On November 29, NBA great Kobe Bryant announced that this year would be his last. A devastating blow to fans of the Los Angeles Lakers (and possibly a sigh of relief to fans of any other team), Bryant’s absence from the game will certainly leave an impact on the landscape of professional basketball. However, the NBA, and in particular a former boss, isn’t letting Bryant leave quietly.
On the NBA’s official Twitter feed, a video was posted showing a tribute played before a match between the Lakers and the Golden State Warriors; this game is the last one Bryant will ever play in Oakland. The two-minute video is a tribute by Jerry West, current executive for the Warriors and an all-time great who not only played his entire pro career for the Lakers, but was also the one who, as manager of the Lakers, had first signed Bryant to the team.
“Kobe, 20 years ago, a long time ago, I had an opportunity to meet a 17-year-old kid who had the dream to be one of the greatest players of all time,” West says at the start of the video. “I saw something real special in you, and it didn’t have to do so much with your enormous skill at 17 years of age. You could almost feel this incredible determination and desire to compete and excel. Twenty years later, I look back; I was right, the Lakers were right and I see this incredible basketball player with a resume that’s almost second to none.”
The video goes on to continue praising Kobe Bryant for his skill and his influence on both players and fans, thanking him for everything he has accomplished as a player and ambassador for the sport. Throughout the video, Bryant is shown watching this emotional tribute, and he’s clearly doing his best not to cry. But that’s to be expected, given such a moving video from the man who gave him his start in basketball and led him and his team to three straight NBA championship wins in 2000 to 2002.
Basketball legend Jerry West pays tribute to @KobeBryant prior to his final game in Oakland! #KB20 https://t.co/2ZR9IL1zIW
— NBA (@NBA) January 15, 2016