One last time, Kobe Bryant suited up and sat on the away bench at Staples Center, as the Los Angeles Lakers took on the LA Clippers on Tuesday night in downtown Los Angeles.
To commemorate the occasion, the Clippers introduced Bryant as the last player for the visitors and played a video honoring the 20-year Lakers guard. The video appeared on the big screen prior to the 37-year-old hearing his name in the starting lineup on the Clippers' P.A. system for the last time.
Clippers Paul Pierce and Chris Paul appeared in the video and shared their respect for Bryant. In 2008, Bryant claimed his only Most Valuable Player award over Paul, who finished second in the voting. That same season, Pierce's Boston Celtics beat Bryant's Lakers in the NBA Finals, though Bryant would get his revenge two years later.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers coached the Boston Celtics during those duels against Bryant, and he shared the difference between Bryant in 2008 and Bryant in 2010.
"Emotional," Bryant responded when asked about the tribute after the game. "It's crazy think how far this [Clippers] organization has come itself from when I first came into the league to where they are now."
Bryant added, "It's pretty cool for them to give me that type of tribute and it felt good."
After the tribute, Bryant acknowledged the cheering fans, whom then responded with "Kobe! Kobe!" chants to serenade the retiring superstar. Bryant would sit out the fourth quarter, but fans continued to cheer for the LA sports icon until the final buzzer, and Paul came to center court to greet Bryant on behalf of the Clippers after the game.
The Clippers handily beat the Lakers on Tuesday, but these two teams will meet again on Wednesday night with the Lakers holding court. For Bryant, Wednesday night will be his penultimate home game.