It’ll be quite some time – if ever – that the basketball gods look so kindly upon us fans and bless us again with an evening of that magnitude. Wednesday night was a tale of two games and two basketball moments in time that will live on in the memories of basketball fans for years to come.
One game was between the defending world champions, the Golden State Warriors, and the sixth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies. Both playoff bound teams with the Warriors entering the game on the verge of breaking a record that was once thought to be unbreakable. Wednesday night the Warriors surpassed the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for the best regular season record in NBA history. The Bulls’ record of 72-10 dropped to second best as the Warriors finished the regular season 73-9. Just think about that for a moment, 73 wins in 82 games. I’m no math major, but those numbers read well.
The other game, well, it had the second-worst team in the NBA, the Los Angles Lakers, and another non-playoff team, the Utah Jazz. But that game had Kobe Bryant. That game was the last time that we saw the Mamba in that iconic purple and gold. The 37-year-old Bryant was not just given the green light to shoot by his coaching staff, his teammates demanded it as they fed him the ball all night long, and Kobe did not disappoint. He finished the game with 60 points on 22 of 50 shooting, which is a lot of shoots, true, but his shooting percentage was a respectable 44%. He left it all out there on the court, pouring in points to end the fourth quarter and score the go-ahead basket to win the game. Classic Kobe.
Laker legend Magic Johnson addressed the crowd at the start of the game at the Staples Centre in downtown Los Angeles and introduced a Kobe Bryant tribute video. The video included testimonials from current and former NBA players, coaches and celebrities – shout out to Lakers season seat holder (since 1972) Jack Nicholson.
The significance of Kobe’s tribute in his last professional game is so monumental that it delayed the start of the Warriors-Grizzlies game. That’s right, the team 48 minutes away from owning the best regular season record in NBA history waited for Kobe.
It truly was a special moment to flip back and forth between both games, and I’d like to thank PVR for letting me catch every minute of each game. Kobe’s farewell is bittersweet. The game lost one of its all-time best players, and although his body broke down over time and took away the Kobe of years past, the fact that he’s officially gone is hard to believe. But wow, what a way to go out. And talk about a fitting end to a storied career.
And while one moment was bittersweet, the other was just plain sweet. The Warriors blew out the Grizzlies as Stephen Curry finished the game with 46 points, including 10 three-pointers. He finished the season with 403, smashing his previous NBA record of 286. 403! If there’s a level that’s above ridiculous, that’s the level that Stephen Curry is playing at. To watch him shoot the ball the way he is shooting it is poetry in motion. I’ve never before looked at a player’s shoot in the air and know that it’s going in; especially from the ranges that Curry has proven he’s capable of hitting it from.
The scary part is that Curry has a long career ahead of him. Who knows what he’s capable of doing next. What happened during that historic night of NBA basketball is a perfect way for the game to grow and expand its touch even further. It was a passing of the torch of sorts; one player from one generation exits stage right, while a new player of the next generation steps to centre stage. If you know anything about Kobe and Curry, you’ll know that although they span different generations, they have so much in common. They share the competitive spirit, relentless work ethic, and view basketball as their religion.
Mamba out. Curry in.