Kobe Bryant is one of the best NBA players to ever grace the court. Recently, he became one of three players to ever score 33,000 points, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. After announcing that he would be retiring at the close of the 2015-16 season, Kobe has begun his “Farewell Tour.” At every game, whether home or away, he has been greeted with respect, admiration, and “Kobe” chants. Many are calling it a storybook ending for a storybook career, but it could be something else.
Since his retirement announcement in November, Kobe has been able to put on a show for the people who have come to wish him goodbye. In his last ten games, he has averaged 20.6 points per game and had a few “vintage Kobe” moments. He has been throwing down some dunks and scoring like old Kobe would: easily.
It is clear that Kobe’s game has improved every month since announcing his retirement in late November. Before he announced his retirement, this was not exactly the case. According to ESPN, during the month of November, Kobe averaged 14.9 points a game, and on the road against Golden State put up the worst shooting night of his career, finishing just 1 of 14 from the field. After announcing his retirement, however, Kobe averaged 18.7 points in December, and on January 7th scored 28 points against the Sacramento Kings. This all seems to lead to the perfect ending that Kobe probably deserves. However, don’t forget a key factor to this “storybook ending,” the marketability of a legend leaving the hardwood.
Because of Kobe’s flashy and “shoot-first” mentality coupled with his clutch factor, he has always been a fun player to watch. Now that he is making his final pass around the league, more and more people want to get a last glimpse of him in action. The Lakers, despite a dismal record, 4 and 23, still currently possess the NBA’s best road attendance with an average of 19,223 fans. A few weeks after Kobe’s announcement, Los Angeles Times writer Mike Bresnahan commented:
“In the days after Bryant’s retirement announcement three weeks ago, ticket resales to see the Lakers spiked 85%, with an almost equal increase for home and away games, according to Ticketmaster. On top of it, the Lakers are screaming toward their worst-ever record and remain the second-most popular team in single-game sales on NBA League Pass, where viewers pay $6.99 to watch a live out-of-market game.”
It is clear that while NBA fans’ main goal is to see Kobe; the spoils have gone to the NBA teams. By marketing this as anyone’s last chance to see Kobe play, the Lakers along with whatever team is hosting them, have managed to triple their ticket costs in some instances. According to StubHub.com, the March 10th match-up between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Lakers, and more specifically the last match-up between Kobe and LeBron James, has nosebleed tickets starting at a little under $150. StubHub also says that tickets to see Kobe’s final game at home against the Jazz start at a little under $550 for nosebleeds, with courtside seats upwards of $36,000.
Maybe Kobe is just trying to put on a good show? Maybe he is trying to sell tickets? Maybe he is channeling “Vintage Kobe” who would not be pleased if he went out without a bang? Who knows why he is playing better, but one thing is sure: he is. It is a happy and almost teary-eyed goodbye for most NBA fans, but even more so, it is a perfect money maker for the Lakers and other teams of the NBA.