Few among us consider the final night of the NBA regular season appointment viewing.
Those who watch are die-hard fans of teams that are scrambling for the final win to send them into the postseason or just rabid viewers of the Association, though, those are few and far between in the modern era. But, to the general public, the interest level in these largely meaningless contests is marginal at best.
Wednesday night held a different distinction. Wednesday night made history that will not soon be forgotten.
In Oakland, California, the Golden State Warriors came off a record-tying game that saw them at eye-level with Michael Jordan and the 72-win Chicago Bulls team of the 1995-96 season. But, with one game remaining to play, the team smelled blood in the water.
Led by reigning NBA MVP guard Stephan Curry’s 46 points, Golden State routed the seemingly inconsequential Memphis Grizzlies 125-104 to stand alone in the record books as one of the most unstoppable forces in Professional Basketball’s history.
Who would have believed the possibility last year’s MVP and defending NBA championship-winning team could have made such drastic improvements?
“Who knows how far we can take this thing?” Curry said, in regards to the looming 2016 playoffs that begins Saturday April 16th with a first-round series against the Houston Rockets.
But, even as the Warriors dominated their way to the record last night, they were not the biggest story.
Enter the Black Mamba to hog the spotlight one final time.
In an entrance that felt more like a Guns & Roses concert than a player introduction, Kobe Bean Bryant wrapped up a 20-year NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Many thought the game would be mostly ceremonial, with the Mamba limping across the finish line in his last outing as he has the majority of the season.
Naturally, he scored 60 points on 50 shots.
Guiding his tired and bedraggled team to only their 17th win of the season, Bryant steeled himself and put every ounce of strength that remained in his 37-year old body into a 101-96 victory over the Utah Jazz. “What’s funny — the thing that had me cracking up all night long — the fact that I go through 20 years of everybody screaming to pass the ball, and then the last night they’re like, ‘Don’t pass it!'” Bryant said, laughing as he addressed the sold out Staples Center directly after the game. The final act in Bryant’s illustrious career caused such an outpouring on social media that the Lakers’ official Twitter account crashed for 35 minutes.
Sorry about that, everybody.
Kobe got too hot for the Twitter servers.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) April 14, 2016
Bryant finishes his career with six 60+ point games and sits at third on the all-time scorers list with 33,643 behind only Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.