After five championships, one MVP award, 18 All-Star Game appearances, and 33,583 points, Kobe Bryant’s 20-year NBA career reaches its conclusion as the Los Angeles Lakers (16-65) host the Utah Jazz (40-41) Wednesday night at Staples Center.
The 37-year-old Bryant will make his final appearance as a player on an NBA court, wrapping up a season-long farewell tour for a surefire Hall of Famer.
Record-wise, Bryant’s final season turned out to be the worst in Lakers history as the young team continues to transition from his era to a new one. The future of the Lakers remains a minor subplot, with the spotlight on Bryant as he makes his final curtain call.
Bryant told reporters after Monday’s 112-79 loss to Oklahoma City, his last road trip as a Laker, that its been an honor to play his entire career in Los Angeles.
"It means everything," Bryant said. "I grew up a die-hard Laker fan. It's like a dream come true, for a kid to grow up, play for his favorite team and play here for 20 years, his entire career. I've seen the city grow. I've seen the city develop and vice versa. There's no place I'd rather end my career."
While fans and the entire Lakers organization hope to send Bryant out on a high note, the Jazz have much more at stake and will look to spoil the evening. Utah, led by a solid young frontcourt of Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, slipped out of the playoff picture after falling to the Dallas Mavericks 101-92 on Tuesday night.
The Houston Rockets overtook the Jazz’s previous place as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, and now Utah requires a victory over Bryant and the Lakers and a Houston loss to Sacramento in order to make the postseason for the first time since 2012.
Despite the Lakers motivation, the Jazz have had the edge in every other matchup this season. Last month Utah blasted the Lakers 123-75, the worst loss of Bryant’s career. The Jazz are still in contention for the No. 8 seed and can advance to the postseason with a victory over Los Angeles combined with a loss by the Rockets.
Start Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Betting Odds: Utah -6
Over/Under: 193 points