After a mind-blowing month of March Madness, it’s hard to imagine the basketball world getting any hotter. With unbelievable upsets, like 12-rannked Yale’s 79-75 triumph over five-seed Baylor, and a stunning buzzer-beating three-point shot by Kris Jenkins to give the Villanova Wildcats the NCAA championship over the North Carolina Tar Heels, the tournament lived up to its annual hype, and certainly did not disappoint.
But all die-hard basketball fans know that when one door closes, another opens. While March packs a punch with exciting college ball, the NBA heats up as temperatures rise in April, May, and June. And thus far, April certainly hasn’t disappointed: With the playoffs just around the corner, the East and West teams have secured their spots in the first round. Fans across the world will tune in to watch teams like the World-Champion Golden State Warriors take on the Houston Rockets. These best-of-seven series push teams to their physical and mental limits, and feature highly anticipated performances from legends-in-the-making like James Harden, Kevin Durant, reigning MVP Stephen Curry, and Lebron “King” James.
Surely, this season has been truly historic for the NBA, as the Golden State Warriors have single-handedly dominated the league. With spectacular performances all season long from all-stars Stephen “Chef” Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, the team has set a new record with a 73 wins in the regular season. In addition to his 30.1 points-per-game average, Curry has also made over 400 three-pointers this season, shattering his previous record-breaking season last year (286).
However, before playoff teams square off in pursuit of the title starting this Saturday, Apr. 16, Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant was determined to leave his mark in the Staples Center in the final game of his career. After 20 seasons of endless leadership and offensive stealth, the Black Mamba has five championship rings to his name. Despite the Lakers’ recent struggles, abysmal record, and inability to make the playoffs, Kobe has continued to hold his own, averaging 17.6 points per game.
And Kobe once again didn’t disappoint on Wednesday, Apr. 13, as he faced the Utah Jazz to cap off his NBA career. Not only did the Lakers emerge victorious in the 101-96 finish, but Kobe himself reaffirmed his rightful place in the record books of basketball. He was determined to go out with a bang, and leave his heart and soul on the court one last time. Kobe gave the sold-out Staples Center a show, scoring a spectacular 60 points off 50 attempts. Kobe displayed his unmatched footwork and agility; as he continued banking long threes and dribbling past Jazz players for quick lay-ups, he set the record for the most points for a player in their last career game.
Even though Kobe won’t be competing in the playoffs this year, this 18-time all-star reminded basketball fans around the globe that age is just a number. Mamba out.