Kobe Bryant admitted he had an agenda of his own as the emotional preparation for his final NBA game got underway on Wednesday night.
Bryant swaggered into the Staples Center ahead of the Lakers’ clash with the Utah Jazz, dressed all in black, and spoke briefly before entering the home locker room to prepare for his last hardwood steps of his career.
Meanwhile, the finishing touches were being put to an expansive ceremony that will see the Lakers say goodbye to a player who was a shining light for the franchise for nearly two decades, securing five championships in the process.
“I see all the stuff with ‘Thank You Kobe’,” Bryant said, referring to the countless signs dotted around the building and the city center. “But I see it a bit different. I see it as a chance for me to say thank you and to say goodbye to (the fans). I am looking forward to that.”
Even two hours before tip-off, the streets surrounding Staples Center were packed with fans eager to get one last glimpse of the 37-year-old. Tickets were spiking to extraordinary levels. Online ticket marketplace StubHub had only one pair of seats available for less than four figures at 6pmPT, two tickets in the nosebleeds offered for $750 apiece.
“Whatever you have to pay it is worth it,” Lakers fan Steven Christoldoulou told USA TODAY Sports. “I have seen that guy a hundred times in my life – and he has given me some of the happiest memories in sports that I can think of. No one was going to keep me away.”
The Lakers ownership, headed by members of the Buss family, were expected to present Bryant with a special gift on the court before the game. Bryant himself was set to make a speech for the fans at the end of the game.
Source: USA TODAY