Kobe Bryant’s retirement tour continues apace, and he continues to tick “last time to do X” boxes off his list. On Monday night, he plays his last game in Charlotte, the city that drafted him only to trade him for Vlade Divac on draft night. He’s played in Charlotte to face the Hornets, the Bobcats and now the Hornets again, but his best game in the Queen City was against those dully-named Bobcats in 2006, when he exploded for 58 points against the likes of Raymond Felton and Gerald Wallace.
In fact, that game was on December 29, nine years and a day before his final game. Looking at that roster, it’s easy to joke (it was the rookie season of NBA legend Adam Morrison, after all), but they beat the Lakers in triple overtime that day. Kobe took an unfathomable 45 shots from the field, and no other Laker had more than 10 attempts. Those were the bad old days, in between the departure of Shaquille O’Neal and the arrival of Pau Gasol, and those Lakers went 42-40 and got bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the seven-seconds-or-less Phoenix Suns.
But that doesn’t diminish the sheer difficulty of scoring 58 points in a game, nor the significance of his final game against the franchise that drafted him (kind of — it’s complicated). We anticipate that he’ll get the same warm send-off he’s received all over the country.