We all knew Kobe Bryant's last entrance as an active NBA player would be emotional, and we were right. We just didn't know how emotional it would be. Prior to hitting the court one final time, the Lakers presented a video package. As the curtain drew, it grazed some of the Lakers players and startled them. Kobe maintained his composure.
The video showed Kobe being drafted, as well as an early interview with the late Chick Hearn. It listed his greatest accomplishments throughout the years, both as No. 8 and No. 24.
After the video ended, Magic Johnson took the court to celebrate:
"For 20 years. Excellence for 20 years. Kobe Bryant has never cheated the game. He has never cheated us as the fans. He's played throughout injuries. He has played hurt. And we have 5 championship banners to show for it."
Johnson also took the time to honor Lakers trainer Gary Vitti, who is also retiring.
Another video played, where former teammates and opponents including Shaq, Dirk Nowitzki, and Lamar Odom congratulated Bryant. Kobe, notably touched by the reception, hugged Magic Johnson and took the court.
Bryant's career has spanned 20 years and is one of the most storied in NBA history. He is leaving the league as No. 3 on the NBA's all-time scoring list, behind only former Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jazz great Karl Malone. He's holding on to the second-most points scored in a single game with 81.
And despite this Lakers season being one of the most tumultuous in Lakers history, all of that doesn't matter on Wednesday because the spotlight is solely on the five-time NBA champion one last time.