Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant announced on Sunday that he would retire from the NBA at the end of this season.
Bryant's first game after his retirement announcement will be tonight when his Lakers take the floor in his hometown against the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center.
"It's gonna be beautiful," Bryant, a 17-time All Star and former league MVP, said of his final NBA homecoming. "So much of my game was developed in Philadelphia, playing at Lower Merion High School for Coach (Gregg) Downer and playing in the Sonny Hill League and playing at [Overbrook's] Tuston Playground and Ardmore Playground. Just so many great memories there."
In 31 career regular-season games against the Sixers, Bryant has averaged 23.6 points. In 16 career regular-season games in Philadelphia, Bryant has averaged 22.9 points per game.
His best game in his hometown came on Dec. 20, 2002 when he recorded 44 points, 10 assists and four rebounds in a 107-104 loss to the Sixers.
Despite his memories in Philadelphia, the 37-year-old Bryant has historically had an icy relationship with city's fans.
The five-time NBA champion won his second title when the Lakers bested league MVP Allen Iverson and the Sixers in the 2001 NBA Finals in five games.
Leading up to that series, Bryant let it be known to Sixers fans that he was going to "cut their hearts out." He went on to average 24.6 points that series and dropped 26 points in the title-clinching Game 5 on the Wells Fargo Center court.
In 2012, Bryant said he would never apologize for saying, "I'm going to come kick some ass."
Bryant returned to Philadelphia less than a year after the 2001 Finals for the 2002 NBA All-Star Game and received a hearty round of boos from the locals when he stood at center court postgame to receive the first of his four All-Star Game MVP trophies after scoring a game-high 31 points.
Both the 2-14 Lakers and 0-18 Sixers are struggling mightily heading into Tuesday night's game, and so is Bryant. Coming off injuries that held him to just 41 games over the past two seasons, Bryant, who has averaged 25.3 points per game over his 20-year career, is averaging just 15.5 points per game this season.
Those facts aside, Bryant is still very much looking forward to stepping on the hardwood one last time in Philadelphia as an NBA player.
"It's going to be a very, very special moment," he said.