Thursday, April 14, 2016

#24 and #73

What an amazing night for basketball fans.  Especially in California.

It was the wonder of the past and of the future, both dazzling in the present moment.

After 20 years, Kobe Bryant played his last NBA game Wednesday night at home in LA. An old guy near 40 and coming off injuries, his farewell tour performances were often cameos, in the worst Lakers season in their history. But in several games late in the season, there were flashes of the old Kobe. He scored in the 30 point range a few times.

Wednesday the Lakers were playing Utah, a team that until game time was hoping for a playoff berth, but Houston had nabbed it. The Lakers players fed Kobe the ball and urged him to shoot just about every time down the court. But these advantages mean nothing unless you make the baskets. And Kobe did. Drives to the hoop, steals and one-man fast breaks, and three pointers. He hit two three pointers in the last minute and a half of the game, to give the Lakers their first lead. And improbably, they won.

Even more improbably, Kobe Bryant had scored 60 points in his last NBA game, 23 in the fourth quarter alone. Nobody his age had ever scored even 40 in their last NBA game. Kobe, who once scored 81 and had a string of 50 plus nights, hasn't scored 60 since 2009. He retires as the NBA's third leading scorer. He was praised before the game by Magic Johnson. He even hugged Shaq, who was one of Kobe's former teammates on hand for the occasion.

I remember those 3 championships with Kobe and Shaq.  I still have tapes of Kobe's later two (all with Phil Jackson as his coach.)  And I watched every game I could of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 90s (which was alot since I had cable TV then, and in Pittsburgh the package included the Chicago station that broadcast the Bulls) when they set the NBA record for most wins in a season at 72. (The old record had been 69.)

Kobe's career had a storybook ending Wednesday night. Now Kobe is past, and so is that Bulls record.   Because the future is at Golden State.

On Wednesday night, the Golden State Warriors won their 73rd game, breaking the single season record for victories nobody thought would ever be broken. They had to win their last four games to do it, including two against another team having a remarkable year, the San Antonio Spurs.

Steph Curry scored 46 points, including 10 three pointers. The record for 3 pointers in a season was set last year (by Curry) at 289. Earlier this season Curry became the first NBA player to hit 300. And Wednesday, he became the first to hit more than 400. He finished the regular season with 402.

This storybook season ended where it should have, at home at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.

Next weekend the Warriors begin the playoffs as the top seed, beginning their quest for a second championship in a row. That's their immediate future, with a pretty bright future as a team.

What a night for basketball.

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