Kobe talks in his post game presser about playing his last game in his hometown of philadelphia.
USA TODAY Sports
PHILADELPHIA — Even as the Philadelphia 76ers got off to a historically bad start to this season, a near sell-out crowd attended Tuesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
A large number of fans came to Wells Fargo Center to watch Lakers guard Kobe Bryant play his last game in Philadelphia. They also witnessed history of another sort.
The 76ers won 103-91 for their first victory of the season. With a 0-18 start, they had tied the NBA record for most losses to begin the season.
They also had set a league mark with 28 consecutive losses, dating to last season. Before Tuesday, the 76ers’ last victory came March 25. The Lakers lost their seventh consecutive game and fell to 2-15, the worst record in the Western Conference.
“Obviously this is a relief on many levels, but we’re going to get greedy,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “We want a little bit more.”
Robert Covington led Philadelphia with 23 points, and center Jerami Grant and Nerlens Noel had 14 each. Bryant led the Lakers with 20 points, but he shot 7-for-26.
“We’ve been positive and continuing to work knowing that this time to get a ‘W’ would come,” Noel said. “Finally, it did. Us as a group, as a unit, stayed so close together. Finally, it paid off. Now we’ve got some momentum and some confidence knowing we can close out games.”
Entering Tuesday night, the 76ers had averaged 14,240 fans in their seven home games, the fourth-worst mark in the NBA. But the fans showed up in droves Tuesday to see Bryant, who announced Sunday that he would retire after this season.
Bryant grew up close to Philadelphia and played at Lower Merion High School in nearby Ardmore, Penn.
The arena’s lower bowl was filled with fans wearing purple and gold Lakers jerseys.
During pregame introductions, fans shouted, “Kobe, Kobe,” as Bryant raised his right hand, blew kisses and took a bow. Former 76ers forward Julius Erving and Bryant’s high school coach (Gregg Downer) then posed with Bryant at halfcourt.
The 76ers also showed highlights of Bryant’s high school and NBA career on the Jumbotron as: “Dear Kobe. Thanks for the memories. Love Philly” scrolled above and below the video screen.
Bryant made three-pointers on the Lakers’ first three possessions. After his third three-pointer, a few fans began chanting, “MVP, MVP” toward Bryant.
“You could almost see a youthful smile on Jerami (Grant) and Isaiah (Canaan) as Kobe just started burying threes,” Brown said. “You forget that Jahlil (Okafor) hadn’t even been born when Kobe entered the league … I thought initially our guys were a little bit starstruck. We didn’t guard in the first half. I think some of that was the atmosphere that these guys walked into.”
Bryant’s hot start didn’t last, although he continued to shoot. His bad shooting night consisted of hitting four of 17 three-point attempts.
Still, as Bryant left the floor, the fans screamed, “Kobe, Kobe” one last time.