Kobe Bryant’s career features numerous nights where his oppositions fan base never wanted to see his face again. Toronto Raptors fans can attest that. Over Kobe’s illustrious career the Black Mamba has swallowed the Raptors whole, averaging 27.2 points per game over 32 games going into last night’s tilt in Toronto. However, despite facing the Raptors 33 times over his 20-year NBA career, it’s one night in particular that will forever haunt Raptor Nation.
That night, of course, was January 22, 2006.
The thing about that performance wasn’t just the fact that Kobe scored 81 points, it was how he did it. The Lakers were down as many as 18 points early in the third quarter, when they poured it on, scoring 42 points in the quarter including 20 from Bryant who shot 8-12 from the field with four three pointers in the third quarter alone. The Lakers went on to take the game 122-104.
However, Raptor Nation apparently doesn’t hold a grudge, as the crowd of over 20,000 in attendance at the Air Canada Centre last night gave not one, but two standing ovations towards Bryant in what was not only his final game versus Toronto, but also his final appearance at the ACC. Maybe it was a sigh of relief or maybe it was an acknowledgment of Bryant’s greatness, but if there ever was a fan base that had the right to boo Kobe Bryant off the floor, it would be Raptors fans.
Instead, they took the high road giving the Black Mamba a warm farewell.
Of course the Raptors organization wasn’t going to let Kobe leave without a gift from the North.
Stay classy, Toronto!