Well, that just about does it. Kobe Bryant’s 20th and final season is at an end with Wednesday night’s game against Utah at the Staples Center, and it’s been quite a ride, filled with competitors turning into fanboys and some chuckle-inducing lowlights. The basketball has always been secondary, for better or worse — it’s all about the memories. And thanks to the magic of video entertainment, there’s been a ton to choose from.
We were inspired by this Reddit post culling a few of the best fan-made tribute videos to the Black Mamba, but we’re going the more official route by putting together the retrospectives shown by Kobe’s opponents. It’s strange to us that teams would thank Kobe for beating up on them for years, but I guess the Lakers’ current terribleness tends to make others feel a little more magnanimous. First, though, here’s our favorite of the fan-made ones:
Sentimental piano music will always tug at your heartstrings, but it’s not representative of Kobe’s career. The dramatic, battle music of the above perfectly suits the war horse Kobe always wanted to be.
It’s kind of like what the Suns went with back in late March:
— #WeArePHX (@Suns) March 24, 2016
Just a few days ago, the New Orleans Pelicans also blessed Kobe with a tear-jerker:
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 9, 2016
The San Antonio Spurs, without whose presence Kobe might have more titles than MJ, also gave the legend a very nice sendoff, complete with testimonials from some of the longest-tenured Spurs:
The All-Star Game went big — like, really big — in paying homage to Kobe in Toronto:
From in-arena footage, we have a look at what the Clippers, who played little brother to Kobe’s Lakers for so many years, put together:
Earlier in the season, when Kobe played his last game in Philly, his hometown team — well, the city he played high school basketball in — gave him one of the best videos of the bunch:
The Golden State Warriors got to trot out Jerry West, a Lakers legend on the court in his own right and the executive who drafted Kobe, in the video that may have affected Bryant the most emotionally:
Of course, that pales in comparison to Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, the man whose ghost Kobe spent 20 years chasing, and his heartfelt video tribute:
And yet all of these videos compete for second best, because the Utah Jazz knew what meant more to Kobe than all the adulation — the grudging respect from sworn enemies won by sheer force of will and achievement. Their video just gets it on every level.
This hasn’t been the first (or even 20th) time we’ve said it, and it won’t be the last, but we’ll miss you, Kobe.