Future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant ended his 20-year NBA career this week in dramatic fashion with the Los Angeles Lakers superstar leading his team to victory over the Utah Jazz with an unforgettable 60-point performance at the Staples Center. Bryant’s performance was one of many throughout his career that amazed fans, coaches, and his peers around the league.
With Bryant’s playing days in the NBA coming to an end, a lot of his former teammates, coaches, and longtime rivals have said farewell in one form or another over the past few days. Two-time NBA champion Ray Allen was one of them with the former Boston Celtics guard recently being asked about what emotions he felt watching Kobe’s final season with the Lakers.
Allen recently sat down for an interview with by Abe Schwadro of SLAM and talked about what it was like witnessing Bryant’s farewell tour over the past few months:
“It just gives me pause, thinking about the last two decades. We came in, got drafted together. Just thinking about the eras that we played in, the players that we played with. It was such a great ride, because he’s won championships, but I think he’d also tell you that some of the bad teams were some of the funnest times, too, because you learn a lot. That’s how you appreciate winning a championship. He was a pace setter in the game, and he ushered in a lot of young people into the game of basketball. You always have to bow to the end of an era.”
There was no love lost between Allen and Bryant. The pair of perennial All-Stars had their fair share of heated battles throughout the years, mainly while the Celtics and Lakers were among the league’s elite and went head-to-head in the NBA Finals in 2008 and 2010.
Both players came into the league in the 1996 NBA Draft and won multiple titles while racking up many different individual accolades along the way. Allen, much like Bryant, played at a high level throughout the majority of his career in the NBA while playing almost as long as Kobe with 18 seasons to his credit.
Allen was one of many talented players to come into the league in 1996 along with Bryant. There’s a long list of notable players from the ’96 draft that also became household names like Derek Fisher, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, Stephon Marbury, Jermaine O’Neal, Peja Stojakovic, Antonie Walker, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, and Marcus Camby.
Bryant is the last of the talented players in the ’96 draft class to retire and is without a doubt the most successful of the group.