Kobe Bryant was given a special treatment during his final season farewell tour. Bryant attended a Jordan Brand party on Friday night in Toronto before his final NBA All-Star Game and received a very special gift: every pair of Jordan line shoes from I to XXX.
Kobe Bean Bryant will go down as one of the greatest players to ever wear an NBA uniform.
Kobe has won five NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, he has been the league’s Most Valuable Player once, NBA Finals MVP twice as well as All-Star MVP four times.
Jordan Brand President Larry Miller presented the gift to Bryant. The Los Angeles Lakers guard said he was absolutely flattered by the gesture, especially because the set included multiple pairs of shoes that Bryant eagerly wanted to acquire as a youngster.
“(Michael Jordan) and I have had such a beautiful relationship since I first came into the league, and he’s really been a big brother to me really throughout this entire journey,” Bryant said. “I told him, ‘You have no idea how much I worked to try to find a pair of these shoes when I was in high-school.’ Now I have the whole collection, which is pretty sweet.”
Kobe Bryant says his best move was high school to NBA.
While the majority of the shoes in the set come in plain white, there are also some special inclusions. Bryant was given a custom pair of Air Jordan III and Air Jordan VIII shoes that were styled in the white, purple and gold colors of the Lakers that Bryant has worn for his entire NBA career.
Bryant likely already has a loaded wardrobe of clothing and sneakers. When asked what he plans to do with his nearly three-dozen new pairs, he smiled and said he will make sure they have a safe home.
The entire weekend doubled as an opportunity for nearly everyone associated with the game to pay respects to Bryant, one of the league’s most transcendent scorers.
Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans recalled how Bryant had mentored him when they were teammates at the 2012 Olympics. The Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony, who had 13 points and 6 rebounds in his ninth All-Star Game, said that he had always looked up to Bryant.
“I think he really changed my perspective on the game,, and how to approach the game,” Anthony said.
Bryant has altered his own approach. He is laboring through his final season with the Lakers, averaging 16.9 points and 4.2 rebounds while shooting a career-worst 34.9 percent. The Lakers limped into the All-Star break with an 11-44 record and are last in the Western Conference.
Bryant with his fellow 1996 lottery pick Allen Iverson in 2001. Credit ALLSPORT
At the same time, Bryant has relished his farewell tour amid the otherwise all-consuming misery of another lost season for the Lakers.
Fans have celebrated him wherever he has gone, in addition to voting him into the All-Star Game, and Toronto has some significance to Bryant. In 2006, he scored a career-best 81 points in a victory over the visiting Raptors.
“How about that?” Bryant said. “I think sometimes the sports gods have a great sense of humor. These things just happen the way they do.”
It was the first time that the All-Star Game was held outside the United States, and that meant something to Bryant, too. He has long been one of the league’s global stars, his reach extending to Europe and Asia. Bryant, who spent much of his childhood in Italy and speaks multiple languages, recognized the game’s international growth early.
As Commissioner Adam Silver said, “In addition to being a great player, he’s punched way above his weight in terms of the impact he’s had on the global expansion of the N.B.A.”
For Sunday’s game, the league distributed credentials to 336 members of the news media from 40 countries and territories — some of whom presented Bryant with gifts at a news conference at the start of the weekend. It was a curious scene. A bottle of a Canadian soda and framed artwork of Bryant as a sword-wielding samurai found their way to his dais.
No less an eminence than Michael Jordan carved out time to celebrate Bryant’s final All-Star appearance by giving him a full set of Air Jordan sneakers.
“I told him, ‘You have no idea how much I worked to try to find a pair of these shoes when I was in high school,’ ” Bryant said. “Now I have the whole collection. It’s pretty sweet.”