On Sunday, ESPN aired the final two episodes of “The Last Dance,” a 10-part documentary series that chronicled Michael Jordan’s time with the Chicago Bulls up to his last season with the team in 1998 — the year he won his sixth and final championship.
According to Baxter Holmes of ESPN, we should expect a similar documentary series about Kobe Bryant and his last season with the Los Angeles Lakers in the future, but unlike Jordan’s series, Bryant’s final season didn’t end in a title.
In Bryant’s last year with the Lakers, they won 17 games, which, to this day, is still the team’s worst season of all time. Bryant managed to suit up in 66 games that season, but he looked like a shell of himself until the final night of his career, with averages of 17.6 points per game on 35.8% shooting from the field. That was understandable, as the 37-year-old guard was literally on his last leg, and he played like it.
Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers’ general manager for 16 of the 20 seasons Bryant was in Los Angeles, talked about Bryant’s “last dance” in a recent interview with Bill Oram of The Athletic:
“It was a tough year,” said Kupchak, the Lakers’ general manager from 1994 to 2017. “It’s not the script you want to write. The script is you win a championship and you retire. That’s the script. Not playing with a bunch of young kids, winning 17 games, being hurt the whole time, not being able to practice. That’s not the script.”
Hopefully Bryant’s documentary jumps back and forth between timelines like “The Last Dance,” and includes interviews from his former teammates and coaches — otherwise, it’s going to be a mostly somber documentary. I say “mostly somber” because Bryant’s disappointing final season in Los Angeles did have a storybook ending, and the speech followed his 60-point finale would make for a nice bow on a well-produced documentary series.
Just picture it: a montage of all of Bryant’s greatest career moments — the tears, the laughs, the trophies — with his speech playing over a string orchestra.
“What can I say? Mamba out.”
Fade to black.
It might not be anyone’s dream script, but it can be written well, and Bryant gave writers plenty of material to work with. Let’s hope they deliver.