There are only 192 minutes left on the shot clock for Kobe Bean Bryant.
One of the greatest careers in NBA history is coming to an end, and the folks in New Orleans get to soak up 48 of his final minutes.
The Black Mamba and the Los Angeles Lakers come to town Friday night in a game that, if it weren’t for Kobe, would be about as meaningless of a game as you’d find.
Both teams have long been out of playoff contention.
The two teams have combined for just 45 wins coming into Friday night.
These Lakers, with four games left in the worst season in the franchise’s history, are nowhere close to the Lakers you watched growing up.
And these Pelicans, well … they are nowhere close to the Pelicans you watched just a year ago.
There are times Friday night you will look at the guys on the floor and think this game would be better suited for a summer league game in Las Vegas.
Normally, you wouldn’t be able to give tickets away to the Pelicans’ home game Friday night.
Tickets for this one though will be hard to get, because of the demand of getting one final glimpse of Kobe.
Greg Bensel, Senior Vice President of Communications and Broadcasting, said the game is a sellout.
“There has been a tremendous amount of interest in Kobe’s final game here in New Orleans,” Bensel said. “And it has been highly anticipated. He is an iconic player, a Hall of Fame player and many of our Pelicans fans want to be part of it as fans of the NBA and his place in history.”
One ticket website has a pair of tickets listed at $1,108.
The Kobe jerseys (both the No. 8 variety he wore when he first entered the league back in 1996 and the No. 24 jersey he currently sports) will outnumber the Anthony Davis jerseys in the Smoothie King Center tonight.
The Pelicans have planned a video tribute to honor the guy who will walk away from the game as one of the best to ever play it.
His résumé, despite what almost was a career-derailing legal blemish, speaks for itself. Five NBA titles, two finals MVPs, one league MVP, 18 All-Star Game appearances, 11 All-NBA first-team selections and an 81-point outing easily put him in the conversation of one of the best 10 players to ever play the game. (I still scratch my head knowing there were 12 players selected ahead of him in the draft 20 years ago.)
Chances are, Kobe’s final trip to the Smoothie King Center won’t be quite like his first game to what was then called the New Orleans Arena 13 seasons ago.
Bryant scored 36 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and had four assists in his first ever game in New Orleans as a 24-year old back in 2003 against the first-year New Orleans Hornets.
Bryant’s body doesn’t quite let him put up the type of numbers that will let him walk away next week as the league’s third all-time leading scorer, trailing only Kareem-Abdul Jabbar and Karl Malone. He’s one spot ahead of the guy, Michael Jordan, who passed the torch to him years ago.
Bryant is averaging 16.8 points (still the best on the team) and 2.8 assists this season.
His minutes, of course, are down, too.
He plays about 28 minutes per game now.
At some point Friday night, he’ll play his final minutes in New Orleans and walk off the court and wave to the crowd one last time. There will likely be a thunderous ovation and chants of “Kobe, Kobe,” just like there have been on every stop of his farewell tour.
He’ll then disappear to the locker room, a step closer to retirement.
He knows, at age 37, his time is up.
His game isn’t quite the same.
The NBA won’t quite be the same either.