Entering Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game Wednesday night, Metta World Peace figured Bryant would go all out, play 24 minutes and take 40 shots.
Instead, Bryant played 42, took 50 and scored 60 – and led the Lakers to a 101-96 comeback win over the Jazz at Staples Center.
It was surreal.
“He just surpassed everybody’s vision of his finale,” World Peace said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “He was struggling in the first couple of minutes and I’m like, ‘It’s going to be a long night. His legs is not into it.’ But I was still trying to cheer and be supportive of his finale, but then he started to turn up.”
Once Bryant got to 15 points, World Peace wondered if he would get 25. Once Bryant got 25, World Peace wondered if he would get 30. Once Bryant got 30, World Peace wondered if he would get 40.
That’s the kind of night it was.
“We were just going crazy (on the bench),” World Peace said. “We were extremely excited emotionally. It was amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it. I was just so happy for Kobe.”
World Peace, 36, won an NBA title with Bryant, 37, in 2010. The two began as teammates but have become close friends.
“He’s a friend now,” World Peace said. “Over the years when I first met him . . . it was all about the game. For me, I don’t really go out to dinner with nobody. I don’t conversate much. Maybe a little bit, but I’m all about the game. I’m all about practice. I can’t wait to get to the next practice. Kobe is the same way. We never really said, ‘Hey, let’s go out and get some dinner or get some drinks.’ It was never that. I was with him for four years. The first time I actually got dinner with him was this year, and I’ve known him for six years as far as being a teammate. That’s because we’re only focused on the game. . . . Now recently, we talk about everything else. It’s pretty cool that (we’re able) to talk about things other than basketball. I appreciate that.”
World Peace believes that the Lakers (17-65), who finished with the second-worst record in basketball, will be much better next season. In fact, he thinks they’ll finish with a winning record.
“I think we’ll be fine,” World Peace said. “I think the team is 30 wins better next year. It was unfortunate because we had the farewell tour, we had young guys that was not on the same level mentally as Kobe, myself, Lou Williams and Brandon Bass, who was great. Brandon Bass was probably teammate of the year. We had this weird mix going on. Next year, it’ll be different. You’ll have a set team, you’ll have an identity within the team, and then you’ll have young players who (are) improving over the summer. So you’ll see 30 more wins.”