The two worst teams in the NBA played on a Tuesday evening, as the Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour officially left the station: First stop - Philadelphia.
"It's going to be beautiful," Bryant had said about playing in his hometown of Philadelphia during his post-game retirement press conference on Sunday night. And it was.
Bryant came out to loud cheers and one heck of an introduction from the Philadelphia 76ers: "A 17-time NBA All-Star, third-highest scorer in NBA history, the 2008 MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP, five-time NBA champion, a 6-6 guard from Lower Merion High School, where he won the title in 1996, No. 24, Kobeeee Bryyy-aaaant."
Then, the Sixers presented Bryant with an in-arena video celebrating his 20 years in the NBA, including a reference to how he beat Philadelphia in the 2001 NBA Finals.
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Not yet done celebrating the native son born in the "City of Brotherly Love" back on Aug. 23, 1978, Philadelphia brought out Julius "Dr. J" Erving and Bryant's high school coach to present the 20-year pro with a framed No. 24 Lower Marion High School jersey at mid-court.
"They got me," a clearly moved Bryant said in a tan-colored suit and black tie (on TWC SportsNet). "I wasn't expecting type of reaction and ovation. And it was emotional for me. (I'm) deeply appreciative beyond belief. It was really, really special."
Yup, the farewell tour is on and in full effect.
"You can't script this stuff; I can't, " Bryant said after the game and called it the greatest moment he had ever experienced in that building. "The amount of respect, appreciation and adoration I have for this city, and to have this moment here just means everything to me."
When the game finally got going, though, Bryant held up his end of the deal. He made his first shot, a straight-away three. Then, he made his second shot, another three. He missed his third shot, another three-point attempt, but the Lakers got an offensive rebound and managed to get No. 24 the ball back in a hurry. He shot again and made it. Each time he sunk a bucket, the crowd went mad.
Bryant's fifth shot turned out to be an air-ball, but that hardly seemed to matter at that point. Even if he missed the next 20 shots, Bryant had given the crowd its money's worth. When he went to the bench after eight minutes with a team-leading 13 points to his name, the 37-year-old couldn't contain his joy and broke out a wide boyish smile.
This was fun. He was having fun. The fans were having fun. Immediately, the team records didn't matter.
Bryant missed 18 of his final 22 shots, the Lakers blew a 14-point lead, the previously 0-18 Philadelphia 76ers got their first win and LA fell to 2-15 on the season. Still, all of that didn't matter by the time Bryant arrived at the podium.
When the game ended, the crowd could be heard chanting "Kobe, Kobe" and Bryant acknowledged the cheers and love showering down from the rafters. Clearly, Bryant's farewell tour is not about wins or losses, but instead, it's about the line of opposing players waiting for a hug and a handshake after the game, because the players are fans, too.
The crowd is chanting "Kobe! Kobe! Kobe!" and gives him a standing ovation as each 76ers player and coach comes over to give him a hug. — Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) December 2, 2015
"I couldn’t ask for anything better," Bryant said, before quickly adding, "Other than winning the game."