Along with a sold out Staples Center arena and millions watching across the world, Kobe Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers teammates experienced the Black Mamba's incredible 60-point farewell performance from a unique point of view: On the same team actively helping on the court or on the bench celebrating every shot attempt.
From the locker room, to the court, to the bench and back into the locker room, Bryant's 14 teammates offered stories and privilaged insights into the final night of the great, great basketball player.
For example, Brandon Bass thought up the idea of the champagne and asked one of the equipment guys to grab the bottles prior to the game, after checking with veterans Lou Williams and Metta World Peace. Both veterans seemed "cool" with the idea.
Fewer than 24 hours after the game, all 14 of Bryant's teammates commented on the historic finale, and NBCLA.com compiled their accounts.
As a worthy note, Bryant shot the ball 50 times and scored 60 points. For his entire career, Bryant wanted the ball. On his final night, his teammates gave it to him seemingly every time without hesitation, and these are their stories:
Metta World Peace:
Prior to the game, we were in the locker room. That's when I felt the most emotion because Kobe was talking about how he wanted us to play hard and play to exhaustion. He probably was the only one who played to exhaustion, so he was probably talking for no reason. But he played hard, man!
I was animated even when he was missing (shots) because I figured if he's going to miss every shot, I'm going to cheer for him all night. He didn't start off hot. He started off looking like a bum, huh? (watch video for this one) I'm like 'Kobe, man, you don't got it not more, man.' So I said, you know what, I'm going to cheer every time because he had a couple air balls and he had a couple turnovers. My thing was, if he's going to go out like this, we're going to go out strong. We're going to go out positive as if we won the championship—no crack in the armor. And then, he just caught fire.
It was amazing. I was just screaming...I just remember around the fourth quarter having a headache from screaming and jumping so loud and high. It was great.
How would I describe last night? It was amazing. It's hard to describe. I was looking for a word last night. I haven't really come up with it that does it justice. I'm 25 and I don't know if I could shoot 50 shots. When he came off the court, I just said, 'Thank you.' Just for this night, not for everything, I said 'Thank you.' It was unbelievable.
It was incredible for me. The first time in my 11-year career I have experienced something like that. And it was incredible to the point where if kind of scared me because the confetti started coming down and I'm like, 'wait a minute, a ring isn't coming with this, so I got to get out of here.' So, I was probably one of the first people to run to the locker room.
We were down eight with a minute and a half to go, and this guy turned into the person that everybody has grown accustomed to seeing. To see that live and not have any responsibility, I felt like a glorified fan where I could just watch it like everybody else. It was an amazing experience.
For him to go out the way he did is something magical.
It's just unreal. Like I said before, it's just a moment that will never get off my memory. Maybe when I'm 30 years from now, I'll look back and I'll know exactly what happened that day. I'll look at videos, and I'll remember the feeling in those last minutes standing over there on the bench, and everyone was just standing, and every time he hit a shot, people look at each other and like, I mean, 'Is this real?' We were like, 'Ok, is this is like a dream?' One shot after another, one crazier than the other.
All of a sudden, we came back and won. I mean, if it wasn't for Kobe, we all know we would have lost that game. And it was just like the perfect ending. It was just something special.
It seemed like it was made up, right? Like it was the end of a movie, like all movies end on a great note with stuff that doesn't normally happen. But it happened. He had 60.
But then, he ended with an assist! He should have ended with a shot. That's not the Kobe I know!
The feeling was like we won a championship or something. They had the champagne bottles after, but it was great—the confetti; the five-minute intro he had. Kobe signing autographs, and we're all in line like we were fans. The fact he threw my Adidas and didn't sign my Adidas, disappointed in that. He couldn't not end with something like that. He threw my shoes in the trash. But that's Kobe for you.
He signed some Nike's. [He told] someone [to go] get some Nike's; he's not signing no [sic] Adidas. But he also took a picture with my son. I thought that was cool, too.
That was like the first time I was like, 'this is Kobe, and this is his last game.' It was like I was in a daze. I ran up to coach and was like, 'I don't even know if this is real right now.' It was the first time I really sat back and just really enjoyed the moment of being with Kobe and playing with him and playing alongside him. So, it's just something I'm going to remember.
To be honest with you, I don't even remember anything I did last night. Kobe was just amazing, to be honest with you. It was a blur to me. I was watching and I was playing and competing, but I was still watching. It was crazy.
It was almost the best ending to a movie, and we saw it before it was about to be in a movie. It's about to be in a movie, so we saw it making of it all year. And we were in it and we lived it.
Note: A film crew has followed Bryant around and recorded just about everything--including every media member and player in a peculiarly detailed manner--since the player announced his retirement. Eventually, this footage expects to end up into a featured presentation of some form, though the people involved in the filming claim to not entirely know what the theme of the film will be, exactly (other than, Kobe, of course).
Larry Nance Jr:
I was a fan for most of it.
It was hard not to be. You can't script a better ending than that.
Twenty years of greatness and I got to be a part of his end of career celebration. So, it's something that I'll always remember. I'll just never forget that.
It was all about Kobe. We wanted to do whatever it took to send him off the right way, and if that means sacrificing, being on a poster, so be it.
Black came up with a huge block that helped change the momentum of the game.
Last night, for me, I was just more happy to see him go out the right way because I've known the guy my whole life or something—you know, I grew up being a fan of that guy.
It was crazy. It was almost like I was dreaming. Growing up here (in Southern California) and watching Kobe and watching him go out with a game like that. It kind of validates how I felt about him my entire life.
When he was addressing the crowd, that moment really stuck with me. It was almost like I was looking at a godly figure talking to everybody else.
Just to be a part of something like that, you can never forget. So, I'm truly blessed and thankful to say I saw Kobe's last game.
It was sad to see someone that good leave the game. I remember watching him live for the first time when they played the Grizzlies. So, just to see him from that, and I was in elementary school, to playing with him and him finishing is just a crazy, crazy feeling.
He was happy. He got excited seeing us and seeing the champagne and us pouring it on him. I think it was cool. Man, last night was a pretty amazing night. Dude had a story book ending. To end it that way, I mean, you can't...They don't make movies like that. For me, it was special to be a part of. I felt like a little kid, man, watching the game of basketball and seeing my favorite player have an amazing game.
It was a lot of emotion after the game.
The craziest thing that I remember is, I think one of their players blocked his shot—great block—and the fans started booing him (the player). I was like 'Wow!' Then, another two minutes later, he fouled somebody, and the ref called a foul on him. And everybody started booing him (the ref). That's crazy for everybody to be cheering for you like that.
He shot 50 shots, made 22 to them. Literally, it felt like every shot he shot went in. I don't remember his misses, but I remember his makes vividly. And the fans, they were on their feet the whole time.
If I was him, I feel like if I go out on my last game I'd be feeling like my mind is playing mental gymnastics with myself. This is my last game. I feel like I'm too old to keep playing because it's my last game—that's what I'm thinking. But he goes out, and he puts on a 60-point performance. I'm going to tell myself, 'Yo, I can play 82 more games and possibly do it again.' But him saying he gave it all he got, he can't give any more to the game—that just shows that he's done it all.