Kobe Bryant has made a lot of stops in Charlotte throughout his 19-year NBA career, but Monday night was the last night the decorated Los Angeles Lakers veteran would suit up for his team in the visiting city. For his last chance to play in the regular season against the Hornets, team owner and basketball icon Michael Jordan had a message for Bryant during the pre-game lineup announcements.
“I’m very happy to leave you this message to say how much we are very proud of what you’ve accomplished over the years,” Jordan said during his video speech. “Most people don’t realize you were drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, so that connects us with you.”
Bryant was the 13th overall draft pick in the 1996 NBA Draft by the original Charlotte Hornets — the now New Orleans Pelicans following the relocation before the 2002-03 season. He was traded to the Lakers on draft day for veteran center Vlade Divac.
The Lakers legend hit the court Monday in a black, white, purple and gold colorway of his Nike Kobe X signature shoe for his final trip to Charlotte. Although Bryant was the main attraction of the night, his star power was overshadowed by the performance of the Hornets’ Kemba Walker, who dropped a game-high 38 points. Bryant scored 20 points and had 2 assists in 32 minutes of play in the 108-98 loss.