It’s a good night for fans of the NBA, although for many, it will be more than a little melancholic.
Like the man or despise him, the ‘closest thing to Michael Jordan,’ many people agree, will play the final game of his professional basketball career tonight.
At the same time, the defending champion Golden State Warriors will try to break the Chicago Bull’s record for wins in the regular season.
Kobe Bryant, the 5-time NBA champion and 18-time All-Star, plays his last game tonight as the Los Angeles Lakers host Utah at Staples Center.
Approximately 340 miles northwest of that facility, the Warriors will try for win No. 73 when they go against the Grizzlies at Oracle Arena in Oakland.
Both games begin at 10:30 p.m. The Lakers-Jazz game will be broadcast on ESPN2, the Golden State-Memphis game airs on ESPN.
Hobbled by major injuries the past 3 years, Bryant is exiting the NBA as almost a shell of his former self, a sad situation for his fans who have watched him play since he broke into the league as a brash rookie in November 1996.
Indiana Pacers fans will forever be haunted by Bryant’s late-game performance in Game 4 of the 2000 NBA Finals at then Conseco Fieldhouse. After Shaquille O’Neal fouled out in overtime, things looked good for Reggie Miller and the Pacers until Bryant — playing on a badly sprained ankle — turned it on, scoring 7 points in the final 1:18.
Instead of the series being tied 2-all, the Lakers 120-118 win gave them a 3-1 lead in the series that Los Angeles won, 4-2, giving LA it’s first NBA championship since 1988. The 6-6 guard finished with 28 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds.
Bryant, who’s scored 33,583 points during his 1,345-game career, has a lengthy list of records and accomplishments, including an 81-point game against Toronto on Jan. 22, 2006, second only to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point outburst against the Knicks in 1962.
In March 2007, Bryant scored 50 or more points in 4 straight games:
• 65 against Portland (March 16);
• 50 against Minnesota (March 18);
• 60 against Memphis (March 22);
• 50 against New Orleans (March 23).
Other huge scoring games by the 2007-08 MVP include:
• 62 against Dallas (Dec. 20, 2005);
• 61 against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden (Feb. 2, 2009);
• 58 against Charlotte (Dec. 29, 2006)
• 56 against Memphis (Jan. 14, 2002).
• 55 against Washington (March 28, 2003);
• 53 three times;
• 52 three times;
• 51 four times;
• 50 seven times.
Former Butler University star Gordon Hayward likely will have the distinction of defending Bryant in tonight’s game.
Hayward, who teamed with Connersville native Matt Howard to lead Butler to two straight NCAA championship games, has had another excellent season for the Jazz, averaging 19.8 points, 5 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
If you’re interested in catching a fast flight to Los Angeles to witness Bryant’s swan song, tickets reportedly are available. That is, if you’re willing to pluck down at least $20,000 per seat. Word has it you probably should have 25.Large for a ticket, just to be sure.
Check out these links to read more about Bryant’s NBA career.
Before Bryant plays his last game and Golden State tries to make history, the Pacers will wrap up the regular season with a road game at Milwaukee (8 p.m., Fox Sports Indiana).
Indiana (44-37) defeated New York, 102-90, Tuesday night to secure the 7th seed in the playoffs, which begin Saturday. The Pacers will play the Atlantic Division champion Toronto Raptors (55-26) in the first-round.
Also … if the latest ’30 for 30′ feature scheduled to air Thursday night on ESPN (9 p.m.) is as good as previous episodes, it definitely will be worth watching.
‘This Magic Moment’ will chronicle the Orlando Magic of the mid-1990s which featured the the big man, Shaquille O’Neal, and Anfernee ‘Penny’ Hardaway, a young, multi-talented guard who drew more than a few comparisons to Michael Jordan at the time. The program will be re-broadcast several times on the ESPN Family of Networks.
Statistics via BasketballReference.com.
Mr. Pizza, Cambridge City
Please Patronize Locally-Owned Businesses in Connersville and Cambridge City!