The Staples Center faithful probably would have preferred he was wearing a jersey and checking in to the game, but Kobe Bryant's hobbling walk from the tunnel to behind the Los Angeles Lakers bench in the third quarter of Sunday's season-ending loss was easily the highlight of a disappointing night.
Bryant conveniently stole the spotlight just moments after Dwight Howard had been ejected for his second tech. The big man's exit might have marked the end of his career as a Laker. And, unfortunately, it happened in eerily similar fashion to the way Andrew Bynum gracelessly bowed out of his a year earlier.
Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times noted the almost surreal drama of the entire episode:
Only in Hollywood...9:51 left in 3rd quarter, D12 gets ejection..at 8:51 of quarter, Kobe hobbles out w/crutches to standing ovation...— Bill Plaschke (@BillPlaschke) April 29, 2013
Bryant's timing was undoubtedly strange, but his method of entry could have used a little work. I mean, if he meant to steal the show, he really should have raised the ante. Justin Verrier of ESPN had a good suggestion for how Bryant could have stepped up his showmanship game:
Would've been better if Kobe descended from the rafters, but this was OK, too.— Justin Verrier (@JustinVerrier) April 29, 2013
Of course, it's probably unfair to assume that Bryant was hunting the spotlight. Maybe he really did want to provide his teammates support and a morale boost as they stumbled toward inevitable defeat. Then again, maybe there's a simpler explanation.
ESPN's J.A. Adande had a pretty good theory:
Maybe Kobe didn't want to hang out with Dwight in the locker room.— J.A. Adande (@jadande) April 29, 2013
After a season filled with surprise, sadness and unparalleled drama, Bryant provided L.A. fans with one final image to remember.