Sentimental Kobe Bryant Is Not Who We’ll Remember When Farewell Tour Concludes

Pretend you don't know it actually happened for real Monday, and try to imagine, hypothetically, what it would look like if Kobe Bryant lost an NBA basketball game by 48 points.

In your mind, is post-blowout Kobe reflective? Good-natured? Grateful?

Of course not. The Kobe in your mind is the one who existed for decades as a singularly driven, fanatical competitor. Most likely, your mental picture of Bryant after a loss like that involves him scaling the walls of the arena, breathing fire on the crowd. In-your-head Kobe is searing rage holes in the half-court logo with his laser vision. Knocking friend, foe and bystander unconscious with a menacing, protruded lower jaw.

Forty-eight points? Unacceptable for a guy who spent his career ruthlessly defiant, dominant and unapologetic about demoralizing anyone in the process.

Not this. Not this:

It was that and more Monday, as Bryant smiled through a moving tribute video before his final game in Salt Lake City and reflected fondly on his time there after the 48-point drubbing. And it's been like that for most of this season.

Bryant's farewell tour is revealing a man either evolved or cowed—happily accepting reverent applause from once-hated foes where, for years, all he sought was bent-kneed surrender.

There was the final visit to San Antonio Feb. 6, which included the requisite tribute video. Afterward, Bryant told reporters: "It was very nostalgic. Brought back a lot of memories. Just felt extremely touched by it. It's great. It's weird. It's hard to get into a competitive mindset after that because you just feel so thankful for them even doing that."

There was Bryant blowing kisses and waving sentimentally to the Philadelphia crowd Dec. 1:

Hometown or not, this is the same crowd that inspired Bryant to promise, "We're going to cut their hearts out," back in the 2001 NB...

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