Lakers braces itself as Kobe takes his final shot

Kobe Bryant retires this week as the third-leading scorer in league history. Nobody ever got to spend 20 seasons with one NBA team before the 37-year-old Bryant, and he intends to thank Los Angeles with one last display of his transcendent talent.

While Bryant’s fellow Nike athletes around the globe wear shoes honouring the event they’ve dubbed “Mamba Day,” the Lakers will attempt to send Bryant out in style against the Jazz, which could be eliminated from the playoff race shortly before tipoff.   -  Getty Images

Kobe Bryant is down to one last shot, and everybody knows he’s going to take it. After two decades spent dazzling the world, Bryant will end his basketball career at home with the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night against the Utah Jazz. He’ll walk off the court in front of his devoted fans in the building where he hung five championship banners.

He retires this week as the third-leading scorer in league history. Nobody ever got to spend 20 seasons with one NBA team before the 37-year-old Bryant, and he intends to thank Los Angeles with one last display of his transcendent talent. “It means everything” to finish at home, Bryant said. “I grew up a die-hard Laker fan, so it’s like a dream come true for a kid to grow up and play for his favourite team, and play here for 20 years, his entire career,” he added. “I’ve seen the city grow. I’ve seen the city develop, and vice versa. There’s no place I’d rather end my career.”

Generating buzz

Tickets are reselling for hefty sums, and merchandise commemorating the day is moving briskly. Fans without seats will gather downtown to show love for Bryant, a globally admired athlete who both fearlessly represented and strongly resembled LA. Flashy. Confident. Clever. Combative. Bursting with ambition. And always entertaining. “I’ve grown up in front of this crowd from the age of 17,” Bryant said. “A lot of faces that I saw in the crowd in my very first game are still here. That’s very special. Kids that are sitting there now, that were kids when I first came in, now come to the game with their kids. You know, that’s pretty cool to see.”

Signing off in style?

While Bryant’s fellow Nike athletes around the globe wear shoes honouring the event they’ve dubbed “Mamba Day,” the Lakers will attempt to send Bryant out in style against the Jazz, which could be eliminated from the playoff race shortly before tipoff. Utah (40-41) can only claim the Western Conference’s last remaining playoff spot if it wins this game and Houston loses earlier in the night to Sacramento. The Rockets enters with the same record but holds the tiebreaker over the Jazz, which lost control of its destiny by falling 101-92 to Dallas on Monday for its third loss in four games.

Lakers coach Byron Scott expects Bryant to play more than 37 minutes, and Kobe’s teammates will be feeding the ball to him on practically every possession — admittedly not much of a change from most games during this otherwise horrific season. With two 30-point performances this month, Bryant has proven he’s still capable. He’ll have every opportunity to run up the score one last time. As Kobe Bryant makes the last stop of his storied 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, a downtown train station will be part of the citywide celebration.

The Pico Station on Metro’s Blue and Expo rail lines will for a day become the Kobe Station. The station is the Metro stop for Staples Center.