American professional basketball player, Kobe Bryant, played his final game of his 20-year career on Wednesday night, ending the era with 60 points on 22-for-50 shooting in a 101-96 Lakers victory over the Utah Jazz at the Staples Center.
The 37-year-old who has played his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA), finished with five championships, and an 18 All-Star game appearances.
Inside the arena, a sold-out crowd graced with a host of celebrities and former teammates, cheered him every time Bryant scored during his 42 minutes spell, serenaded by “Kobe! Kobe! Kobe!” chants.
Bryant attempted 50 shots – the most taken by anyone in an NBA game in the past 30 seasons, It was the sixth 60-point game of his career and marked the most points scored by a player in his final regular-season game. No Hall of Famer reached 30 points in his final game.
“I can’t believe how fast 20 years went by. Man, this is crazy,” Bryant said while addressing the crowd after the game.
“This is absolutely crazy … and to be standing at center court with you guys, my teammates behind me, appreciating the journey that we’ve been on — we’ve been through our ups, been through our downs. I think the most important part is we all stayed together throughout.
“You can’t write something better than this,” he said about growing up a die-hard Laker fan and the trade that led to him spending his entire career with the team and winning five NBA championships.
“Because we didn’t run. We played through all that stuff, and we got our championships, and we did it the right way.
“What’s funny — the thing that had me cracking up all night long — the fact that I go through 20 years of everybody screaming to pass the ball, and then the last night they’re like, ‘Don’t pass it!
“All I can do here is thank you guys,” he told the crowd.
“Thank you guys for all the years of support. Thank you guys for all the motivation. Thank you for all the inspiration.
“What can I say? Mamba out,” Bryant ended his long speech with a smile.
As the five-time champions stepped out of the court, his team mates sprayed him with Champagne, to which he responded: “They only do that for championships.”
“He never cheated us as fans,” Lakers icon Magic Johnson said as he addressed fans before the game.
“He has played hurt, and we have five championship banners to show for it.”
Johnson then introduced a moving tribute video that featured messages from a host of former and current legends of the NBA, from Shaquille O’Neal, Derek Fisher, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, Gregg Popovich, Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Kevin Garnett, Phil Jackson and Jack Nicholson.