After Kobe Bryant announced this will be his 20th and final season with the Los Angeles Lakers, players and fans from around the world have shown their appreciation for one of the greatest players in NBA history. With 10 games remaining in the season, Bryant is aiming to play in as many games as he can despite a nagging shoulder injury.
On Thursday, Bryant attended his first March Madness game to watch Duke forward, Brandon Ingram. After praising one of the top prospects in the nation following the loss to the Denver Nuggets last night, the five-time champion attended the Oklahoma-Oregon game today to watch Buddy Hield.
Hield, who is projected to be a lottery pick in this year’s draft, exploded for 37 points as he led Oklahoma to the Final Four. Following the 80-68 victory, Hield discussed his performance according to Brett McMurphy of ESPN:
OU’s Buddy Hield on his 37 points vs. Oregon: “As soon as I saw Kobe was here, I knew I had to put on a show. Blame it on Kobe”
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) March 27, 2016
For many players who are in college or just entering the NBA, Bryant is considered to be the greatest player of their era. In Bryant’s final game against the Phoenix Suns, he matched up against Devin Booker, who was only a couple days old when the five-time champion made his NBA debut.
While Bryant’s final game will take place on April 13 against the Utah Jazz, his legacy will live on through players like Hield. With the Lakers having a top-three protected pick in this year’s draft, Hield’s name may potentially be in the discussion if the Lakers are not able to select Ingram or LSU’s Ben Simmons.