During the Los Angeles Lakers' 117-107 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night, Kobe Bryant managed only 11 minutes before his "hurting," "really, really achy" shoulder sidelined the superstar during his final trip to Denver.
However, Bryant managed to keep fans around him entertained and even took off his game shoes, signed the pair and handed them off to a couple kids in attendance before the final buzzer sounded.
"They earned them," Bryant said about the kids who received the priceless souvenirs. "We had a little contest going on. They wanted to know what the name of our pet dog was. So, I gave them a clue. I said, 'It was in a [Harry] Potter film.'"
According to Bryant, a competition ensued with a couple young ladies and a couple young boys. Every time they got a chance, the group of young fans would shout out a list of names from the films.
"And the deal was that if they got [the name right], I would give them my shoes," Bryant said with a gracious smile. "And so, they got it."
Great stuff RT @TheCauldron Kobe Bryant autographs his shoes on the bench, hands them to 2 young Lakers fans pic.twitter.com/tG4nwshgcp — CJ Fogler (@cjzero) March 3, 2016
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Bryant could also be seen signing jerseys as the clock wound down on the Lakers' loss, and despite not playing any of the second half, the 20-year professional sat on the bench, spoke to his teammates with pointed directions and remained more engaged than not. However, late in the game, the fans insisted on showering the eroding basketball player with love and attention, and Bryant took the time to return the favor with smiles and interactions.
Asked about how it felt to be adored in a place where he had been treated as "Public Enemy no. 1," Bryant responded, "I think it's fantastic. It's great."
Farewell Denver #KB20 pic.twitter.com/CDbQx3tzTu — Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 3, 2016
Beyond Bryant's attention grabbing actions, the Lakers played a surprisingly competitive game provided the conditions. LA arrived in Denver early Wednesday morning and played on the second night of a back-to-back. Added to the rough schedule, LA entered the game without guard Lou Williams (hamstring) and forward Larry Nance Jr. (knee). Along with Bryant failing to finish Wednesday's contest, LA also lost starting guard Jordan Clarkson to a strained Patella tendon during those 48 minutes in Denver, though the second-year guard did not appear overly concerned about the injury after the game.
Despite those conditions and playing in the high altitude of Denver, the Lakers managed to enter the fourth quarter only trailing by one point and even took a brief three-point lead in the final period. Eventually, the Lakers' thin reserves could not match Denver's fresh legs, and LA lost for the 50th time on a season that is 62 games old.
Lakers rookie D'Angelo Russell finished as the leading scored in the game with 24 points, following up on his 39-point performance from one night earlier. In all, the 20-year-old has topped the 20-point mark in four straight games and is shooting 52.8 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from beyond the three-point line in an impressive stretch since celebrating his birthday on Feb. 23.
LA only has 20 games remaining in its season and in Bryant's career. Next, the Lakers host the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night at Staples Center.
Quotes via Time Warner Cable SportsNet