My Last Mamba Moment
Damn, after 20 years of marvelous efforts, Kobe is done. I sat around at my house yesterday for a bit thinking about how I’d celebrate “Mamba Day”, which I realized while walking Downtown LA was a play on the word “holiday”. Initially, I had plans to eat my meal-prepped chicken and veggies, go play some basketball and come back to the local university pub to drink some purple and gold beer. Maybe not the purple drank, so much. I’d heard talk of people going downtown to watch the game to get as close to Kobe’s last action as possible, even if it didn’t mean being in $27,000 seats. The next best thing was flooding the bars and bistros in LA Live and the spots surrounding. As I finished the last of my soy sauce-doused snap peas I thought, “why the hell would I miss out on this opportunity to celebrate with fellow Laker fans in the City of Angels engaging in a bit of FSUing?” I hopped in my car quickly and headed north to South Park, not even stopping to get gas that I might have needed.
“No More Parties in LA” played while I passed USC as I thought, well we got one more party in LA this year and it was that day to see Kobe’s last hurrah. I pulled up to my free parking area a couple of kilometers out from the Staples Center and was lucky enough to find a fellow getting ready to drop his hood after some type of self-service who assured me he’d be out soon. Very well. So I pulled up ahead into a red zone to wait. I looked into my sideview mirror to see him pissing on the sidewalk in broad daylight. Really bro?! Guess he was feeling extra free on this Mamba Day. I pulled into this free, prime parking spot and things were going well. I threw on my new Laker beanie with fuzzy ball atop and headed to LA Live; things were going well already. I stopped before getting to a stage with a DJ and large dance area with other Laker themed festivities like cornhole (?!) surrounding. There was a crowd growing by the player entrance hoping to get one last look at the Mamba pull up to the workplace. I thought back to one of my first Laker games at the Great Western Forum when I waited with my Dad (RIP) after the game to catch former Lakers like Sean Rooks pull off. I will never forget watching Kobe pull off in an all-black Range Rover on the late Inglewood night years before his Finals MVPs and 81-point game.
(ESPN/Andrew D. Bernstein)
I waited at the spot for Kobe, even though I was pretty sure he’d been taking helicopters to games for years now seeing some cool shit meanwhile. Pat Sajak rolled up, seemingly with the intention to hand out a final “L” to Kobe’s last opponent. A few minutes later Gary Vitti pulled for his last game, as well, in one of thee sweetest SLKs I’ve ever seen. Brian Shaw walked up just a few minutes before Big Shot Bob Horry was spotted walking down into the arena. This night was bringing back some of the best Laker memories while setting the stage for such a big night in basketball history. Jeanie Buss walked up, chatting and taking pics with fans looking damn good, too. This was LaLa land and basketball wrapped up into one big event. Even lil Terio rolled up to see Kobe killem one last time. AC Green rolled into the stadium in a Toyota Caravan making me chuckle to myself a little before Mr. Showtime himself, Magic Johnson pulled up in a big black SUV.
The current roster started pulling up, reviving hope that Kobe might be among them. Nick Young pulled up, dabbing in a matte S63. D Lo pulled up in a fly, new Corvette with others like JC, Tarik Black and Big Sacre soon following in their whips. No signs of Kobe and as my bro had just pulled up, it was time to vacate. Catch you next time, Mamba… or not? : (
I finally fell deep into the fray, rubbing shoulders with Kobe fanatics who’d later shed enough tears to take the state out of drought, amazed at how one man could bring a city to this. Thousands lined-up to send Kobe off with notes on a large posterboard, take pictures with the Larry O’Brien’s the Mamba had brought to the city; nobody was playing with the damn, dumbass cornhole. We made our way into a bar (shoutout Don Chente!) with space to house a couple of needy Mamballeros (<- Trademarking it!).
(Seen in the Don Chente restroom)
We get to bar, gripe about the lack of burritos and tacos on the menu, and take it all in, as the lowkey spot gets discovered and fills with purple and gold. Unable to get our hands on the giraffes (the tall, portable beer fountains), we settle for a bucket Negro Modelos. On mid-sized screens around the bar, we watch Kobe walk into the arena for the last time wearing all-Black everything getting ready to give his own eulogy. The vibe was a mix between Daft Punk’s “One More Time” and the Undertaker’s theme. It was really bout to happen. I tell my bro about the Kobe quote I’d read while eating my chicken and snap peas; he said, “I feel like killing everybody when I walk into the arena”. The quote encapsulated who he was; the venomous Mamba. And here we were watching, Flea play the bass before the most important play of the night.
And it began, Kobe took the floor for a game with no playoff implications. The game couldn’t even have hurt Kobe’s legacy, nor affected much else about the NBA. It was simply Kobe’s last 48 minutes in his position. The first quarter, after an ugly ass-Sam Cassell type start, was all we could ask for. “Kobe’s gonna get 20. That’s dope.” was the early sentiment. Then the second quarter came for which Kobe sat half. Still not a bad showing. The apparently dismal field-goal percentage was an afterthought. No one cared how many shots he put up. No one cared about the score either, Lakers were down (as usual), but Kobe was still there so that was ok. It was cool to see him do what he did, no matter how or how well he did it. Before the tip, my bro mentioned the possibility of a Kobe Bryant game-winner. Then the 3rd quarter came with Kobe helping the Lakers get the lead down to single digits for one last time, he, again, mentioned the possibility of Kobe doing the unthinkable one last time.
I said something like “it’d be dope but this is still good to see”, as Kobe was somewhere in the range of 30 points on 30 shots. I’d have been happy with that. He didn’t have to make another bucket. At that point, I and the rest of the bar were like proud community elders, content with one of their own doing his best in his last showing. He ended the quarter just shy of 40 points. Those threes, those turnarounds; they had thrown the Don Chente crowd into frenzy. We were on our hard-fought for second bucket of Negro Modelos at this point (the restaurant was ill-prepared for the influx), happy to be in the zone.
Here we were, at the end of twenty scandalous, polarizing, magical years. How could we, Kobe included, coalesce a legacy into 12 more minutes. Little did we know… It was soon to happen. Reflecting, it seems like a Michael Jackson montage in relation to its supernatural feeling. This larger-than-life feeling. Kobe starts shooting and then Kobe starts hitting. Inside the 3; in. In the key, in. Behind the line; in. My homie hints at his prophecy. The Lakers are within 6 for like the 24th time in the game. Every shot that quarter sent us jumping and hugging, hand-slapping and chest-slamming. Then it was 95-96 with the Lakers down 1 and he knocked down the shot to make it 96-97 (his rookie season) and putting him in reach of the legendary 60 point total. It was the go-ahead bucket and the eventual game winner. This is how my first European football game felt. It was ecstatic. I felt high. Anxiety and adrenaline pumping through me, an electricity that Enron couldn’t fuck with overtook me. It was a literal buzz. Then he knocked down the most important free throws since Metta’s in that 2010 Game 7. It was finally over, ending in a way I’d never imagined, though the fantasies my bro spewed was that which kept us glued to the Mamba for so many years, as we knew that at any given time, he’d deliver the best we’d ever seen. And on his last outing, he did it again. Few things have given me the feeling I had last night. Most of those were concerts. Watch the Throne (in Staples) did it for me, my first show (a Snoop Dogg show) did it and also a Mac Miller show on the day his debut album released. This prolonged natural high (maybe not so natural at some of the shows) made everything all worth it. Nothing could have fucked up my night. Not complaints about me going to LA on a whim, not being broke as hell until payday, not even not having enough gas (see intro) in the whip to take me back to home, leading to me calling AAA, which goofed up my membership, leading to me spending more money and wait for an hour on a dark DTLA street while the homie from LA Tow came through and towed me to a gas station. *takes breath* He was taken back by this lingering high as I told him like the basketball vendor in Coming to America “I will cherish this experience for the rest of my life”. I walked to the window behind a brotha who must’ve felt that stream of consciousness, who looked back at the fuzzy beanie and said “you see that game?!”
All I could do was exhale but my response was clear. I put the most awesome $15 of gas in my car of all-time and headed down the I-5 back to the OC, where I hope to see Kobe soon.
I’m this guy