After Kobe Bryant bid farewell, God forbid Jack Nicholson leaves the Lakers
The glitz is up north now and, while the titles may not be, the title is. As the Golden State Warriors prepared to defend their first NBA championship in 40 years, their southern California neighbours, the Los Angeles Lakers, with 11 championships in the last 44 years, closed the book on one of their most forgettable seasons and one of their most unforgettable stars.
Kobe Bryant had a most Hollywood ending to his 20-year reign in Lakers Land. For many of us it was a moment of unmistakable mortality. Kobe’s retiring? We are old - and even more emotionally daunting may have been the sight of Lakers stalwart Jack Nicholson, back in his courtside seats for Bryant’s farewell game.
He still looks good, Jack, still has the irrepressible Cheshire cat grin and is still the coolest man in the room even at 79 years of age. He is arguably the greatest of the great in Hollywood lore, on par with icons like Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant. A movie stars’ movie star, no TV sitcoms to pad his bank account in his dotage. The only time Jack ever showed up on TV was at a Lakers game.
In the ultimate “see and be seen” town, courtside seats at a Lakers game are the ultimate “see and be seen” accessory and it was Jack, with season tickets for the last 46 years, who was basically the first celeb to put down roots courtside.
Not surprisingly it was Jack in the Kobe video tribute that spoke last. “Goodbye Kobe,” he said, “I think I may retire with you. I’m not sure.”
And we are not sure either if he was referring to retiring from movies or the Lakers. Considering he has not made a movie since the eminently forgettable How Do You Know in 2010 and has no future projects on the docket, he is basically retired from film.
The notion of him retiring from the Lakers may be moot as well because he has missed far more games than he has attended the last couple of years, not surprising considering that coming into Kobe’s career finale the Lakers had won 16 games and lost 65.
Jack is not the only one mourning their demise. Former NBA commissioner David Stern, who always seemed more concerned with higher TV ratings then a competitive league, was once asked about his dream finals matchup. “The Lakers versus the Lakers,” he said.
Out here in Asia, NBA staffers would openly root for the Lakers to appear in the final while mainland basketball fans openly adored Kobe, even prompting a number of respected commentators to claim he is more popular in China than Yao Ming.
Bryant has a massive social media presence and recently signed a deal with Alibaba to sell his merchandise on the mainland, so we will likely be seeing a lot of Kobe out this way now, albeit as a gallivanting pitchman as opposed to an active NBA star.
Current NBA commissioner Adam Silver is far more diplomatic than his predecessor Stern and wants all teams to thrive. But even he has to know that something special is leaving with Kobe.
The Hollywood glamour won’t be nearly as enticing for the NBA, or an insignificant Lakers team in need of a big-time rebuild.
Of course, Hollywood is full of front-runners and eventually the Lakers will be good again. But the kind of transcendence that was Kobe and Jack will be next to impossible to replicate.
Bryant would go off for 60 points in his finale, leading his team to a victory over the Utah Jazz in a game that was rich in historical significance but had about as much competitive fervour as parallel parking.
After a season long, league wide farewell tour, Hollywood came out one more time to say thank you and goodbye. Legions of A-listers were on hand again and there seemed to be a palpable buzz in the building.
k even broke one of his cardinal rules by doing a TV interview; twice in fact, and how fitting was that.
He likely won’t be doing a farewell tour or a tribute night and it might be a good idea to thank Jack as well because who knows if and when we will see him again.
So thank you, Jack, for striding like a colossus over the golden age of Hollywood film from the mid-60s to mid-70s. Thank you for Easy Rider, Chinatown, Five Easy Pieces, The Last Detail, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and later in your career Terms of Endearment, A Few Good Men and As Good As It Gets.
You were the best and, just as importantly, every bit a Laker legend that Kobe Bryant was.