On the final day of the NBA regular season, the race for the playoffs had already concluded. What needed to be settled was the all-time regular reason win mark and, more importantly, a farewell to one of the league’s greatest players ever.
Both of these games occurred in California on national TV as the Golden State Warriors hosted the Memphis Grizzlies and the Los Angeles Lakers welcomed in the Utah Jazz.
We have been talking all season about the Warriors breaking the 72-10 record set by the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls, especially after the Warriors began the season 24-0. At 72-9, it came down to the final day for this to happen and the Warriors were in full control throughout the game.
NBA MVP Stephen Curry needed eight three-pointers to reach 400 on the season to add onto his single-season record that may ever only be broken by him again. He finished the year with 402 three-pointers and 46 points on the night, as the Warriors defeated the Grizzlies 125-104.
The media attention the Warriors got throughout the season made this record extra special. Users on ESPN.com comment sections had posts comparing the 95-96 Bulls team to the Warriors team and who would win if both teams were in their prime. Since I was too young to see that Bulls team play, I do not have much of an opinion about it.
Now if you thought that was the highlight of the night, think again.
Kobe Bryant – aka the Black Mamba – had a major curtain call that was well deserved. A five-time NBA champion and third leading scorer in NBA history, Bryant received a video tribute where several well-known players, such as Lebron James and Kevin Durant, thanked Bryant for his efforts over his 20-year career with the Lakers. Even Lakers legend Magic Johnson spoke in front of a sell-out crowd at the Staples Center on Bryant’s behalf.
Much like the farewell hype that New York Yankees Derek Jeter got at the end of the 2014 baseball season, appreciation for Bryant was well deserved. Just as Jeter delivered a walk-off single for the Yankees to win their last home game of the season, Bryant did something that surpassed a bet Shaq told Kobe.
This game had only one purpose, and that was the Kobe Bryant show. It was a mix of an all-star game and a playoff game put into one as Bryant scored an incredible 60 points. Even though he attempted his record of 50 shots, Bryant was able to put on a show for the ages that wowed the crowd and everyone who was watching. The Lakers came from behind and defeated the Jazz 101-96.
It was a perfect ending to the season: a significant record was broken and a future Hall of Famer went out in style.
Now onward to the playoffs.