Kobe Bryant, without a shadow of doubt, is one of the greatest players of the NBA. The respect he has from his peers was evident in the All-Star game at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Sunday, with players one and all paying tribute to the LA Lakers legend.
Kobe was the centre of attention in the All-Star Game, despite an array of stars being present. It was a special occasion for the Lakers man, and an emotional one as well, for the superstar was playing his 18th and final NBA All-Star game. So there was plenty of farewell scenes for the superstar.
It all started with a highlights package of Kobe's career on the giant screen, which included his amazing fadeaway jumpers and dunks. It was like going down memory lane and everyone felt a little nostalgic watching one of the all-time greats.
The atmosphere in Toronto with all the 'Kobe, Kobe' chants made one feel the event was more an All-Kobe game, than an All-Star game.
To top it all, fellow LA Lakers legend Magic Johnson praised the player in front of a full-crowd at the Air Canada Centre. "There will never be another Kobe Bryant," Johnson was quoted by CBS. "Let's all get on our feet and let him hear it one more time."
Bryant was emotional in his speech as well. "I just want to thank you guys for all of your support for all these years," Stuff.co.nz quoted Bryant as saying to the massive crowd.
"I've been extremely fortunate to be able to play the game that I love and be in the NBA for more than half my life. It's a thrill to be here in this All-Star Game so thank you for voting me in. I get a chance to be around these young players here, who when I first started playing most of them were my kids' age now.
"It feels so good to be able to speak to them about the game and to be able to share some of the knowledge that I have learned throughout my career to them so that they can carry on the tradition of the NBA and hopefully play 20 years themselves."
There was a tribute video as well, with messages from stars of the current generation, including Andre Drummond, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and LeBron James.
"I know it's been overwhelming for him over this year, but our fans across the world and here in the States and here in Toronto, as well, has just been paying so much respect," AP quoted James as saying. "It's all well-deserved."
Though Kobe scored just 10 points in the game, it mattered little as the fans increased their voiced everytime the great man had the ball. Even when he was substituted with around a minute remaining on the clock for the first quarter to end, Kobe was applauded to the bench by the fans. The players at the bench also hugged him, showing respect.
"It was fun," Bryant said. "I had a blast playing with those guys, laughing and joking with them on the bench."