Kobe Bryant irreplaceable to the very end

Illustration by Eva Rodriguez / Xpress

There will never be another Kobe Bryant. His competitive drive to be the best ever was second to none. His teammates have reinforced the fact that Kobe’s the hardest-working player to ever step on the hardwood. He was willing to outwork everyone to be the very best.

I attended my first Lakers game last year, in which Kobe had a career-high 17 assists versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. To see Kobe have a career night was special because the probability of Kobe retiring the following season was high.

As a Lakers fan, we’ve been spoiled for 20 years not only winning championships, but also watching greatness at its finest. Love him or hate him, Kobe made you watch him destroy whoever was in his way.

I began watching the Lakers when I was 8 and caught the latter years of the Shaq-Kobe era. I was too young to comprehend the feud between Shaq and Kobe. When the Lakers traded Shaq, Kobe took over as leader of the franchise and my young self believed the Lakers would win.

It took a few years to get back to championship contention following the Shaq-Kobe feud, but a dominant 2005-2006 season would give the basketball world a glimpse of what Kobe Bryant is capable of when he leads his own team.

January 22, 2006 was Kobe’s 81-point game. Unfortunately, I was unable to witness Kobe go on his scoring barrage against the Toronto Raptors, so I had to settle for the highlights.The shots he was making were shots only Kobe could make. That’s one of the things that sets him apart from every other NBA player.

Illustration by Eva Rodriguez / Xpress

Illustration by Eva Rodriguez / Xpress

That season was the best season of his entire career, averaging a career-best 35 points per game.

Game 4 of the 2006 playoffs, #7 Lakers vs. #2 Phoenix Suns at Staples Center. With the Lakers trailing with 90-88 with 7.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter, point guard Smush Parker causes Steve Nash to turn over the ball. Devean George recovers and pushes up the floor, passes the ball to Kobe and Kobe drives the baseline, throws up a floater, and swish. Tie game.

A jump ball in the Lakers’ favor led to Kobe getting the final shot in overtime, a routine pull-up jumper from the right elbow. Bang! I jumped around the living room in exhilaration.

Come April 13, the basketball world will say goodbye to the one of the greatest players to ever play the game. The Kobe Farewell Tour comes to end in Los Angeles and the city will cherish the greatness of Kobe Bean Bryant one last time. The opportunity to watch one of the greatest of all time lace up those Nike Kobe 11s for the final time was too much for me to pass up.

As a Lakers fan, we’ve been spoiled for 20 years not only winning championships, but also watching greatness at its finest. Love him or hate him, Kobe made you watch him destroy whomever was in his way.