How Kobe Bryant spent his last moments as a Laker after epic finale – USA TODAY

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As his career winds down, Kobe Bryant sits down and reminisces with veteran basketball writer Steve Springer, sharing memories from throughout Kobe’s career with the Lakers.

LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant just couldn’t let go.

Even after 20 seasons and scoring 60 points Wednesday night in the final game of his NBA career, a 101-96 victory over the Utah Jazz at Staples Center, Bryant wasn’t ready to say goodbye.

Not just yet.

After the final buzzer, he embraced former teammates courtside, including Shaquille O’Neal, Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom and Rick Fox.

Bryant addressed the sellout crowd, some of whom had paid exorbitant ticket prices to sit in on history. One buyer shelled out $27,500 to get a seat through StubHub, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“I can’t believe it’s come to an end,” Bryant told the fans. “You guys will always be in my heart.”

In the locker room, he told his now ex-teammates on a club that finished 17-65, “You guys have got to figure this out. The most important thing is that you work together. I gave my soul to this game. If you don’t give all you’ve got, you’ll regret it.”

Normally, when Bryant addresses the news media, he has already showered and changed into street clothes. This time, he sat down for his press conference still wearing his jersey, soaked in sweat and the champagne he had been doused with in the locker room. He admitted he couldn’t take the jersey off.

Not just yet.

It wasn’t only Bryant who was filled with emotion.

“I’ve had a lump in my throat since Monday,” said Laker president Jeanie Buss. “This is so bittersweet. I wish my dad (Jerry Buss, who died in 2013) could have been here. He would have been so proud.”

Fox marveled at Bryant’s performance Wednesday night, but said it wasn’t totally unexpected in his mind.

“I saw what I had hoped I would see,” Fox said. “That’s the magic of Kobe. He wasn’t going to take the easy way out into retirement.”

After Bryant grudgingly removed his uniform, showered and dressed, he still didn’t leave the arena.

Not just yet.

With the clock striking midnight on his career and the Staples Center clock, Bryant, his wife, Vanessa, and daughters, Natalia Diamante and Gianna Maria, walked out on the court, empty by then except for team officials, security personnel and reporters. They strolled around, took pictures with family and friends and exchanged a lot of hugs. Bryant walked over to his jersey number, 24, emblazoned on the Staples Center floor, took a marker and wrote “Laker for life’ on it.

And then, finally, at 12:20, Kobe left the building.

If he held true to his promise, he didn’t sleep in Thursday. Instead he started the first day of his new life as a documentarian, “story telling,” as he describes it.

No well-earned rest after 20 years of pro basketball for him, not even for 24 hours. That could lead to “a slippery slope,” according to Bryant.

“I have to do this,” he said. “I have to get into a new routine so that I wake up with a sense of purpose.”

Finally, Staples Center was in his rear-view mirror.


How Kobe Bryant spent his last moments as a Laker after epic finale – USA TODAY

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