Mamba Day 2020
Courtesy: Entertainment Tonight

Mamba Day 2020

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To most people, April 13th is just an ordinary day; but to Lakers fans and basketball fans around the world, it is a day that is remembered and celebrated.

 

April 13th, 2016, marked the last day of the NBA regular season, and everyone had their eyes set on two different games being held in California

 

Photo Credit: The Globe and Mail

In Oakland, the Golden State Warriors were hosting the Memphis Grizzlies in an attempt to break the record for the most regular-season wins. In Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant was playing in the final game of his illustrious career. However, if we are honest here, the only people watching the Warriors game was their fans, everyone else only cared to see Bryant hit the floor one last time.

By now we all know what happened that historic night, the Warriors won their record-breaking 73rd win, and Bryant gave us all one last monster performance as he scored 60 points to help the Lakers beat the Utah Jazz. From that day on, April 13th will forever be known as Mamba Day.

 

I will never forget that day and where I was that night watching his final game.

 

At the time, I was a freshman at UNLV. All I wanted to do was take a trip back to California. I wanted to be at the Staples Center with the rest of the Lakers fans to partake in the celebration. The Lakers put together a carnival-like atmosphere where people could go on rides and buy Kobe merchandise before the big game.

 

Photo Credit: Pinterest

There I was, in my dorm room, with my face glued to the tv screen, to witness Bryant’s last minutes on the court. I may have been miles away and in another state altogether, but I can still feel the energy that was in the Staples Center that night. It was a meaningless game where both teams were not going to be in the playoffs, but you would have thought it was a Game 7 in a heated playoff series with the atmosphere in that arena. Bryant might not have been playing for the Larry O’Brien Trophy, but he was playing in his own personal Game 7.

When Bryant hit that final jump shot from the elbow to take the lead in the fourth quarter, I was jumping around as if I was in the arena myself. I sat there in silence as he knocked down his final two free throws to get his 60 points and honestly could not believe what I had just seen. Kobe received another Staples standing ovation after checking out of the game for the final time. I was just in awe while he gave his speech at halfcourt and as he rode off to the sunset (made his way into the tunnel).

 

It has now been four years since that day and Lakers fans all celebrate his epic performance whenever the anniversary rolls around.

 

However, this year was different and bittersweet for obvious reasons. Ever since Bryant, along with eight others, passed away in that helicopter crash in January, people have regularly referred back to his final game. It honestly does not feel like it was that long ago when we saw him leave the game, and it still feels unreal that he left the world.

Photo Credit: NBA

2020 was supposed to be a celebration for Lakers fans. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Shaq & Kobe 2000 championship team, as was remembered in the Spectrum Sportsnet documentary “Birth of a Dynasty.” But it also marks the tenth anniversary of the 2010 championship team that starred Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom.

Not only was it a year of remembrance, but this was also finally going to be the year where the Lakers were returning to the playoffs after not making the postseason since 2013. After Bryant’s death, LeBron James promised that he would continue his legacy and put the responsibility of being the leader of Lakers Nation on his back. That meant he was going to do everything in his power to honor Bryant by leading the Lakers to their 17th championship.

When the season abruptly came to a halt due to the Coronavirus, a sad possibility crept in. We may never know how the rest of the season was going to play out. At the time of the stoppage, the Lakers were in good shape sitting atop the Western Conference standings and were favorites to win the championship. What better way would there be to honor Bryant then for the Lakers to win it all?

 

I know Lakers fans would not like this, but there were others who seemed just as motivated by Bryant’s unforeseen passing.

 

The other team that was favored to come out of the West was the Clippers. They also seemed poised to make a run for the Finals. Led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, two California residents that also happened to be really good friends of Bryant, looked like they had the other LA team on the cusp of something great.

Out of the East, there was reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounpo and his Milwaukee Bucks, who were currently having the best regular season. Antetokounpo may not have been close to Bryant as the others, but he was still someone he looked up to when it came to training together and challenging him to become an even greater player. The Bucks were favored as the team to represent the East in the Finals, and perhaps Antetokounpo felt a little more inspiration to take his team to the top as well because of Kobe. 

 

Photo Credit: NBA

Whether the season will resume remains to be seen. If it does, we do not know what city it will take place in or in which format they will choose is best to complete it. It would be great to have a conclusion to this season that will never be forgotten. 

Will James and Anthony Davis find a way to give Bryant the ultimate honor of another Lakers championship? We will just all have to wait and see what the League decides to do and how things will unfold. 

For the time being, we will always have something to celebrate on April 13th. This year was the first Mamba Day since his death, and due to the pandemic, we didn’t get to celebrate as we would have liked.  Hopefully, we’ll be back on track, and time will have healed some of those wounds by next year. 

 

Where were you when Kobe scored 60 points in his final game? Tell me about your experience watching it in the comments or on social media. Mamba Forever. 

 

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Isaiah Torres

Twitter: Isaiah_Torres24

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