Bryan Altman, CBS Local Sports
Last year we watched as Derek Jeter went from stadium to stadium across MLB for the final time to be honored by organizations that have regarded him as an adversary for the better part of the last 20 years. Even the Boston Red Sox put their 100-plus year rivalry aside and showered public enemy No. 1 with praise, adoration and parting gifts – all in front of fans who have probably cursed Jeter’s name more times than they can count.
So with the Jeter farewell tour fresh in our minds, it’s pretty easy to imagine what Kobe Bryant’s will look like as he graces NBA arenas around the country for the final time. In all likelihood, every time he visits a different city it will be special, but some, like Philadelphia last night, will undoubtedly be more special for Bryant than others.
Whether it’s due to a long-time rivalry or an all-time great performance, here’s a look at five of the best stops coming up on the Kobe Bryant farewell tour.
1. December 30 – Lakers @ Celtics
Kobe and his Lakers did their part to usher in a new era of the NBA’s most historic rivalry between the Lakers in the Celtics. From the Lakers’ soul-crushing 39-point loss in the decisive Game 6 of the 2008 finals to Kobe and company’s redemption against the Celtics two years later with a Game 7 win in 2010, blood, sweat and tears have been poured by the gallon into this rivalry from both sides.
On numerous occasions Bryant has expressed his reverence for the rivalry with the Celtics and his respect for the fans and the city of Boston. In turn they’ve heartily booed him but don’t think for a second they’ll do so this year. These teams meet again in Los Angeles on April 3, 2016 but Dec. 30 will be the last chance for Celtics fans to watch an all-time great rival in their own backyard.
2. January 7, 2016 – Lakers @ Kings
The fact that this rivalry was so one-sided (the Lakers won every time they met in the post-season in Bryant’s career) is what will make Bryant’s final night in Sacramento such a memorable one. Will Chris Webber and Mike Bibby come by to wish Kobe farewell? Will Sacramento fans cheer the man who tormented them so much during the early 2000s? It’s going to be fun to see.
3. February 6, 2016 – Lakers @ Spurs
The Lakers and the Spurs have pretty overwhelmingly been the two best teams in basketball for the better part of the millennium. The matchup between Kobe’s Lakers and Tim Duncan’s Spurs was always a riveting one and it’s a shame to see it come to such an unceremonious end.
It’s essentially a formality that Duncan and the Spurs will roll over the hapless Lakers, but maybe Kobe has one last great performance left in the tank against an arch rival.
4. February 10, 2016 – Lakers @ Cavaliers
It’s truly a shame that we never got to see LeBron James take on Kobe Bryant in an NBA Finals matchup. LeBron has admitted that “he didn’t hold up his end of the bargain” in 2009 when his Cavaliers lost to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals and that one would have been epic. This will be the 21st meeting between these two players and LeBron currently has the edge 14-6 over Kobe, but it’ll be a blast to watch these two square off at least once more.
5. April 5, 2016 – Lakers @ Clippers
The fortunes of the Clippers have changed drastically since Kobe entered the league in 1996. The once dilapidated franchise has entered into an era of prosperity and actually competed with the Lakers before the latter’s downturn over the last two years. There’s still a fierce inferiority complex that exists among Clippers fans when compared to Lakers fans, but they still know an icon when they see one. I’m sure they’ll roll out the red carpet for Bryant in his final “road” game against the Clippers and make him feel right at home. That shouldn’t really be too hard.
Bryan Altman is an Associate Producer and writer for CBS Local Sports. For some reason, he is an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for just one championship for either of his other three teams. Read more from Bryan here.