It’s been five years since Kobe Bryant’s 60-point farewell against the Utah Jazz. It’s been five years, and DeMar DeRozan – the Spurs’ star who grew up idolizing Bean – still can’t get his head around it.
Thinking about it now, I still can’t help it. I have to smile. It was just perfect.DeMar DeRozan, LA Times
He was with the Raptors at the time, enjoying a night off while his team was getting ready to face the Brooklyn Nets, having already secured a playoff spot. Instead of cheering his group through what was a meaningless regular-season game in April, DeRozan chose to spend his evening watching his friend go to work one last time.
I stood in front of my TV in Toronto, my hands on my head, my eyes getting wider by the second. I thought Kobe would do something special. But … I mean, come on … who does THIS? I’d known Kobe a long time. I knew how hurt he was, how tired he had to be. Sixty points is crazy. Fifty shots are crazier.DeMar DeRozan, LA Times
Athletes don’t go out like that — especially when they’re 37, playing their 20th season, coming off two major injuries. But Kobe wasn’t your regular athlete. Despite that season being extremely hard on the Lakers legend – not being able to play in back-to-backs, dealing with losing, having the pressure of putting on one last show for the fans on the road – DeRozan knew he was going to do something spectacular. But Kobe went above and beyond.
Remember Michael Jordan’s last game, when his team was losing and the fans were all rooting for him to go back in the game? Jordan mostly just stood up and waved. So many of the guys I’ve been fans of, when they retire, they just kind of go out quietly. This was different. This was like an “Avengers” movie.DeMar DeRozan, LA Times
Kobe’s farewell performance perfectly epitomized him as a player. He overshot, took some bad shots, and didn’t exactly get his teammates involved. But he never compromised effort. Even when he had trouble walking, Kobe pushed himself. And with the Jazz up 12 with just over 3 minutes left on the clock, he gave it his all, rallying the Lakers from a 15-point deficit before checking out for good.
That’s why, ten, twenty years from now, if you want to display the greatness of Black Mamba, his final game should do it. And that in and of itself is amazing. That’s why, five years later, I also can’t get my head around it. NBA players don’t usually go out that way. But Kobe Bryant was never about the usual.