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Homer D. Sayson
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List of Articles by Homer D. Sayson


 

A front seat in the ongoing Kobe "Farewell Tour"

By Homer D. Sayson
PhilBoxing.com
19 Dec 2015



DETROIT -- ​After 20 years of sustained excellence, Kobe Bryant, his 37-year old body ravaged by the physical demands of his sport, told the world last November 29 that "this season is all I have left to give."

Since that announcement, NBA arenas across the league have turned into temples where fans can worship in the altar of the Laker superstar's greatness.

The Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan, home of the Detroit Pistons, recently hosted a leg of what is now known as the Farewell Tour.

​ Although the Lakers and the Pistons have a well-documented history of animosity, one that dates as far back as the 1988 NBA Finals which L.A. won in six games, Detroit fans showered Kobe with uncommon affection on that cool December 6 evening.

When the public address announcer summoned him at mid-court during the pre-game tiff, a roar of approval erupted, and as Bryant stood isolated beneath a shining spotlight, the chants of Kobe! Kobe! grew louder and louder, engulfing the arena like a dirge of wandering souls.

Stricken with flu symptoms, Kobe hit only 2 of 15 field goals to finish with 5 points, 3 rebounds, 3 turnovers and 1 assist. It was a performance emblematic of a struggle-infested final season in which Bryant is shooting a mediocre 33.9 percent from the field, 24.7 percent from 3-point range and 78.6 percent from the free throw line, all career lows.

The brilliance and superiority that used to be commonplace is eluding Bryant these days. Hampered by injuries the last three straight years, he is a shell of his once mighty self, a monument of a passing era. All that's left is the extraordinary grace, the infectious smile, and the irresistible Kobe charm.

And that's why 20,228 fans (4,646 more than the Pistons average per home game) flocked the Palace that Sunday, including Mustaf Grajqevci and Dresha Scott who drove some 146 miles from Grand Rapids, Michigan and plunked $700 for their tickets,

At the end of an emotional game, the more talented Pistons (15-12) whipped the rebuilding Lakers (4-22), 111-91.

But the celebration was all about Kobe whose legacy is etched in granite --- 5 NBA championships, 2 NBA Finals MVP awards, 1 regular season MVP title and 17 All-Star appearances.

It's up to history to judge whether the Lakers 2-guard is the best to have ever played the position. But for one night at the Palace, in front of a full-house crowd, some of whom have loathed him for years, Kobe Bryant was the only player that mattered, the only one who got drenched with love and unbridled respect.

Note: The author is a contributing columnist and U.S. editor of NBA.com Philippines. He is also the editor of PhilBoxing.com's NBA page







Photo: The author (at his courtside seat during the Lakers @ Pistons game at the Palace) speaks to Kobe Bryant after the Laker star's press conference. Top left is a pair of NBA fans, Mustaf Grajqevci and Dresha Scott, who traveled from Grand Rapids, Michigan and paid $700 for tickets to watch Kobe's last game in Detroit. (photos by Kevin Gonzalez @ philboxing).


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