Last night, Kobe Bryant played the final game of his legendary 20-year NBA career in front of a packed house in Los Angeles. The 37 year-old signed off with a season-high of 60 points to help the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Utah Jazz in a dramatic comeback. Bryant spent his whole career with the Lakers, winning five NBA Championships, one MVP award and two NBA Finals MVP awards in the process. The Lakers legend had announced his retirement from basketball last November with a poem posted on the Player’s Tribune which literally broke the internet; the website crashed soon after it was published. His retirement, as much as his whole career, has been special and unique and marks the end of an era in professional basketball.
Once Bryant’s retirement plans were made public, Kobe embarked on an unprecedented farewell tour, receiving a warm welcome at every road arena he played. Basketball fans of all ages gave him a standing ovation at the end of every game to thank him for all the memories of the past two decades. Many NBA teams honored the Lakers star with tribute videos in pregame ceremonies, including the Chicago Bulls and their special video introduction from Pau Gasol, a friend and former teammate of Kobe’s.
Outside the world of basketball, celebrities also saluted Kobe Bryant, proving that he influence goes way beyond basketball. Last night he played in front of a star-studded crowd at the Staples Center, where celebrities such as Jack Nicholson, Jay Z, David Beckham and former teammate Shaquille O’Neal all came together to celebrate the last game of one of the greatest sport stars of all time. His performance even drew a smile from the notoriously grumpy Kanye West. Other celebrities, who didn’t make it to LA last night, paid glowing tributes through their social media handles, helping ensure Kobe Bryant trended on Twitter worldwide.
His international impact is evidenced by Nike’s global “Mamba Day” campaign, which rolled out the week leading to Kobe’s final game. As part of the campaign, Nike dubbed the 13th April “Mamba Day” and created a dedicated mobile website where fans could create a poster and share their “last word” on Bryant. In addition to that, Nike also released a video starring global sporting icons such as Neymar, Serena Williams, Tiger Woods and Allyson Felix who shared their thoughts on the Lakers legend. Nike also and released a second video advertising called “The Conductor”, which played on the NBA legend’s relationship with his many detractors. If it is true that the success of a campaign can also be evaluated by measuring social media engagement, then it is safe to say that the #MambaDay campaign has been an unequivocal success.
Unsurprisingly Nike weren’t the only brand to join the Mamba party. Apple, in fact, unveiled a new commercial last week starring Kobe himself and actor Michael B. Jordan, where the latter prepares to play aging Kobe in a movie. Furthermore, the city of Los Angeles also honored Bryant by naming a downtown train station “the Kobe Station” for a day and lighting its City Hall in the Lakers’ colours or purple and gold.
Bryant’s epic farewell has been the result of an iconic career that has left a mark in those who are passionate about basketball and sport as a whole. Throughout his career he contributed to the growth of the NBA globally, creating a new generation of basketball fans who look up to him and consider him a living legend. Yesterday at the Staples Center, fans showed how much they love Kobe, for what has been and for what will be, for the last time, for his well-deserved happy ending. #MambaOut