Prior to Thursday night’s Warriors-Lakers game, a taped and heartfelft message from Jerry West to Kobe Bryant was played on the jumbotron.
Bryant, ignoring a sore right shoulder and strained right Achilles to play in Oakland one final time, fought back tears as he was introduced to the roaring crowd immediately following the tribute from the legend who engineered a brilliant draft-day trade for the Los Angeles Lakers to acquire Kobe from the Charlotte Hornets twenty years ago.
For the defending champions, the game (a 116-98 win) was a mere formality against the woeful Lakers.
— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) January 15, 2016
“He was a showman, but he also was a winner,” West said. “And he has [left] a legacy throughout the world. Millions of people love this guy, and millions of people will miss what he was able to accomplish in his career.” […] West took in Bryant’s final game against Golden State from an Oracle Arena luxury suite 20 years after trading center Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets for Bryant, whom the Hornets had just drafted out of Lower Merion High School in suburban Philadelphia.
West called Bryant an “incredibly gifted all-around player.” […] “But I think you should look farther than that,” West said. “I think in the NBA he will be one of those players that will be perceived as one of the 10 top players of all time, probably higher, because I don’t want to demean anyone that’s played this game at eye level. I don’t. But for a franchise to have someone that long, for 20 years, it’s pretty amazing. He’s left a lot of big footprints there. I don’t see anyone there now that’s going to be able to step into those footprints. I’m hopeful they will find one one day.”
“I was fortunate enough to be, frankly, like a father to him for the first couple years in Los Angeles,” he said. “He spent time in my house, interacted with him. Tried to be a father figure to tell him that this is not as easy as you think it’s going to be, regardless of how skilled you are. I said, ‘You’re going to have to learn how to play with your teammates. You’re going to have to learn how to play an NBA game. This is not one against five; it’s five against five.’ […] They used to call him ‘Showboat.’ … And I told him, that’s not a becoming name. I said, you don’t want to be a showboat. When somebody looks at you, they want to see the greatness you can attain if you change some of the things you’re doing. And, boy, did he ever do that.”