For the Los Angeles Lakers, virtually each stop on the road now begins with a celebration of Kobe Bryant’s 20-year career, and soon dissolves into a beatdown by the hometeam.
John Mason, the Detroit Pistons’ famous PA announcer, paid tribute Sunday night to The Black Mamba with a lengthy introduction, treating the 37-year-old legend like a heavyweight boxer.
Per the LA Daily News:
The sell-out Pistons greeted Bryant loudly. He tapped his fist over his heart twice before waving to the crowd and saying, “Thank you.” Nearly two hours later, the warm greeting assuaged Bryant’s uneasiness regarding another Lakers’ loss and a stomach illness. […] “This entire process, unfortunately, has made me more mature,” Bryant said with a laugh. “But I’ve been extremely thankful to have this, to be able to see this process and to be able to enjoy these moments. If anything, it just made me realize how fortunate I’ve been to be able to play for so long.”
It also made Bryant realize that apparently old rivalries can contain sentimental moments. […] “We’ve hated each other for so long,” he said. “A lot of respect and mutual admiration comes from that. It’s like, when you have an opponent that you’re going up against, neither one backs down. You just challenge and you bring out the best in each other for years and for years and for years. When the time comes to say goodbye, you’re very appreciative of that. It’s like you have protagonist and antagonist just going at each other the whole time. One never really wants to kill the other because they bring the best out of you. I think right now, that’s just what you’re seeing. It’s just the mutual respect that we have.”
The Lakers (3-17) are obviously far removed from the NBA championship picture. Bryant has not played anywhere close toward his career averages. In Sunday’s loss to Detroit, Bryant posted five points, while shooting 2 of 15 from the field and 1 of 6 from 3-point range in 26 minutes before sitting out the fourth quarter. Bryant did not score until he launched a 24-foot 3-pointer with 7:35 left in the third quarter. That shot sent the legions of Bryant fans here in a tizzy despite the Lakers trailing by 23 points. […] “Tonight was crazy to get a name chanted here in Detroit and chants of encouragement when I made a shot here or there,” Bryant said. “It’s a beautiful feeling. It’s something I never thought I’d see.”