When Los Angeles Lakers’ forward Kobe Bryant, 37, takes the court against the Utah Jazz in front of a home crowd on Wednesday night, it will be the final farewell in a season full of farewells.
Kobe’s last game against the Thunder.
Kobe’s last game in New York.
Kobe’s last game against LeBron James.
Wednesday night marks his last game, period.
To honor Bryant’s career, the Lakers have gone all out, inviting his former teammates to the Staples Center, erecting giant screens outside the arena bearing his image, and bringing in Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea to play the national anthem, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“The game is going to be a ‘zircus’ — a zoo and a circus,” said Lakers publicist John Black, according to newspaper.
Courtside tickets for the game have sold for as high as $27,500, compared with $1,000 to $2,000 for a typical game, ABC News reports, and hordes of media will be on hand. The much-hyped event even spawned it’s own Twitter hashtag, #MambaDay, after Bryant’s nickname, the “Black Mamba.”
Though the Lakers have gone 16-65 in a miserable season that’s landed them dead last in the Western conference, and though Bryant himself has struggled mightily to make his ailing body obey his competitive spirit, the focus of tonight’s game will be on the past, not the present.
Here’s a look back at his life and career by the numbers.
17 – The age Bryant was drafted into NBA
Taken 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 draft, Bryant was then traded to the Lakers for center Vlade Divac. Here’s the video of his draft night:
20 – Number of seasons in the NBA
“Playing 20 seasons in any professional sport is rare,” ESPN writes. “Playing 20 seasons for just one team? Now that’s an exclusive club.” It adds that in the last 20 years, only 11 players from the four major U.S. professional sports leagues (MLB, NBA, NHL, NFL) have played with the same team.
5 – NBA championship rings
Teaming up with another Lakers legend, Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant won three consecutive titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. He won another two in 2009 and 2010.
2 – Daughters
Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, have two daughters, Natalia, 13, and Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant, 9.
1 – NBA MVP award
Bryant won the league’s Most Valuable Player award for the 2007-08 season, beating Chris Paul, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James and Dwight Howard.
2 – Olympic gold medals
Bryant has been on five U.S. national basketball teams, helping lead them to gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
18 – All-star selections
In his 20 seasons, Bryant was selected for the all-star game every year except in his rookie season and in the 1998-99 season when the all-star game was cancelled because of an NBA lockout.
1 – Poem announcing his retirement
When Bryant announced his retirement in November 2015, it wasn’t a shock. The 37-year-old tore his Achilles tendon at the end of the 2013 season and spent much of the next season recovering. When he came back, he injured his knee and then tore his rotator cuff, which required surgery. While the announcement, wasn’t unexpected, the form in which he delivered it certainly was. He wrote a poem, called “Dear Basketball” in the Players’ Tribune website, which begins like this:
From the moment
I started rolling my dad’s tube socks
And shooting imaginary
In the Great Western Forum
I knew one thing was real:
I fell in love with you.”
33,583 – Points scored in his career (so far)
In 2014, Bryant surpassed Michael Jordan for third on the all-time scoring list. He ranks behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) and Karl Malone (36,928). In 2005-06, Bryant dropped 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, the second most points scored in a single NBA game behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962.
1 – Rape case
In 2003, a 19-year-old woman accused Bryant of raping her and he was charged with sexual assault and false imprisonment. The criminal charges were later dropped because the accuser, who faced intense scrutiny in the press, said she would not testify in court. Bryant settled a civil suit with the woman for an undisclosed amount and issued a public apology as part of the deal. His statement read, in part, “Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did.”
This is the Cliffs-notes version of the story. For a thorough recounting of the accusations, fallout and litigation, read The Daily Beast‘s recent story called “Kobe Bryant’s Black Mark.”