Our NBC-7 sports intern, Frankie Libutti, is possibly the biggest Kobe Bryant fan I know. She has grown up as a Mamba fan and takes Bryant’s last game very seriously; so much so that she actually wrote in to get a media credential to attend. I have to give it to her on that gutsy move. Sadly, she was not approved but she will be watching on, along with the rest of us, as Kobe takes his final shots at the Staples Center Wednesday night against the Utah Jazz.
In a career spanning 20 seasons, Bryant has five NBA championships and 33,583 points under his belt. Off the court he’s become a sports icon recognized even by those who know nothing about basketball. It’s no wonder fans started lining up outside the Staples Center early Wednesday morning to make sure they were in the right position, even without a ticket, to be part the night Kobe Bryant say goodbye.
The LA Lakers have openly said fans should expect a spectacle when it comes to Bryant’s last game. Lakers Coach Bryan Scott says he wants Bryant to “go out with a bang.” They weren’t kidding; it will be an all-star cast. The national anthem will be played by Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist, Flea. Shaquille O’Neal and about two dozen of Bryant's former teammates will be there as they play what’s sure to be a tear-jerker of a tribute video.
This season –long farewell tour comes to an end tonight. Fans are already shedding tears at the thought of his departure but I predict Bryant will remain focused until the final buzzer. He’s a competitor. Always has been. However, once it’s all said and done I think we’ll see a side of Bryant we haven’t seen before.
It’s an emotional experience for the fans. I asked NBC 7 Assignment Editor, Pablo Kay, another loyal Kobe Bryant fan, what he was expecting from Bryant’s final game and his answer was simple: “A tough goodbye for him and for the fans.” Our sports intern, Frankie was more in-depth. Her journey with Bryant runs parallel to her goals in life and in this industry. When I asked her what she was feeling she painted a vivid picture of what a career like Bryant’s can do for those who have watched every shot saying, “He lent his soul to us. He lent his soul to the game. And that spirit will continue to hold accountable every kid that steps foot on a court. Kobe Bryant will ALWAYS be the one to beat. “
For commentary and insight throughout Bryant’s final game, follow my live twitter feed: @MJAcostaNBC7