LOS ANGELES — There hasn’t been anything close to this at Staples Center since the 2010 NBA Finals. If then.
The traffic around the arena, the inflated parking prices, the crowds in the thousands lined up more than an hour before the doors to the arena even opened, the crush of 400 or more local and national media (a huge number of them huddled around Kobe’s empty locker, filming/photographing it), the Kobe shirts on every seat inside the arena, the courtside seats holding a Kobe action figure for fans as well, and even the $12 souvenir Kobe cups at the concession stands. It’s all here.
Los Angeles has turned out to say farewell to Kobe Bryant, who plays his final NBA game Wednesday at Staples Center.
But in classic Los Angeles fashion, this is more spectacle than basketball game.
While Laker players tried to go through their normal warm-up routines — D'Angelo Russell working on his post game, or Robert Sacre practicing 30-footers because he can — coach Byron Scott understood the job ahead of him.
“I’m trying to get him as many minutes as I think he can handle, trying to get him as many shots as I think he can handle, as well,” Scott said pregame. “It’s obviously going to be a focus on him — this is his night. We want him to enjoy it as much as possible.”
What Scott cherished so far was a private moment.
“It was good when we walked in just to embrace him, talk for a quick second, and I think we’re both going to enjoy this night no matter what,” Scott said.
In a city and with a team known for spectacle, this may be near the top (if not a little over). But in Los Angeles, Kobe is a deity, with legions of vociferous fans who have supported him through the good times and the bad. They expect this kind of show and sendoff.
Those fans are here to thank him — and to cheer him on — one last time.