Listening to the final seconds tick off the clock as the Lakers defeated the Wizards 108-104, you wouldn’t have been able to tell whether the game was at the Verizon Center or Staples Center. DC fans showed up to show Kobe Bryant some love as he played in the Verizon Center for the final time of his career. Bryant announced earlier in the week he will retire at the end of this season, making every Lakers game from here on out a draw despite the Lakers (and Kobe) playing subpar basketball. That was, of course, until last night, when Kobe decided to have his best game of the season against the Wizards.
Kobe scored a season high 31 points on 10-24 shooting, and he capped off the performance with a vintage Kobe step back jumper to give the Lakers the lead in the final minute of the game. Kobe, in the midst of his worst statistical year in his NBA career, is averaging a career low 16.8 points per game on 31% shooting from the field. But, against the Wizards, Kobe showed up. “He decided to be the young Kobe tonight. Hats off to him. This is probably the best he’s played this year and it had to be against us. But again, that’s the greatness of who he is” added Wizard’s coach Randy Wittman.
After the game, reporters asked Kobe if his retirement announcement may have sparked his best game of the year. “Absolutely. It’s much more relaxed. Just not in the back of my mind anymore. It is what it is now.”
After such a rough start to the season, it was nice to see Kobe show flashes of his former self. Kobe will go down as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, and it’s never fun to watch a legend struggle in their final years. Announcing his retirement could spark some interesting games as the year goes on. Can Kobe consistently put up 30 points a game? No, not anymore. But is Kobe still capable of scoring 30 points in a game and being clutch? Absolutely.
When Ray Lewis announced his retirement in the 2012 season, it helped spark a turnaround for the Ravens, and eventually lead them to a Super Bowl. Kobe’s situation is obviously much different, but I think it is similar in one way. The Lakers just went from playing meaningless games in another lost season to playing in Kobe’s farewell tour. The Lakers have a reason to play and work extra hard now, and while I don’t think that will translate to many wins, it certainly makes the Lakers much more interesting to watch the rest of the season. Kobe Bryant is a legend, and it would be nice to see him leave the game on a high note.