LA buzzing ahead of Bryant's league farewell
By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - With Kobe Bryant set to end his stellar 20-year career with the Lakers later on Wednesday, Los Angeles was buzzing at the prospect of seeing one of the all-time National Basketball Association greats bow out.
Lakers fans arrived in droves at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles several hours before the scheduled start of Bryant's farewell home game against the Utah Jazz, many of them eager to buy Kobe merchandise, including his No. 24 jersey.
A Lakers 'Fan Fest' was organized outside the venue, giving supporters a chance to get photo opportunities with the five NBA Championship trophies won by Bryant during his time in Los Angeles.
Rodrigo Duarte, a 24-year-old IT consultant from Brazil, had traveled from South America to attend Bryant's final league game before he makes the trip home on Thursday.
"I just came for the game," Duarte, who had a billboard strung around his neck bearing the legend: "From Brazil to Kobe's last chapter. Thanks KB", told Reuters outside Staples Center.
"I got tickets as a gift from my parents, but I don't know how they got them!
"I've been a Kobe fan since the age of 10, when I started watching him on TV and I wanted to do the same things that he did on court. I bought a basketball and I tried to make the same shots and the same moves. I was fascinated by the way he plays."
Asked how he viewed Bryant's NBA legacy, Duarte replied: "Kobe was all about change, innovation and having no fear to play the game." Continued...