On Friday night in New Orleans, Kobe Bryant launched his final road trip as an NBA basketball player, and the New Orleans Pelicans followed the trend of teams creating tribute videos to honor the retiring superstar.
The Pelicans waited until the late in the first quarter to play the in-arena tribute video. By the end of that quarter, Bryant already had 14 points, three assists, two rebounds and a steal in an impressive opening 12 minutes by the 37-year-old.
In the video tribute, the Pelicans called upon Kendrick Perkins, Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis to speak in the tribute video. Perkins spoke about Bryant’s will to win Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals of Perkins’ Boston Celtics, while Anderson spoke about growing up as a fan of the Sacramento Kings and despising Bryant. Davis spoke about the mentorship Bryant had provided, as Davis won a gold medal alongside Bryant with the 2012 Mens Basketball team.
Following the video, Bryant acknowledged the crowd, and the overwhelming presence of Lakers’ fans serenaded the retiring superstar with a hearty ovation.
Bryant would sit out the second period, and the Pelicans would manage to flip a three-point deficit after the first quarter into an 11-point lead by halftime. Bryant's return to the lineup in the third quarter did not help stop the bleeding, as the Pelicans opened up a 20-point advantage by the end of the third period.
Thanks partly to a strong showing by rookie D'Angelo Russell, who finished with 32 points in the loss, the Lakers only lost by eight points when the final buzzer sounded. However, the final 110-102 scoreline paid the Lakers a far greater compliment than they deserved on the night.
In the fourth quarter, Bryant returned for a three-minute cameo appearance when the crowd started chanting his name. After a the short appearance, Bryant went off to vocal adoration by the 18,607 fans in attendance. After the game, Bryant admitted revealed that he only came back in because of the fans' vocal calls for an encore, which accounted for a new first in the 20-year professional's career.
Next, Bryant's farewell tour stops in Houston and Sunday and Oklahoma City on Monday. Bryant will end his 20-year NBA career on Wednesday, April 13 at Staples Center.