DeMarcus Cousins chats with Kobe Bryant well after Kings beat Los Angeles Lakers 118-115 on Jan. 9, 2016. It was Bryant’s last game played in Sacramento. (OBSERVER photo by Antonio R. Harvey)

NORTH NATOMAS — Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers made his last game as a NBA player in Sacramento, one that he previously circled on the schedule, a memorable one on Jan. 9 in front of a sellout crowd.

The Kings prevailed 118-115 in a thriller performance. But Bryant was actually the King for the night in a place that saw heavy battles between both teams in last two decades.

The soon-to-be-retiring Bryant had 28 points, three assists, two rebounds, and one block in almost 31 minutes of action after missing the last three games. Above all, he played in front of adoring Sacramento fans that loaded up Sleep Train Arena.

“I wanted to be back out there playing in front of these fans. It was great,” Bryant told The OBSERVER following the game. “I looked at the schedule and I know my shoulder was bothering me. But I wanted to make sure I rested it enough to be able to play one last time here.”

Bryant did all his damage in three quarters. The Lakers (8-29) were down as many as 27 points to the Kings, most of it while Bryant was on the floor. He didn’t play in the fourth quarter, watching his young team stage a comeback while he sat on the bench with his right shoulder wrapped with ice.

The Lakers rolled back on Kings to take the lead four times in the fourth quarter, but after Los Angeles took a 115-113 lead with 1:34 left to play, the team’s last, the Kings held on to score the last five points to seal the victory.

“I much rather watch the young guys play. They played so well and worked hard,” Bryant said. “Coach (Byron Scott) wanted them to learn how to close out those games out. Obviously, I’m not going to be there next year. So it’s important for them to learn how to do those things.”

DeMarcus Cousins had 29 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists to lead the Kings (15-21), who are hovering around that eighth spot in the Western Conference. Rajon Rondo had nine points, 12 assists, six rebounds, and four steals for the Kings.

Ben McLemore had 16 points and four rebounds for the Kings. His primary assignment for the night was guarding Bryant. McLemore said he was up for the challenge. Bryant scored his 33,000 career point on a jump shot with 1:10 to play in the second quarter.

“It’s so amazing to go out there and perform with him and go out there to play your hardest. Especially, when it’s his last game in Sacramento,” McLemore said. “I know he gave the fans what they wanted to see. I tip my hat to him.”

Royal Note:
Jamie Foxx was in Sacramento, again, this time to see Kobe Bryant’s last game in the city. Olympic Track and Field gold medalist Michael Johnson was also at the game.
By Antonio R. Harvey
OBSERVER Staff Writer