It was like old times, Kobe Bryant scoring 31 points and getting serenaded by chants of his name as the Lakers won.
Only the old times never involved raucous road games against the Washington Wizards.
Bryant’s retirement carnival continued against a historically mundane opponent never to be confused with Boston or San Antonio in Lakers lore.
But fans came, the building was sold out, and the Lakers played an entertaining game in front of a very pro-Bryant crowd before emerging with a 108-104 victory Wednesday at Verizon Center.
Please excuse the confusion, but it felt like the Lakers were at Staples Center, except it was louder.
“I thought everybody hated me,” Bryant said, as surprised as anybody.
He declared his end-of-season retirement Sunday and played poorly Tuesday in front of a notoriously tough Philadelphia crowd that swooned for him.
He did not embarrass himself against the Wizards, making 10 of 24 shots and adding three assists in 36 minutes.
It was his fourth game in five nights and his best in a young season as the Lakers (3-15) ended a seven-game losing streak.
It capped a long day for Bryant, complete with five or 10 minutes of time with President Obama in the White House. The word in the Lakers locker room was that Obama signed a basketball for Bryant, not the other way around.
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant looks on against the Washington Wizards in the first half.(Rob Carr / Getty Images)
Wizards guard John Wall drives to the basket past Lakers defender Kobe Bryant in the second half.(Rob Carr / Getty Images)
Wizards guard John Wall puts up a shot in front of Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson during the second half.(Rob Carr / Getty Images)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant celebrates after hitting a three pointer late in the fourth quarter against the Wizards.(Rob Carr / Getty Images)
Lakers Coach Byron Scott shares a smile with shooting guard Lou Williams during the second half of a game against the Wizards.(Rob Carr / Getty Images)
Lakers aging star Kobe Bryant leaves the floor after the Lakers defeated the Washington Wizards 108-104 at the Verizon Center.(Rob Carr / Getty Images)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) celebrates with teammates D’Angelo Russell and Lou Williams during the second half on Wednesday.(Rob Carr / Getty Images)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant puts up a shot over Wizards guard Bradley Beal in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ 108-104 win.(Rob Carr / Getty Images)
Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. and Lakers defenders react after Porter loses control of the ball in the first half.(Rob Carr / Getty Images)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant waves to the crowd after his upcoming retirement was announced on the video board during the first half.(Rob Carr / Getty Images)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant talks with Wizards guard John Wall during the first half. Bryant scored 31 points while Wall had 34 in the Lakers’ 108-104 win.(Rob Carr / Getty Images)
Lakers forward Metta World Peace puts up a shot against the Wizards in the first half.(Rob Carr / Getty Images)
“We talked a lot about the game. We talked a lot about [my] future and what comes next,” Bryant said. “Very inspirational.”
It was unclear when Bryant would show at least a smidge of his former self on the court. He entered the game shooting 30.1% overall and 20.8% from three-point range.
There was no need to rush to “Kobe’s back!” territory after Wednesday’s effort. Even he probably wouldn’t recommend it.
“Legs felt strong,” he said, quickly adding, “Surprisingly so.”
The Lakers needed a victory, according to their coach.
Before the game, with a loss to formerly 0-18 Philadelphia still in their minds, Byron Scott was asked to gauge team morale.
Consider the morale boost from Jordan Clarkson, who continued to build upon his successful rookie season by scoring 18 points. Julius Randle added 15 points and 19 rebounds, an impressive seven on the offensive end.
“As a team, we’re not doing well and I’m not satisfied with that,” Randle said. “I feel like I can play a huge part in us getting better. I feel a great responsibility on myself. I know what I can do, I know how much better I can get and I’m not there yet.”
He took a nice step Wednesday.
The Lakers led at the end of the first quarter, 34-22, and Bryant was much more in control a day after launching 26 shots, an alarming 17 from three-point range. He made four of 11 from distance against the Wizards.
He walked on the court alone a few seconds later and received a standing ovation. He bowed to the crowd and waved.
It was brief. The game resumed quickly.
As it progressed, Bryant nailed a trademark 18-foot turnaround from the right side and later got someone to bite on his much-used pump fake. Granted, it was a rookie, Kelly Oubre, but it got him to the free-throw line.
The big points came in the end.
Bryant made a three-pointer over Bradley Beal with 58.9 seconds left for a 101-99 Lakers lead. Then he moved down the right side and pulled up for a 16-footer over Beal for a 103-101 lead.
The game belonged to the Lakers. The night belonged to Bryant.