Johnson hails Bryant as greatest Laker in jersey tribute

Kobe Bryant with his family during the half-time ceremony, where both his LA Lakers numbers were retired at Staples Centre.
Kobe Bryant with his family during the half-time ceremony, where both his LA Lakers numbers were retired at Staples Centre.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LOS ANGELES • Kobe Bryant was heralded as the greatest Laker of all by fellow legend Magic Johnson in a ceremony to retire the five-time National Basketball Association (NBA) champion's jersey numbers.

The tribute came at half-time of Monday's home game against champions Golden State, with Bryant's 8 and 24 raised to the Staples Centre rafters to join other icons' jerseys from the team's 70-year history.

"We're here to celebrate the greatest to ever wear the purple and gold. He made us rub our eyes and wonder what did we just see," said Johnson, now the Lakers' president of basketball operations.

"There will never, ever be another Kobe Bryant."

Bryant played 10 seasons in each retired number, winning three titles in the single-digit uniform top and two in the other.

"Thank you so much for tonight," he told the crowd, which chanted his name while giving him a standing ovation. "It's not about my jerseys that are hanging up there for me. It's about the jerseys that were hanging up there before."

Many of the team's past legends were on hand to welcome Bryant, who retired after the 2015-16 campaign as an 18-time All-Star, a 2008 Most Valuable Player and two-time NBA Finals MVP, two-time NBA scoring champion and two-time Olympic champion.

  • KOBE BRYANT IN 20 SEASONS WITH THE LAKERS

  • 5

    NBA titles

    3

    Most Valuable Player awards

    18

    All-Star Game appearances

With his family watching, he was honoured with a highlight reel that included his career-high 81-point game in a 2006 victory over Toronto and his final game, where he became the oldest player to score 60 points in a win over Utah.

On court, it was the Warriors (24-6) who stole the show with a 116-114 overtime triumph. Kevin Durant scored 36 points, including the decisive jumper with 6.4 seconds to go. Kyle Kuzma scored 25 points to lead the Lakers (10-18).

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2017, with the headline 'Johnson hails Bryant as greatest Laker in jersey tribute'. Print Edition | Subscribe