The grainy video clip popped up on the Staples Center scoreboard toward the start of Wednesday’s pre-game festivities.
There was Kobe Bryant as a rookie, talking to legendary Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn and predicting he would play “19 or 20 [years], at least.”
Who knew that the brash, uniquely gifted teenager would end up being correct?
Bryant, 37, played the final game of his 20-year career Wednesday, ending an era with five championships, 18 All-Star game appearances and way too many outsiders’ opinions, pro or con, to ever tally.
His 1,556th and last box score showed a stunning 60 points on 22-for-50 shooting in a 101-96 Lakers victory over the Utah Jazz.
It was chaotic, it was beyond memorable, it was so very Bryant.
The raucous crowd couldn’t care less about the final score, cheering with piercing volume every time Bryant scored during his 42 minutes.
“Man!” he exclaimed after the game when handed a microphone at midcourt. “I can’t believe how fast 20 years went by. This is crazy. This is absolutely crazy.
“We’ve been through our ups and we’ve been through our downs. I think the most important part is that we stayed together throughout.”
The throng had grown to dizzying proportions by late afternoon, thousands upon thousands pressed shoulder-to-shoulder outside Staples Center. David Tsoy stood on tiptoes to look around.
“I didn’t expect so many people here,” he said. “They all came to say farewell to Kobe?”
All of them came to celebrate and honor former Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant.
Each of them had to be at Staples Center on Wednesday night to watch Bryant play his final game as a Laker, to share in his moment, to be a part of his glory just one more time after 20 years of glorious moments.
Kobe, after a question on what he’d say to Jerry Buss
Save it for what? I just didn’t want to hurt something.
We all have a little of hero and a little of villain inside of us.
My kids saw me play like I used to play.
It’s surreal, it’s hard to describe. It’s like you are in a fog. You are not quite sure where to look. You are trying to take everything in.
I refuse to believe it because Magic is my hero.
Kobe Bryant, in response to a question about Magic saying Kobe was the greatest Laker of all time.
The important thing is to maintain discipline. Find a new routine. I have to get to it and get comfortable with it.
Kobe also showed off his language skills by answering a question in Spanish in response to a question from the Spanish-language media. “Es muy dificil.”
Honestly, I can’t believe this actually happened this way. It’s unbelievable. I’m still in shock.
Kobe Bryant, in postgame comments