I’ve been watching sports with my dad since I was a little kid, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it is that there are two different types of fans when it comes to expressing emotion during the game. My dad is the expressive fan, whether it be yelling at the Steelers for a stupid play call or screaming “GO GO GO” as Antonio Brown burns his defender for a touchdown, my dad is a very vocal fan.
The other type of fan when it comes to expressing emotion, is the fan that watches intently and silently. I myself fall under this category. I stay quiet as my emotions rage inside. When I see a silly mistake that costs a team the game it burns me up, but I don’t make that rage known to the room. When I see a highlight play I feel overjoyed; however, the most I’ll say about either circumstance is, “Wow, that was dumb…” or “Whoa that was sick…”
As a fan of basketball there have only ever been two games, two specific instances, where I’ve let my emotion burst out into joyous screams. The first was Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals. The San Antonio Spurs were up 3-2 in the series against the Miami Heat. Up 94-89 with 28 seconds remaining the Spurs were close to leaving Miami as NBA Champions. LeBron James made a three with 20 seconds left to make the game 94-92. The Heat immediately fouled Kawhi Leonard after the inbound. After two attempts at the line Leonard made one, keeping it a one possession game at 95-92. James took what was believed to be the final shot of the game and missed a three. However, Chris Bosh grabbed the offensive rebound and passed it to Ray Allen in the corner. With 5.2 seconds left in the game the first specific instance that I verbally screamed in joy at the TV happened. Ray Allen pulled up and hit a three to tie the game and put it into OT and I lost my mind.
As a Boston Celtics fan the ONLY time I have rooted for the Los Angeles Lakers, specifically Kobe Bryant, to win is if it is against a team in the East, and will help the Celtics’ playoff seeding. However on April 13, 2016, the Lakers played the Utah Jazz in Bryant’s last game ever, and weirdly I found myself cheering for the villain that I loved to hate. The entire game was unbelievable.
At halftime I was thinking to myself, “Leave Kobe in and let him get 30.” Once Kobe made a three to hit 35 points I remember thinking, “Wow, maybe he’ll hit 40?” I didn’t give him enough credit because 49 was too easy. With 1 minute and 45 seconds left Kobe made a contested layup to get to 51. At this point I was on the edge of my seat. Will Kobe bring the Lakers back and win his final game? Is it possible he gets 60? Pull up jumper with 1:27, 53. Pull up 3 with 1:00, 56, Jazz lead cut to 1 point. What would happen next was only the second time that I have ever yelled at the TV in excitement. After coming around a pick, Kobe hit a pull-up jumper, 58; it was his 4th straight make to put the Lakers up 1. I lost my mind when he made that jumper. At this point I’m screaming “NO WAY, WHAT IS HAPPENING?!” Two free throws to end the game would give Kobe his 60.
This isn’t meant to be a recap of the two moments that I screamed at an inanimate object. Instead this article is to celebrate a legend. It has been almost two weeks since this game, but I find myself still thinking about it. With the first round of the playoffs in full swing I can’t help but crave one last Kobe Bryant spectacle. One last dominant performance, one last time for me to hate the man I don’t even know. It’s weird to not see The Mighty Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs, even weirder not to see Kobe Bryant in the playoffs.
After the game, critics came out calling Kobe’s performance “mediocre.” In the end, does it really matter that he took 50 shots? Absolutely not. What matters is that an era of sheer volume, prowess, and entertainment is over. As a Celtics fan, I can’t remember Paul Pierce’s last game in Boston. I wonder in 50 years, if I’ll even remember Paul Pierce’s last game in the league regardless of what team he plays for. One thing is for sure, though, I as well as everyone else that watched that “miracle on the hardwood” of a game, will never forget what that game was. Sadly, I can’t even remember the Celtics winning an NBA championship in 2008. Even sadder I will never forget Kobe Bryant’s last game. I could end this article with some sort of “Mamba Out” quote. To me though, it should be “Mamba get out.” As glad as I am that he is gone I’m going to need to find somebody new to hate.