Kobe Bryant could go the distance Wednesday in the final game of his 20-year NBA career.
If his body allows it, coach Byron Scott said Bryant would play as much as possible Wednesday at Staples Center when he takes the court for the final time.
Bryant scored 13 points in 19 minutes but couldn't play in the fourth quarter at Oklahoma City on Monday because of soreness. The Lakers are eliminated from postseason contention - and have been for weeks - but there is still plenty of meaning in Bryant's 1,566th career game in golden and purple. Emotion will be thick in and around the arena and while Scott said he won't let himself cry, Bryant might not be able to hold back.
"So far, I've been pretty cool about everything," he said. "I've been very thankful about everything. I've been very happy about everything. It hasn't really hit me yet. We'll see if it does."
Wednesday is Bryant's 66th game this season. Adrenaline or not, whether his body cooperates is not a given. Monday night he said he "couldn't move" in the third quarter and never returned.
"I would've loved to play against KD and chase Russell around a little bit more," Bryant said of sitting the final 20:03 on the clock Monday.
Bryant, 37, ended his farewell tour in Oklahoma and returns home to Los Angeles to play in front of the home fans for a final time. Bryant returned for the 2015-16 season with the Lakers hoping for more, but he admitted physical restrictions, the residue of Achilles, knee and shoulder injuries that reduced his explosiveness and flexibility gradually the past three seasons.
"The way he played, it made it seem like it was tough," Thunder star Kevin Durant said. "For him, it was pretty easy. As a player, that's what you wanted to be and that's what you wanted to do. Definitely a role model for me, myself, and all my other teammates and how he approached the game. It was on another level."
"He mastered every level of the game from paint shots to mid-range (jumpers) and 3s. That made him be a player that is able to play 20 years in this league. That's the example he set. All players will love to play at that level for so long."
The young generation of basketball fans wearing Warriors' jerseys with MVP Steph Curry's name on the back might not have a full appreciation for what Bryant brought to the game. That is the one part of Bryant's farewell that sticks with New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry.
"Anyone that you would coach, you would want him to have the competitive spirit that he has. If you could just find a way to bottle the competitiveness that he has when he runs out on the court," Gentry told The Sports Xchange. "I agree with Coach (Byron) Scott in one thing. It's really tough to see him go out in a situation where he's not (winning). It would be great if he could do it like Peyton Manning, because he's deserving of something like that. When you've been great for so long - I think (the Lakers have) made the playoffs 65 out of 72 times or something - this is the first time ever that they've kind of gone through a tough time. He's very, very deserving to go out a winner. That would be great if he could go out as a champion."