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Lakers' win transforms Kobe Bryant's send-off from scripted to spectacular

From the way Kobe Bryant shot and shot and shot to the way the night was basically turned into a long Nike commercial, what unfolded Wednesday at Staples Center felt incredibly contrived.

It was also spectacular.

"I can't believe this has actually happened," Bryant said.

Most of the night was scripted. And if the Lakers, Nike and Kobe Inc. could also have scripted the end of the game, they would have.

But they couldn't.

Something organic had to emerge from this artificial environment. On most nights this season, the results were dreadful. On Wednesday night, they were magical.

Bryant finished with 60 points. He scored 15 of his team's final 17 points, including the go-ahead jumper with 31.6 seconds remaining.

Everyone knew Bryant would come out gunning, but no one could have expected this.

Even the most cynical of us had to smile.

Nike gets a win

The real winner Wednesday was Nike, which used the illusion of history to pitch its products to unsuspecting fans.

The so-called "Mamba Day" gained a measure of credibility when stars of other sports sent Bryant their best on social media or in video recordings that were played at Staples Center. Well-wishers included Tiger Woods, LeBron James, Serena Williams and Richard Sherman.

At Dodger Stadium, Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig wore special Mamba-themed batting gloves. At the Oakland Coliseum, Angels outfielder Mike Trout did the same.

The gestures seemed sweet, touching even, until you realized what all of the athletes had in common: They were all sponsored by Nike.

And who designated Wednesday "Mamba Day"?

You guessed it — Nike.

Milestone

Bryant's 50 field-goal attempts were the most attempted in a regular-season game in at least the 32 years that Basketballreference.com has been keeping track. The previous high: 49 by Michael Jordan in an Chicago Bulls overtime loss to the Orlando Magic in 1993.

Jordan made 27 field goals and scored 64 points.

More greatness?

In the postgame news conference, Bryant was asked if he thought he would find something he will be as good at as basketball. I'll go out on a limb here and say no.

Metta World Peace is more optimistic, as you would expect from someone who renamed himself Metta World Peace.

"I want his legacy to be bigger than sports," World Peace said. "I would wish that for him. It's a big night for everyone who loves the game of basketball, but, for me, it's more about life. Sports is a small piece of him."

Etc.

An observation from Bryant's postgame news conference: Bryant's Spanish is surprisingly good.

::

When you cover sports in Los Angeles, you're used to seeing bizarre scenes, but nothing in recent memory compared to Wednesday. This was Manny Ramirez returning from his steroid suspension times 100.

The area from which Bryant entered the arena was off limits to reporters who didn't work for television-rights-holding companies, so 100 or so otherwise respectable journalists allowed themselves to be herded behind sets of portable metal railings in a corridor leading to the Lakers' locker room.

After about half an hour, the pack of reporters started to move, reaching for camera phones and jostling for position.

Bryant?

No, it was trainer Gary Vitti, who also worked the last game of his career Wednesday.

The wait continued.

::

At one point in the night, I found myself photographing other reporters photographing Bryant's empty locker. That might have marked the low point in a journalism career that has included listening to Andrew Friedman.

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Ice Cube wants to destroy the Lakers. "Give us five more years," the rapper turned actor said to Bryant in a tribute video shown during a first-quarter timeout.

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Of the celebrities who recorded messages for Bryant, Justin Bieber was booed the loudest.

::

George Lopez received a loud ovation when shown on the video scoreboard. I'm guessing the fans at Staples Center missed his most recent HBO stand-up comedy special.

Follow Dylan Hernandez on Twitter: @dylanohernandez

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