If I asked you what comes to mind when you think of April 13th, what would you say?

You might say nothing. You might say that it’s two days before the tax deadline. (Or five days in this calendar year, for some reason.)

Some may recall it being the day Sidney Poitier became the first black actor to win an Oscar for best actor.

Sports fans might recall it being the day that Hank Aaron made his MLB debut (1954) or that Tiger Woods became the youngest player to win a Masters (1997).

Thousands of people gathered outside of Staples Center to say goodbye to Kobe Bean Bryant on what was affectionately called “Mamba Day”, marking the very last time we would see the man who carried the weight of Los Angeles sports for so many years.

Some people got to Staples as early as 7 am in the morning. Facebook and Twitter had been a buzz all day. Snapchat even had a Mamba Day swipe screen on this day. Everyone was joining in on the celebration and everyone had an opinion, both good and bad. But either way, like Kobe’s career, it just is what it is. Either you loved him or you hated him. Hardly is there ever an in-between.

Moments before warm up, Kobe Bryant wiped moisture from his eyes, beat his chest two times and ran out onto the NBA basketball court for the very last time. The atmosphere was comparable to an NBA All-star game times five. Cameras flashing everywhere, arena rocking, smiles, tears, and nervous energy all around in anticipation of seeing Kobe one more time.

A packed house including celebrities like Jay-Z, Kanye West, David Beckham, and Flea (who played the National Anthem). Laker greats like Jamaal Wilkes, Shaquille O’Neal, Robert Horry, James Worthy, and Derek Fisher were in the building as well as a few ex teammates from his post-Shaq years (Brian Cook, Chris Mihm, DJ Mbenga, Ronnie Turiaf and others).

After a brief warm up, the crowd’s attention was drawn to a Kobe Tribute video that included a Mamba highlight reel mixed together with thank you’s from some of the NBA’s best including Kevin Durant, Lebron James,  and Phil Jackson.  Jack Nicholson ended the video saying he may retire with Kobe.

Then Magic took center court to thank Kobe, then the two embraced as Magic spoke some words into Kobe’s ear.

Another short tribute video was shown which featured Kobe’s current teammates describing what having Kobe as a teammate meant to them.

First quarter, both the Utah Jazz and L.A. Lakers came out flat, and Kobe missed his first four shots but after a mid range fade away helped him get his rhythm, he got hot. One last time. He made ‘The Mamba Face’ one last time. Bryant scored 15 first quarter points.

Utah led most of the game and although this game didn’t mean anything record-wise, it meant everything to Lakers fans and Kobe Bryant fans across the globe. His teammates encouraged him to shoot and shoot he did. He set an NBA record for hoisting up 50 field goal attempts, on his way to closing his career with his sixth 60 point game.

Not only did he score 60, he hit the game winner (a right elbow jump shot similar to his game winner in vs. Phoenix back in 2007). Talk about story book endings. Hollywood couldn’t have written it better.

Jack Nicholson joked before the game that he thought Kobe might go for 40. Shaq said that he told Kobe to go for 50. They were both wrong in a beautiful and right way, so to speak. Kobe pushed harder, passed what was ever expected of him. As he has always done.

Dyan Cannon said it perfectly when interviewed by TWC:

“..We watched Kobe grow up. I was there the night when he first brought his girlfriend, who then became his wife. Then his daughters. We got to see him mature as an athlete!”

Kobe wore a special Nike shoe with the date “4/13/16” on the back of the foot.

I will forever remember this day, not only in Lakers basketball history, or basketball history, but history period. Kobe will be remembered for his will, determination, drive, and work ethic.  We all can stand to have a little Kobe Bryant in us. As Lakers fans we have carried that in our DNA for the last 20 years.

It is very hard to let go. It is tough to say goodbye. But we cannot be selfish, we have seen him dedicate his whole life to this game. Now its time for us to say HELLO to the father and husband as he enjoys the things that he sacrificed so much for.

Happy Mamba Day!!  4-13-16

 

Tayrance Allen covers the Lakers/ NBA for MFST! You can follow him on Twitter @Twigganomics

 

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