Normally, the last night of the NBA regular season doesn’t matter. Stars are rested and teams advancing to the playoffs coast knowing the second season will begin on the weekend. Meanwhile, the eliminated teams are thinking about their Caribbean vacation during the playoffs. The 2015-2016 NBA season wasn’t much different.
The Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers are at the extremes of the NBA spectrum. The Lakers finished the 2015-16 campaign 17-65. Their 65 losses are the worst in Laker history, which says a lot because this team doesn’t have many losing periods like this. At any other time during any other season, a team with such an abhorrent record would not matter. This Laker team however, said goodbye to one of the game’s all-time greats in Kobe Bryant.
Meanwhile, 368 miles away in Oakland, the Golden State Warriors were marching to the beat of a different drum. They finished the season 73-9, breaking the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls record of 72 wins in one season. They were the only team to never lose two games in a row. They were also the only team in NBA history that has never lost to the same team twice in one season. Led by [who most believe is consensus MVP] Stephen Curry with sidekicks Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the Warriors have broken many records this season.
With that backdrop, the Lakers and Warriors each played at home, on national television at the same time with eager audiences ready to witness history. This day was so important, the NBA deployed two individuals to document each game on their Snapchat story! At that moment, there was a feeling this would be the most historic final day of a regular season ever.
First in Los Angeles, tributes poured in for the Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant. Pop royalty, music luminaries, former teammates and rivals videotaped heartfelt well-wishes to the shooting guard retiring after 20 years of continuous service to the Lakers.
Meanwhile in Oakland, Steph Curry and the Warriors scored 37 points in the first quarter and 70 points in the first half. In the process, Curry became the first player in NBA history to successfully convert 400 3-point baskets in one season, breaking his record of 286 he set last season.
At Staples Center, Kobe Bryant netted 22 points in the first half. It was apparent early on Kobe had the green light to shoot when he wanted. “It’s hard to believe it happened this way,” Bryant said. “I’m still shocked about it.”
What was supposed to be a long-awaited coronation of Kobe Bryant’s accomplishments turned into two players simultaneously writing their names into the history books.
While the Warriors surpassed the 1995-1996 Bulls season win total, Steph Curry may have delivered the single greatest statistical season in NBA history!
Curry sunk seven three pointers in the first quarter! He completely made his opponent, the Memphis Grizzlies, look like Swiss cheese. Curry also needed to score 41 points in order to average 30 points this season. He scored 46.
Curry also became the 3rd player in NBA history to shoot 50% or greater from the field, 40% or greater from downtown and 90% or greater from the free throw line in a season. Steve Nash, Larry Bird, Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant and Mark Price are the others in this exclusive club. Bird and Nash are the only ones that have reached this milestone at least twice in their careers. However, Curry did this while averaging 30.1 points per game, 6.7 assists and 5 rebounds per game.
Slide down the 101 Freeway to Los Angeles and Kobe had the greatest curtain call in the history of… EVER! He scored 60 points! SIXTY! He told Jay-Z courtside he would get him 40 points. Shaq challenged him to get 50 points. In typical Kobe fashion, he surpassed his lofty expectations. One thing about him is he never cheated the grind, never cheated the process and the fans always got their money’s worth.
“The perfect ending would have been a championship,” Bryant said with a smile. “But tonight was (me) trying to go out, play hard and try to put on a show as much as I possibly could. It felt good to be able to do that one last time.”
Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Ice Cube, Taylor Swift, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian (both were booed) were among the celebrities in attendance tonight for Kobe’s final game.
Bryant played 42 minutes and took a career-high 50 shots because teammates attempted to set him up for points on nearly every possession.
Kobe also notched his fifth highest-scoring game of his career. He became the oldest player to score 50 points in an NBA game. He surpassed all expectations tonight.
As the curtain lowered on the Lakers’ season, the Warriors will begin their 2016 playoff odyssey Saturday afternoon against the eighth-seeded Houston Rockets.
“Who knows how far we can take this thing?” Curry said.
The last night of the 2015-2016 NBA regular season featured one player (Curry) and a team (Golden State Warriors) that have desires to ascend to the top of the mountain once again. Meanwhile in Los Angeles, a player bid farewell to his stage, the curtain closed on his career. Yet he gave his fans, followers and detractors one final act worthy of any piece of Shakespearean literature. Kobe Bryant was thrown roses as he said “¡Hasta Luego!” to his career.