When Kobe Bryant made his first appearance at a Los Angeles Lakers game since LeBron James signed with the team as the Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets for their first home win of the season on Thursday night, it wasn’t quite clear what to expect from the evening.
But while such a symbolic passing of the torch wasn’t without it’s awkwardness — most notably a crowd chanting “Kobe” before being silenced by a 3-pointer from James — after the win, both future Hall of Famers were effusive in their excitement about seeing one another at Staples Center.
On his way out of Staples Center @KobeBryant told me and @taniaganguli what he thought of his first close-up look at LeBron James as a Laker.— Bill Oram (@billoram) October 26, 2018
“It’s fucking awesome. Being here in this building. Seeing the fans, seeing the energy back in the place, it’s awesome.”
And just as much as Bryant says he liked seeing James in a Lakers jersey, the rest of the Lakers enjoyed seeing Bryant at the game, including James himself.
James said he didn’t get a chance to share any words with Bryant, but that it was special to have one of the franchise’s biggest stars in the house (via the team’s official Twitter account):
“Of course you notice him sitting right there on the baseline over there. One of the all-time Laker greats, what he’s done for this franchise in his 20-plus years that he was here speaks wonders. For me to be able to compete against him all those years, and then for me to be able to share a jersey, the same jersey as him at this point, it’s pretty special.
“I know he’s doing a lot of things right now after basketball. His daughter looks like she’s on her way playing the game of basketball — she looks nice playing too — so for him to take the time out to come and watch us play tonight was pretty cool.”
Bryant’s former teammate — and now Lakers head coach — Luke Walton also enjoyed seeing the man he won two rings with:
Luke Walton on Kobe being present: I think everyone gets excited when Kobe’s around. So us as a staff, the players, anyone who’s a part of the Laker family, the fans, everyone. He’s a huge part of this organization, so when he gets in the building, I think it brings a little more— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) October 26, 2018
Lakers guard Lance Stephenson similarly couldn’t hide how hyped he was to have one of his “favorite players” from childhood in the building:
"Aw man, you know Kobe, it's a blessing for him to be at the game. That's one of my favorite players. He was like 'good game' after the game, so I was a little hyped."- Lance on whether or not it meant more to have Kobe in the house for the win tonight (via @SpectrumSN)— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) October 26, 2018
Lonzo Ball, who had Bryant at at least one game during his rookie season, said it was still unique any time one of the team’s greatest players ever is in the building:
"It's always special when Kobe comes, he's a Laker legend. I'm glad we got the win for him."- Lonzo on Kobe being at the game tonight (via @Lakers)— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) October 26, 2018
As James mentioned, Bryant has a lot of other projects, so it’s unlikely he becomes a regular at Staples Center this season no matter how “f—king awesome” he says it is to watch LeBron. However, given how warmly he was received by the players and how raucous the crowd was every time he was shown on the jumbotron, maybe Bryant will make a few more trips out to games this season.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.