community but with the tremendous impact he has had on the National Basketball Association. Since 1996, Kobe Bryant has been wowing audiences with his skills while leading his team to five NBA championships. With his announcement to retire at the end of the season via a poem in The Player’s Tribune last month, a frenzy began.
Fans could be heard grumbling on their way to the recent game between the Washington Wizards and the L.A. Lakers:
“If only we had bought our tickets before Kobe made the announcement… they wouldn’t have been four times as expensive!”
To no one’s surprise, the Verizon Center was home to a sold out crowd despite skyrocketing prices as the reality set in for both Washington and Los Angeles fans that this would be Kobe’s final game in Washington D.C.
The Lakers created separation early in the game with an unexpected display of energy considering it was their fourth game in five nights. With 7:36 remaining in the second quarter, the scoreboard read Wizards 30, Lakers 45. Washington seemed to have several communication breakdowns during the first half, leading to missed rebounds and turnovers. Those turnovers proved very costly as the game progressed.
During halftime, 7’-7’’ former Washington Bullets center Gheorghe Muresan could be seen greeting fans. Many former players were in attendance to watch the monumental game.
The Wizards struggled collectively to hit their shots in the third quarter. They had a lot of opportunities to score but had trouble finishing.
With six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and the game tied at 87, the crowd erupted in a chant of ‘Let’s go Lakers!’ The energy in the stadium as Bryant hit a nothing-but-net three-pointer with 5:60 minutes remaining was overwhelming in its power. Fans looked as though they could literally feel the ground beneath them shake.
After a timeout, Wizards All-Star guard John Wall attempted a pass that was decisively intercepted by the Lakers. Teammate Bradley Beal was forced to foul with 20 seconds remaining. L.A. hit both free throws to take the lead by four, 101-105.
Wall hit a quick off-the-dribble three-pointer. Unfortunately the last minute effort was too late. With seven seconds remaining in the game, the clock wound down and the fans again erupted in ‘Kobe… Kobe… Kobe!’
Bryant finished the game with 31 points. Fans on that night were treated to a Kobe Bryant reminiscent of some of his best days on the court. With the way the crowd roared, the arena felt more like a home game for the Lakers than the home stadium of the Wizards at times. L.A. Head Coach Byron Scott did not mind it.
“The fans were great to us,” he said of the strange dynamics in the Verizon Center. “They were hollering not only ‘Kobe,’ but ‘Lakers.’ That’s different.”
The energy and excitement of the crowd throughout the whole contest truly spoke to the reverence and admiration that fans have for Bryant and the impact he has had in the world of sports. Fortunately for NBA fans, there is still time to see the future Hall-of-Famer in the coming months before he plays his last game.
“I think he will have a whole lot more like this before it’s all said and done,” Scott said of his All-Star MVP’s breakout game against the Wizards.