On April 13, 2016, the Los Angeles Lakers finished one of the worst seasons in team history – 17 paltry wins stacked against 65 bruising defeats. A limp to the finish line. No time for Showtime. Yet few dates in sports history will ever carry such weight, such consequence as April 13, 2016. And few keepsakes in modern sports history will ever bear such import as the autographed piece of basketball court on which one of the game’s greatest players authored his indelible farewell.
April 13, 2016, marked Kobe Bryant’s 1,346th game as a Los Angeles Laker – and his final one in the gold and purple. After 33,643 points scored, 7,047 rebounds, 6,306 assists, 20 seasons and five titles, the 38-year-old was retiring. Coach Byron Scott was stunned by the decision; fans, shattered and brokenhearted.
“Whether you view me as a hero or a villain,” Bryant wrote in a farewell letter posted to Twitter on November 2015, “please know I poured every emotion, every bit of passion and my entire self into being a Laker.”
That was plainly evident on April 13, when the Utah Jazz, still hoping for the final playoff spot in the West, came to Los Angeles.
Accounts of that night tell of fans lined up around the Staples Center hours before tip-off, so they could snatch up all the Kobe merchandise and keepsakes available at his going-away party. “It was almost like an atmosphere of a Game 7 of the Finals,” former Bryant teammate and then-Lakers associate coach Brian Shaw told Bleacher Report in 2017.
The crowd’s roar was deafening from tip-off and only grew louder as Kobe sank basket after basket on hardwood bearing his numbers 8 and 24, racking up 60 points by game’s end – a staggering milestone Bryant had not reached since 2009. The crowd quieted only for Bryant’s farewell address, which lasted 2 minutes and 43 seconds and ended, famously, with a parting “Mamba out.” It’s cliché to call it a Hollywood ending. But what else would you call it?
Before he left the Staples Center floor for the final time, Bryant had one task remaining: He walked over to the pieces of the court bearing the two numbers he wore as a Laker, painted white and outlined in purple. He leaned down and autographed each one.
The signed No. 24 remains with the Lakers, installed at the team’s practice facility.
But the autographed No. 8 from the final floor on which Bryant played ball for the final time now heads to auction. It’s the centerpiece of Heritage Auctions’ Michael Jordan & Basketball Icons event now open for online bidding until Oct. 3, when extended bidding begins.
In every way this is an outsized offering.
It’s enormous, literally, consisting of four panels, each measuring four by eight feet. It was removed from The House Kobe Built shortly after he left the Staples Center floor for the final time as a Laker. It features a number no other Laker will ever again be permitted to wear.
And it’s an autographed piece of the hallowed ground where a revered legend and beloved icon made his last stand.
Of course it bears even more gravitas now, in the months following the tragic Jan. 26 helicopter crash. This is not lost on the hardwood’s consignor, who will donate 10 percent of the sale’s proceeds to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, a nonprofit intended to further Kobe and Gianna’s legacy through charitable endeavors in sports.
“We see a lot of iconic pieces at Heritage Auctions, but this one feels especially profound and even a little overwhelming,” said Chris Ivy, Heritage’s Director of Sports Auctions. “After losing Kobe this year, it’s very special to see something that so uniquely celebrates his career and was actually part of the experience of his unforgettable NBA finale. And it gives us a lot of pride to have the opportunity to offer something so thrilling.”