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NBA -- The changing of the guard


PhilBoxing.com




SAN ANTONIO -- In what ​was likely his penultimate game at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, a sellout crowd showed up on a Friday night (Saturday morning Manila time) to watch the Lakers' future Hall of Famer ​as he closes the book on a fabulous career.

​Since announcing his retirement a few weeks ago, Kobe Bryant is taking his Hero-Villian tour across venues nationwide. And the fans are giving him his due respect.

"It's like the playoffs in here!" remarked one observer.

And indeed, Kobe was, well, Kobe. It may not have been for as long or for as much as the fans wanted, but they watched him make his first four shots in the first half of the first quarter and savored every minute of it.

The other side of the coin in this vaunted rivalry is San Antonio center Tim Duncan. Also a guaranteed first ballot Hall of Famer, Duncan is also​ in the twilight of an amazing career. Though he has not announced his retirement, one would imagine it would be in the next few seasons.

These two player and their teams have been the dominant forces in the Western Conference in the early part of this century . Between 1999 and 2010, one of these two teams has been in the Conference finals each year except for 2006, with the Spurs also making it all three years between 2012 and 2014. In that 15 year span, these two teams won a total of 10 NBA Championships.

Bryant and Duncan. A marquee match-​up.

But the reality of the game played was one of younger talent and a future look at the rebuilding Lakers and the ever-building Spurs. Los Angeles kept their fight and were only down by 2, 51-49, at the half. The young Lakers were led by rookie point guard D'Angelo Russell, who scored a career high 24 points, which included making 5 of 10 three pointers. San Antonio was led by forwards LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, who each had double-doubles (24 points, 11 rebounds and 16 points, 11 rebounds, respectively).

In the end, the Spurs pulled away, beating the Lakers 109-87. The crowd's Hero-Villan left the floor to chants and cheers of "Kobe! Kobe!" Duncan left the floor with as little fanfare as he usually does. But the lasting impression of this contest was a reminder of the mark these two are leaving on their teams and on the game as a whole.

In both the most literal and figurative of ways, these two teams have learned from, been led by and are standing on the shoulders of giants.

Photo: Kobe Bryant (R) who will retire at season's end played his penultimate game against Tim Duncan and the Spurs on Friday night at the AT&T Center. The Spurs won going away, 109-87.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Adeline Deladisma.


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