"If you had a chance to watch and just a chance to watch him do things on his own, you'd say to yourself, 'this is a savant,'" Jerry West, the logo of the NBA and the man who drafted Kobe Bryant, said at a special farewell press conference in Oakland in January. "He happened to be a basketball player."
"He couldn't sit still," West said of the young 17-year-old phenomenon prior to the 1996 draft, where Bryant would be drafted at No. 13. "They show pictures on TV where there's a storm and electrical flames are down, they're going all over the place, jumping, making sparks. That's who he was. You could see that."
West added, emphatically, "He was really special."
On Wednesday, Bryant ends his 20-year love affair with Basketball by appearing in his 1,566th NBA game—regular season and playoffs. In all, Bryant has logged 57,253 minutes of NBA basketball at the highest level, which calculates out to 954 hours and 13 minutes on the court. For two decades, Bryant has been the most recognizable basketball star on the planet.
The man who gave Los Angeles parades down Figueroa Street gets his own downtown LA celebration on Wednesday night. The Lakers have organized a Fan Fest at LA Live with Bryant's five championship trophies on display, along with ticket giveaways and photo opportunities with the Laker girls from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
According to the LA Times earlier in the week, the team expects about 30 of Bryant's former teammates, including Shaquille O’Neal, Robert Horry and Rick Fox to be in attendance, though one is not entirely certain if those former Lakers will be part of any special ceremony honoring Bryant's contributions to the franchise and their careers.
Lakers vice-president of public relations John Black, who has served the team for several decades, was quoted regarding the demand for media credentials, "Is it NBA Finals levels? Yes. It might be even bigger than that."
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Black told NBCLA.com that about 450 to 500 media members had been credentialed for the game, with roughly the same number denied entry.
Celebrity requests have also arrived non-stop, as this is the hottest ticket in Los Angeles. ESPN may have bumped Bryant's final game to ESPN2 because of the Golden State Warriors' chase for 73 wins, but one would expect that at least Bryant's pregame farewell festivities should draw notably more national interest than the first quarter of the Warriors hosting the Memphis Grizzlies.
NBCLA.com has confirmed that the Lakers will start the pregame show at 7:25 p.m., so this is one game where being fashionably late is not the way to go. Also, sources tell NBCLA.com that Earvin "Magic" Johnson will address the crowd prior to the game.
Bryant may get his wish of avoiding an elaborate on-court gift ceremony, but Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers will play a rock-and-roll instrumental national anthem. Following the musical arrangement, the Lakers expect to play an extended video tribute to honor their retiring superstar.
Sources told NBCLA.com that the Lakers have planned an array of tribute videos throughout the night to honor, arguably, the greatest player in the illustrious history of the franchise. Lakers coach also Byron Scott hinted that there could be something planned postgame, but the veteran coach refused to share further details at Wednesday morning's shootaround.
With regards to the actual game against the Utah Jazz, Scott revealed that Bryant will play the first 10 minutes, or possibly even the entire first quarter, before taking his first rest of the game. Considering Bryant is averaging 14 points in the first quarter over his past three games, the crowd could be in for an early scoring exhibition that further adds to the atmosphere.
"I don't know how Wednesday night is going to go, but I think it's going to be chaotic and it's going to be crazy," Scott said on Monday in Oklahoma City. "He'll play more probably in that game than he has all season long."
Bryant's season-high for minutes in a game is 37 minutes, but the 37-year-old has only topped 30 minutes three times since the All-Star break in mid-February. With no more games on the calendar or in Bryant's career, Scott said he will check in with Bryant at halftime and determine the player's level of involvement for the second half based on the feedback.
As has often been the case in Bryant's career, he will essentially make the call on how many minutes he plays.
Considering the price of entry, one would expect fans in attendance will stay rooted to their seats regardless of the score. When Bryant earns his inevitable curtain call, the electricity in the building, if harnessed, could probably power the entire city for another two decades.
When the final buzzer sounds, a standing ovation is the minimum expectation from all in attendance, and the hints of a postgame ceremony further add to the allure of not leaving early.
If all goes according to plan, Bryant will walk off the court and into the locker room one last time under his own power at the end of the night. If all goes better than planned, Bryant will record his 135th 40-point game. Bryant scored 35 points in Houston on Sunday, so reaching 40 is not exactly far-fetched fiction.
Regardless of how well he plays or how long he plays against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center, Bryant's historic career will finally conclude on Wednesday, April 13, 2016: "Mamba Day."