On Feb. 21, 2016, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers played his last game against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center (UC) in Chicago, Ill. The Lakers fell short to the Bulls with a score of 126-115. Although the UC was filled with Bulls fans, many of those fans wore Bryant’s no. 24 Lakers jersey to say farewell to the NBA legend.
Prior to the start of the game, the Bulls played a special tribute video during the pregame introductions. Derrick Rose, Chicago’s starting point guard, referred to Bryant as the Michael Jordan of his generation in the video. Chicago’s starting center Pau Gasol, who was Bryant’s teammate in Los Angeles for six years (2008-14), narrated the video of his former teammate’s career highlights, as the retiring player’s name was called in the pregame starting lineups. Fans chanted “Kobe! Kobe!” and he was also welcomed by a standing ovation. During Bryant’s NBA Farewell Tour, he received similar tribute videos during the pregame introductions, but he stated that this one was special because “it’s where Jordan, [his] idol, played for so long.”
The Bulls and Lakers played a close game, but the Bulls did not go easy on Bryant. Rose scored 24, seven rebounds, and six assists. E’Twaun Moore also scored 24 points, had four rebounds, and one assist. Gasol had 21 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, and Doug McDermott added 16 points. Bobby Portis and Mike Dunleavy scored 17 points each, and Taj Gibson scored five points, four assists, and eight rebounds.
The Lakers’ starters contributed, but could not keep up with the Bulls. D’Angelo Russel scored 15 points, two rebounds, and six assists. Roy Hibbert scored six points and had three rebounds. Jordan Clarkson played the most time (37 minutes) and scored 20 points, had nine rebounds, and four assists. Julius Randle scored 22 points and had 12 rebounds.
Bryant said goodbye to Chicago and in his 27 minutes of being in the game, he finished with 22 points and had four rebounds. During the second half of the game, he scored two back-to-back jump shots that tied the score at 66. The Bulls responded quickly and scored eight straight points putting them in the lead at 74-66. At the end of the third quarter, the score was 98-81.
The Lakers kept Bryant on the bench for the majority of the fourth quarter. They made a scoring run and brought them to as close as three points, with a score of 108-105. Bryant checked back into the game with 3:08 minutes left on the clock, as the Lakers trailed at 117-110. He checked out for the last time at the UC with 45.3 seconds left in the game. Bryant received a standing ovation and fans chanted, “Kobe! Kobe!” one last time as he said goodbye to Chicago.
At the end of the game, Gibson and Dunleavy approached Bryant while he said goodbye to the team and he also found his way to Gasol. In Los Angeles, the two players won two NBA Championships together in 2009 and 2010. They both played under Head Coach Phil Jackson. Jackson coached the Lakers from 1999-2011, and he coached the Chicago Bulls from 1987-1998. He had the opportunity to coach Michael Jordan during this time. Combined, Jackson won 11 NBA Championships.
A few months ago, Bryant announced his decision to retire at the end of the season. This will also mark his 20th Anniversary in the NBA. He was drafted into the NBA in 1996, at the age of 18, in the first round by the Charlotte Hornets and picked 13th overall. However, he was quickly traded to the Lakers. In his 20-year-career, he made history, while staying loyal to the Lakers. The two-time Olympic National Team player, seven-time NBA All-Star, two-time NBA Finals MVP, and five-time NBA champion, has had an historic, iconic, and eventful run during his career. He has entertained basketball fans worldwide.
By Tricia Manalansan
Edited by Jeanette Smith & Cathy Milne
ESPN: Bulls beat Lakers 126-115 to spoil Kobe’s Chicago farewell
Chicago Tribune: Kobe Bryant says goodbye while Derrick Rose continues to say hello again
USA Today: Kobe Bryant reflects on Michael Jordan, nearly joining Bulls in Chicago finale
Image Courtesy of Dale Chumbley’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License