SAN ANTONIO – It was a seemingly surreal moment in the AT&T Center Saturday night as Kobe Bryant walked into the arena to face the San Antonio Spurs for the last time.
"It felt good man, I am just used to being here so many times, it’s weird that this is the last time," Bryant said. “It's strange man, it's strange.”
Kobe played against the Spurs in the Alamodome, a venue he said he missed especially the rims. He recalled the first time he came to the AT&T Center.
“(Is) this really a barn? What the heck is going on around here you know what I mean,” Kobe said. When asked about the Spurs-Lakers rivalry, Kobe added, "being something that is just a part of this whole experience, one of the things that I will miss."
Kobe played against the Spurs in the playoffs seven times, winning four. With all the back-and-forth, wins and losses, it was hard to pinpoint one particular moment.
“This is one of rare places where I can say there is not one single memory because there have been so many good ones, some great ones, some horrible ones, but there have been so many of them it's very, very hard to single one out," Bryant said.
Kobe talked about coming into the league for the first time and what effect getting swept by the Spurs in the 1999 playoffs had on him.
"Really showed me another level of the game in terms of the kind of coldness of which they played, the discipline they played with and that is when I realized I've got to get my game to that level," Bryant said.
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was flattered to hear that his team had a part in creating one of the all-time greats.
"If that is what he believes and that helped him that’s great," Popovich said. "Even without us, I think he would have figured it out because we all know he is highly intelligent."
Like Kobe, Popovich did not have one memory, more about his entire body of work. ”He will always be one of the special people that has been in the NBA for sure, to me,” Popovich said.
Asked if he thought Kobe could have fit in the system here, "I think Kobe did fine just where he is, he is 'LA', we don't have a whole lot of 'LA' around here," Popovich said.
As Kobe rides off into the sunset there will be some things he will miss.
"Competing on the court with these guys and trying to figure out what the hell Pop is thinking," said Bryant. ” And the city, just walking around, going for stroll on the Riverwalk and things like that the night before a big playoff game.”
As the starting lineups were announced, the Spurs played a special tribute video to Bryant on the AT&T Center video board.
Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Popovich spoke in the video about their on-court battles with Bryant.
The crowd cheered and chanted Bryant’s name as he waved back.