Bryant enjoys fitting farewell from NBA with Lakers
HOLLYWOOD could not have scripted Kobe Bryant's NBA farewell to Lakers fans any better than the 37-year-old did when he farewelled them with a memorable 60-point game and a last-gasp win against Utah Jazz in LA today.
Drafted into a team he had idolised as a kid growing up 20 years ago, Bryant played himself to a standstill with a 36-point second half and a game-winning 23-point final quarter in the amazing 101-96 victory.
It mattered not to the packed Staple Center crowd that their idol "stunk it up" by missing the first of his 50 shots - they cheered him every time he touched the ball.
It was Bryant's sixth 60-point haul of his career and a special thank you to his Los Angeles fans that only dreams are made of.
He was so spent that in the dying seconds, sucking in gulps of air, that he barely had to strength to throw an outlet pass to a teammate.
All his energy had been used up bringing the Lakers back from being 10 points down in the final two minutes for a victory that will hold a special pride and place in the club's great history.
Bryant may have retired with less points than all-time Lakers record-holder Kareem Abdul Jabbar, but in the eyes of many fans he will be remembered at the best player in its history.
The Staple Center was packed with royalty from former NBA legends to Hollywood movie stars and coaching NBA greats.
Bryant didn't disappoint a single one of them.
After the win he addressed the sold-out crowd, thanking them for their unwavering support during his career.
"I grew up a diehard, I mean a diehard Laker fan," said an emotional Bryant as his wife, Vanessa, and two daughters fought back tears.
"I knew everything about every player that ever played here. To be drafted and then traded to this great organisation and to spend 20 years here... man you can't write anything better than this.
"I more proud, not about the championships (he won five), but about the down years, because we never ran, we played through all that stuff and got our championships, we done it the right way.
"All I can do is thank you all of you guys for inspiration and motivation."
Bryant broke out into laughter on court when he told fans he found his last game funny because for 20 years of playing for them they had been screaming out "pass the ball".
"Tonight they were all screaming like 'don't pass it'," he said.
"It cracked me up.
"I can't believe it's come to an end and 20 years has flown by so fast, it's crazy.
"No words can describe how I feel about you fans, I love you guys."
Asked what he felt he'd leave after he took off his Lakers uniform for the last time, Bryant paused and said: "my heart and soul"
"I gave everything I possibly could to the game that's why I am so comfortable walking away from it.
"I bared my soul to this game. There's no stone left unturned, I left it all here."
The great Magic Johnson gave a pre-game address before Bryant's stunning farewell.
"He never cheated us as fans," he said. "He has played hurt, and we have five championship banners to show for it."
Johnson then introduced a moving video tribute featuring messages from Shaquille O'Neal, Derek Fisher, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Gregg Popovich, Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Kevin Garnett, Phil Jackson and one of his biggest fans, Hollywood actor Jack Nicholson, who said he might retire along with him.
Thanks for the wonderful memories Kobe.