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It was a certain January 22 nd, 2006 evening when I realized that Kobe Bryant, at that point #8 SG for the Los Angeles Lakers, was the most dominant and explosive player in the history of basketball next to only Wilt Chamberlain. As I witnessed live, Kobe was the fuse that exploded 81 times, something we hadn’t even seen anywhere close to since WC himself.
It was a rare occurrence in it’s own for Nerd to go to a Lakers’ basketball game, because as most of you know or may have realized, Nerd isn’t exactly a basketball fan. And when he does go, it’s because of his connection (you know me, I got connection’s everywhere…cousin working for the Clippers, another cousin working for the Dodgers…Jesse Boskoff) to the Clippers. So when anyone gets offered free tickets in the luxury box to see Kobe Bryant and the Legendary Box play, even if it’s to see them lose, you jump. And I leaped at the opportunity.
When we took our seats in the box, I got comfy putting my feet on the ledge. This didn’t sit well with the people working there. I don’t know why I shared that…but as security came over, the game went underway. The lights went out, the National Anthem was sung (as well as the Canadian Anthem, my favorite, because they were playing the Raptors) and the Lakers were announced. “At guard, number 8, Kobe Bryant,” I hear over the PA. I knew Kobe was big in LA, but even before he touched the ball he got a humungous ovation.
But when the game begun, The Lakers looked like the usual Lakers…shit. The Raptors were giving them the beat-down basket after basket after basket. The Lakers looked like an elementary play ground team facing the local high school state championship team (Which isn’t saying much for the Raptors right ere, actually). After the first quarter, the Lakers trailed seven. And the second quarter was no prettier as they went down trailing fourteen. The only spark was Kobe, with 26 at the half…he was on his way to a big game. You could feel it.
The Lakers were playing so bad I was considering leaving, I honestly was. But a tasty looking hot dog and a thirst quenching root beer convinced me to stay—at least till the end of the 3 rd. So I took my seat with hot dog in hand and got ready for the worst. Mr. Zen Jackson must have worked some of his zen magic at halftime, or gave one helluva speech, or came to the rather obvious realization that to win one must feet Kobe. But boy did they feed Kobe. And often—no constantly, and it worked. It seemed like every possession, the Lakers had the ball. And it seemed like every time the Lakers had the ball, Kobe had the ball. And every time Kobe had the ball, he shot. And it seemed like every time Kobe shot, it sunk in (11 for 15 in the third quarter). Whether this be a “I just dunked on your head, take that…” shot, a fade away three, or a “You just fouled me. What were you thinking? You know I don’t miss from the line” Free Throw (Kobe got 18 of his 81 from free throws). Realizing Kobe had 53 points at the third, I knew I had to stay. I looked at my dad, and asked if he realized how many points Kobe had at the third! He did. Everyone did. And even though this was the least if my concerns, the Lakers were only down two.
Minus the Kobe factor, it was an exciting game nonetheless at the third quarter. We got to see the beginning stages of how good Bosh was as he too had an amazing game, an aggressive game with lots of pushing, shoving and fouling, and also a close game. And as the fourth quarter began, the ‘MVP’ chant began. And it didn’t die down. Being the jokester I am, I started chanting ‘One Man Team’. I thought it was hilarious. With each shot Kobe made, the crowd went wild. Each time, my dad and I looked at each other, almost laughing. He got 60. He got 65. He got 70. The board told us all, and we all leaped to our feet. My dad thought once he got 70 Phil would rest Kobe. Oh how wrong he was. There were some nasty blocks. There were some sick dunks. Everything Kobe did was killer. In the fourth quarter, Kobe got all but 2 of their points. The Raptors didn’t even stand a chance any more. This was Kobe’s game. And as the game ended and Kobe got his 81 st point, a roaring ‘Kobe’ chant arose Staples Center. Everyone was on their feet. Confetti fell from the ceiling. We had just witnessed history, and it was the most exciting few hours of my life.
The post-game experience was just as fun. The exits of Staples Center to the parking lots also could hear the chant. Hats and shirts were sold on the streets. I high fived any one in site. And all my friends on my phone contact lists were notified what I had just seen, it was chaos, mayhem, and all that was right in the world. I made sure I had my ticket stub, knowing it was worth big cash. We sold one on e-Bay for 50 dollars, and I kept mine and framed it in my room along with other pictures and memorabilla of the night. I remember the night like it was two weeks ago, let alone two years.