No tears please: Kobe Bryant plans to keep emotions in check on farewell tour
Longest trip of season starts in star’s hometown of Philadelphia
Kobe Bryant said he will not be shedding any tears. At least not publicly.
But the Bryant farewell tour is underway after Bryant announced that this will be his last season after playing all 20 seasons of his NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The rest of this season will likely be a test to see if he can maintain his composure.
The Lakers and Bryant begin their longest trip of the season, an eight-game, 13-day trip that starts Tuesday night in his hometown of Philadelphia. And Bryant knows there could be some ceremonies for him throughout the trip.
But don’t expect Bryant to start crying for the world to see.
“It’s not going to happen on the court,” Bryant said Sunday night, smiling, then laughing. “Ain’t going to happen there, man. But if I said I wasn’t getting a little emotional about it, I’d be lying. It’s a little different internally than when you actually voice it, now it’s out there. There’s a certain level of finality to it that adds a little more.
“The coolest thing is the blessings that I’ve received from other players. They say thank you for the inspiration, thank you for the lessons, the mentality. Those things honestly mean the most to me. That respect from my peers, there’s nothing in the world that can top that.”
This trip has the potential to be draining for Bryant, and it will be up to Lakers coach Byron Scott to keep a close eye on the 37-year-old guard.
Scott said it “might be impossible” for Bryant not to be emotionally spent on a trip that has three sets of back-to-back games and five games in seven days.
“I know how focused he is and I know how dedicated he is to making sure he’s ready for every game,” Scott said. “But with this announcement and going on this road trip, it might be impossible to keep him from being mentally drained at times, as well as physically drained. That’s where with the back-to-back games where I really have to watch and make sure that he looks like he’s OK when he’s out there.”
Bryant took some time to reminisce about growing up in Philadelphia.
He talked about playing in the Sonny Hill League, an amateur summer league in that area. He said he developed his skills on the Tustin Playground in Philadelphia. And he talked about becoming a standout at Lower Marion High, about 30 minutes outside of the city.
“It’s going to be beautiful,” Bryant said about playing his final game in Philadelphia. “So much of my game was developed in Philadelphia. … Just so many, so many great memories there. It’s going to be a very, very special moment.”
Bryant is averaging 15.2 points per game, the fourth-lowest of his career, his 30.5 per cent shooting is a career low and his 20.2 per cent three-point shooting is the second-worst of his career.
And Bryant is averaging 31.1 minutes per game, second-most on the team behind Jordan Clarkson (31.6).
Yet, Scott said he won’t alter Bryant’s playing time.
“Just try to keep it the same, but also keep a close watch on him,” Scott said Sunday night after the Lakers lost to Indiana and dropped to 2-14. “I talk to him on a day-to-day basis, make sure he feels OK, because … I think he wants to play every game as much as possible.
“Games are important, but I’ll also have to watch him when the game is not going on, make sure he’s getting his rest.”