Today, the Los Angeles Lakers are going to retire your number 8 and 24 jerseys into rafters at the Staples Center. For me, it is a bag of mixed emotions. I have watched you since you were the 18-year old kid out of Lower Merion. I have seen all the highs and all the lows. I remember the airball 3 pointers and missed free throws against the Utah Jazz. I remember when we voted you into the All-Star game as the youngest to ever start it and even though you did not start a game for the Lakers. I remember the famous alley-oop to Shaq in the comeback game 7 against the Trailblazers. I remember you separating your shooting shoulder and then started playing left handed. I remember the 3-peat and then the feud and break-up with Shaq and Phil. I remember the epic games (81 points, multiple 50 point games) as the alpha dog. I remember the day they traded Kwame Brown for Pau Gasol and you got the Robin to your Batman. I remember the day you came out and shot 2 free throws after you tore your Achilles. I remember when you scored 60 in your final NBA games. I don’t think I have followed anyone as much as I followed you.
In your 20 year career, you have been about one thing and that is to be the greatest. Just like how Magic Johnson made the Forum the place to go in 1980s, you made Staples Center, the house that Kobe Bryant built. You made the Lakers relevant again. In my mind, you are the G.O.A.T. I will miss watching you. Los Angeles and basketball fans will miss you play.
Your #1 Fan,
PS. “Friends hang sometimes, banners hang forever”