We Went There: Kobe's last game in D.C.
Last night, I was lucky enough to get a ticket to see Kobe Bryant play his last game at the Verizon Center.
I bought the tickets a week in advance, mostly to see Kobe. I have seen my fair share of great players in the NBA -- Lebron, Durant, Duncan, Westbrook, Melo -- but I had never seen Kobe play. Even though Kobe is not the player he used to be, he’s the last of a dying breed. I had to see him in play in person.
On November 29th, Kobe announced that he would be retiring at the end of the year in a poem titled “Dear Basketball”.
And all of a sudden, the game got much more important. Kobe would never play a basketball game in DC ever again, and I had a ticket! My nosebleed seat probably tripled its worth as soon as he announced his retirement.
As I got off the Metro and walked towards the Verizon Center, I didn’t see many people in Wizards gear. Instead, there was a mass of purple and gold, with most people donning Kobe’s number 24. Heading into the stadium, it was the same thing -- everybody was wearing Lakers gear. I had never seen anything like this. Where were the Wizards fans? The atmosphere was so strange. It didn’t feel like a home game for the Wizards.
The game started, and everybody’s eyes were on Kobe. Everytime he touched the ball, the crowd would scream his name. Kobe went to work, hitting a handful of his trademark fadeaways. He’s had some terrible shooting games so far this year, and he had a significant cold stretch in the third quarter. He was taking bad shot after bad shot, and he was clearly forcing the issue. However, as Kobe usually does, he showed up in the fourth quarter.
Let me tell you, the fourth quarter of this game had to be the strangest quarter of basketball that I have ever seen. Chants of “Lets go Lakers” rang out, as well as “Kobe! Kobe! Kobe!” John Wall, the star point guard for the Wizards -- who was having a magnificent game -- was getting booed at the free throw line in his own arena! He finished with 35 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds, and apparently his mother was crying after the game because of the boos.
When the game was on the line, Kobe stepped up. With a minute left, and the Lakers down by one, the Lakers got the ball to Kobe, who hit a three to go up by two. After the Wizards answered quickly with a bucket of their own, the ball found itself back in Kobe’s hands. Kobe found himself isolated at the top of the key. He dribbled right, stepped back, and buried a jumper at the elbow that sent the Verizon Center into mayhem. The shot even brought me -- a diehard Celtics fan and a Kobe hater -- out of my seat. The Lakers would go on to win the game, 108-104.
As my friends and I began to leave the arena, we all agreed that the game felt weird. It felt like we were in Los Angeles, not Washington. I guarantee it’ll be like that almost everywhere Kobe plays this year.
As I said earlier, I’m a diehard Boston Celtics fan, so my memories of Kobe Bryant naturally are more negative than they are positive.
However, I’ll never forget this game. Kobe is nowhere close to the force that he used to be, but I saw Vintage Kobe on Wednesday night. He came up clutch when his team needed him, which he did time and time again in his career.
Kobe entered the league in 1996, the year I was born. I have not known the NBA without Kobe Bryant, and I can’t imagine the league without him. His farewell tour reminds me of Derek Jeter’s final season on the Yankees. He’ll get love from every arena that he plays in this year, as he should. The NBA will miss Kobe Bryant, and so will I. Kinda.
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