NEW YORK • Kobe Bryant, a five-time National Basketball Association champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, has vowed that he will never play for another team.
"I've said it so many times - I'm a Laker for life," he said on Friday after his team beat the Brooklyn Nets 104-98 for their first win of the fledgling season.
"I bleed purple and gold."
Bryant was responding to suggestions by former coach Phil Jackson in pre-season that he might continue his career with another club after his Los Angeles contract - which rewards him with a league-high US$25 million (S$35 million) a year - expires at the end of this campaign.
The 37-year-old, who will decide whether he will retire at the end of the season, received a rapturous welcome from the fans in what might have been his last appearance in the Nets' Barclays Center arena.
He got off to a slow start, missing his first six shots and did not score a point until hitting a free throw early in the second quarter.
But he finished with 18 points, including two from a highlight-reel reverse lay-up for an 83-74 lead with 10:06 left.
Rookie point guard D'Angelo Russell had his most productive game yet with 16 points while guard Jordan Clarkson also chipped in with 16.
"I thought they were pro-Kobe," Lakers coach Byron Scott said of the sellout crowd of 17,732 fans.
"It is great the fans appreciate him the way that they do and they are showing their appreciation."
While Bryant got the adulation from the crowd, Scott was appreciative of a defence that held the Nets to 19-of-47 from the floor in the second half.
The Lakers forced 16 turnovers and outscored Brooklyn 96-79 in the final 40-plus minutes.
"We were just much more aggressive," he said after watching his team (1-4) allow 464 points in the first four games.
"We played with much more sense of urgency."
Centre Brook Lopez led the Nets with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS