After an achievement-filled 20-year career, Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant stepped foot into the Staples Center on Wednesday, April 13 for the final basketball game of his professional career.
Throughout his career, the Black Mamba set a number of records including becoming the third highest scorer in the NBA, becoming the first player in the league’s history to play 20 seasons with the same team, becoming the youngest player to score 33,000 points at 37 years old, and scoring 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in 2006 – the second most points in a game.
His farewell game against the Utah Jazz was no exception. He walked off the court having taken 50 shots and scoring 60 points, 23 of which were in the fourth quarter.
In the end, the Lakers defeated the Jazz, 101-96.
“I can’t believe it’s come to an end,” Bryant, 37, told his fans at the sold-out Staples Center. “You guys will always be in my heart.”
After the final buzzer, the five-time NBA champion embraced former teammates courtside, including Shaquille O’Neal, Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom and Rick Fox.
“I saw what I had hoped I would see,” Fox said, according to USA Today. “That’s the magic of Kobe. He wasn’t going to take the easy way out into retirement.”
Along with his basketball records, Bryant’s final game came with a single-day sales record for any arena in the world. The Staples Center also sold $1.2 million worth of Kobe merchandise on Wednesday alone, Sean Ryan, AEG vice president of merchandise, told ESPN.
Tickets for the game also hit higher than normal prices. Courtside tickets for the game sold as high as $27,500 each, an amount one fan paid through StubHub, the Los Angeles Times reported. Prices for these tickets are typically $1,000 to $2,000, according to ABC News.
Bryant, who was drafted into the NBA at the age of 17, announced his retirement in November 2015, saying that although his heart and mind are willing and able to continue, “this season is all I have left to give… My body knows it is time to say goodbye.”
The Lakers finished 17-65 in Bryant’s final season. At the close, he spoke to his now former teammates in the locker room.
“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 it all you’ve got, you’ll regret it,” he said, USA Today reported.
What lies next for Bryant has yet to be confirmed, but sources including FOX and Forbes have suggested the NBA legend may pursue international business or media, noting his brand has endured and is expected to continue beyond his retirement. He also still has endorsement deals with Nike and Chinese tech company Lenovo, among others.
Forbes reported in 2015 that Bryant had started a storytelling company, and USA Today reported that he was set to begin his new life as a documentarian on Thursday, April 14.
“I have to do this,” he said, USA Today reported. “I have to get into a new routine so that I wake up with a sense of purpose.”