Fans shinnied up a traffic-light post outside the luxury hotel where the
It's true. Kobe Bryant was given the
But he didn't have much success on the court, missing 15 of 20 shots, nine of 10 in the second half, as the Lakers lost to the
It happened in front of 19,632 people Monday, the largest crowd ever for a regular-season game at Time Warner Cable Arena.
And to think Charlotte originally drafted Bryant (13th overall) before trading him to the Lakers for
"Charlotte never wanted me," Bryant said after scoring 20 points. "[Dave] Cowens told me he didn't want me. It wasn't a question of me even playing here. They had a couple of guards already and small forwards already. So it wasn't like I would be off the bench much."
Cowens, the Hornets' coach at the time and a former Boston star as a player, inadvertently created an on-court monster.
"I mean, I had grown up watching basketball. I knew who Dave Cowens was and was pretty excited," Bryant said. "Then I was like, 'Oh, all right.' I quickly transitioned from smiley kid to killer instinct."
There weren't many smiles past the midpoint of the fourth quarter Monday.
The Lakers trailed by three but Bryant missed a driving layup, a mid-range jump shot and a seven-footer. Then he was off on a three-point shot, turned the ball over via shoddy dribbling and, after making a three-point attempt, missed two more.
Not that it would have mattered with the way
The Lakers (5-27) got decent games from their young power forwards, and that was about all. Larry Nance Jr. made three mid-range jumpers — something Julius Randle could only hope to do — and had 12 points with seven rebounds. Randle had 11 points and six rebounds.
So the talk revolved back to Bryant, as usual.
Jordan wasn't in attendance but said Bryant "was a big help to the game."
"I'm a big fan. I still love watching you play," he said via video message on the scoreboard before the game.
Bryant patterned much of his career after Jordan, hoping to pass him on the all-time scoring list and in championships.
He couldn't do the latter but appreciated Jordan's message. So did his younger teammates.
"It was pretty funny to see some of the reactions," Bryant said. "I was sitting next to Julius Randle before the game. He was like, 'Yo, that's amazing. That was Michael Jordan!'"
Maybe Bryant, like Jordan, will buy an
"No, he and I differ entirely when it comes to that," Bryant said. "He's a mathematician. He loves numbers, loves dealing with numbers. I don't. I suck at math. So from that perspective, I'm not going to be looking at cap numbers and all that other stuff. I just have no interest in it."
Bryant's next game will be Wednesday, his last in Boston. He's been adored in almost every arena since announcing his retirement. Isn't it weird to no longer be the villain?
"Yeah. It was just so natural to me for so many years," he said. "It felt a little awkward at first, to be honest with you, to get this praise, but I'm glad they didn't do this many, many years ago. Because it's like Kryptonite. It would've taken away all my energy and all my strength because I relied a lot on being the villain."