In a shower of purple and gold, Kobe Bryant has left the court
Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant gave his final performance to a sold-out arena Wednesday night, scoring 60 points, as his 20-year NBA career came to a close.
Jae C. Hong/AP
One of basketball's greatest ever players, Kobe Bryant, played the final game of his 20-year NBA career Wednesday, helping his Los Angeles Lakers team clinch a victory from the grasp of the Utah Jazz.
Described on the night by fellow Lakers legend Magic Johnson as "the greatest" to ever wear the purple and gold, Bryant alone outscored the Jazz in the fourth quarter by 23-21, stunning the crowd in this much-anticipated farewell match.
He played to a sold-out arena, with tickets on the secondary market ranging from about $700 to $10,000, the most expensive one reportedly having been snatched up for $27,500.
"Man, I can't believe how fast 20 years went by," said Bryant, addressing the crowd from center court once the game was done. "It's crazy, absolutely crazy to be standing here on the same court with you guys, with my team mates behind me.
"All I can do here is thank you guys for all the years of support, all the years of inspiration. This has been unbelievable. I can't believe it has come to an end," Bryant told the spectators, according to Reuters, before he was showered by a storm of purple and gold confetti.
But the night began with that other Lakers great, Magic Johnson, standing at center court, speaking to the legions of Lakers fans.
"We are here to celebrate greatness," said Johnson, "For 20 years, excellence. For 20 years, Kobe Bryant has never cheated the game, he has never cheated us as fans.
"He has played through injury, he has played hurt and we have five championships banners to show for it."
But Bryant refused to accept Johnson's accolade of being the Lakers' greatest ever player, responding by saying that Johnson was his "hero" and will "always be No. 1."
While this season has not been the Lakers' finest, Bryant put on a spectacular show for his final appearance, attempting 50 shots, more than any other NBA player in the past 30 seasons, scoring a season high of 60 points, and leading the charge as his team came from behind to snatch victory.
"He shot. He shot some more. He kept shooting," wrote Bill Plaschke for the Los Angeles Times. "Shots from the courtside seats, from underneath the basket, on wild drives, off crazy dribbles, back to the basket, feet in the air, hands in his face, shooting forever."
There were tributes from other NBA greats, teammates and opponents alike, such as LeBron James and Pau Gasol, and from stars of the music world including Snoop Dogg, Taylor Swift, and Justin Timberlake.
Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist, Flea, played the national anthem in the style of Jimi Hendrix.
Hollywood legend Jack Nicholson wrapped up one of the video tributes: "You have been an inspiration to us all and LA loves you."
Material from Reuters was used in this report.