The Los Angeles Lakers almost mounted a huge comeback before falling against the Kings on Thursday night as the Kobe Bryant farewell tour made its final stop in Sacramento. Bryant's effective play (28 points on 18 shots in an efficient night for the 19-year veteran) did not betray his age, but looking into the crowd might have made him feel a bit older.
On this night, Bryant was facing off against a team who's general manager, Vlade Divac, not only had previously suited up for the Kings in some memorable battles with Kobe and Shaquille O'Neal's Lakers in the early 2000's, but he was also the player the Lakers traded to the Charlotte Hornets in order to acquire a 17-year old Bryant.
Divac hinted before the game that he had a surprise gift for Bryant, and Bryant revealed the hilarious surprise after the game. "He gave me a Charlotte Hornets jersey number 8," laughed Bryant during his postgame press conference. "It's awesome."
"Story time with Kobe" has often been a highlight of his final season, but this week it was Divac who stole the show, telling the tale of how he almost caused the Bryant trade to fall through when he threatened to retire rather than leave Los Angeles. Lakers fans everywhere are certainly thankful that he didn't, and should probably forgive him for a few of his flops against Shaq as a symbol of gratitude. Thanks Vlade.
Quotes transcribed via Time Warner Cable Sportsnet.