The Staples Center saw two greats face off against each other for the final time on Wednesday night as Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade took to the court.
The Los Angeles Lakers overcame the Miami Heat 102-100 in overtime with Bryant having minimal effect on the outcome, only playing eight minutes and finishing with two points before taking to the bench and having ice applied to his knees and left shoulder.
Wade scored 24 points for the Eastern Conference franchise, but it was a night where the result played second fiddle to the passing of a great competitiveness between two of the best shooting guards in the modern era. Although, the Heat could have moved level with Atlanta with the W.
There were some brilliant moments between Wade and Kobe, who have a combined total of 30 All-Star selections and eight NBA Championships, throughout the night and the pair had a long talk after the final buzzer. There was added sentiment as their good friend Lamar Odom attended his first basketball game since coming out of a coma.
The two guards have come to define a generation in basketball and are both nailed on Hall of Fame inductees. Having spent their whole careers to date with the same franchise, they are part of a small rarity within the NBA today.
The Lakers’ 2015-16 season has heavily revolved around Bryant’s retirement tour as they have been rooted to the bottom of the Western Conference since the opening weeks of the campaign, and that was no different when Wade and the Heat came to town.
Having moved on to Sacramento for a game with the Kings in the early hours of Saturday morning, the Miami guard took to Instagram to pay a special tribute to his rival, colleague, and friend.
He posted a picture with the caption: “One last time!@kobebryant thank you for all the memories and giving me a level of greatness to shoot for when I came into this league. I've never stopped trying to get on your eye level. This picture is one of my favorite moments and it came playing with Kobe in the 08' Beijing Olympic [sic]... Him on one wing and me on the other. Man oh Man that was scary..#kb20 #respect.”
The duo played together in two separate Olympic Games. The not so successful campaign of 2004 that saw the United States end with a disappointing bronze medal, and then their dominant display in Beijing as they walked away with the gold having gone unbeaten throughout the tournament.
Both players played eight games in the competition, with Wade leading the US, averaging 16 points per game. Bryant was the third highest average scorer, dropping 15 each night. It was special to witness two greats on the same team, but one thing all NBA fans will regret is not seeing them face off in the Finals.