In the wee hours of Sept. 29, 2011 — long after my wife had fallen asleep — I grabbed a post-it note and started to scribble a thought. It read something like this:
Wake me up so I can tell you what happened last night
I pressed the post-it note against our bathroom mirror so I know she’d see it. I didn’t go to sleep until after 4 a.m. that night, but I didn’t care if she shook me awake a few hours later. I had to tell her about the night in baseball, one where the Red Sox fell out of the playoffs and an Evan Longoria home run pushed the Rays into the postseason. The Rays won that night to finish 91-71 and earn the wild card. The Red Sox lost to fall to 90-72.
It was a wild ending that concluded in a matter of moments. The Red Sox blew a 1-run lead just moments before Longoria, at 12:05 a.m., ripped a ball down the left-field line for one of the shortest walk off home runs in history. Mayhem ensued. In fact, one of my favorite sportswriters, Joe Posnanski, described it like this:
Elation. Sadness. Mayhem. Champagne. Sleepless fury. Never been a night like it.
Kobe Bryant’s farewell night has to come close.
Like that September night of 2011, the events started on one day and ended after midnight. I am older now and it was me who had fallen asleep early. When my wife came to bed, it woke me up. Thank goodness, because I grabbed my glasses and phone and headed to the living room to watch Bryant conclude a 20-year career and the Golden State Warriors pursue 73 wins. I just hoped I hadn’t missed it all.
Sure enough, both games were headed to the fourth quarter. The Warriors were comfortably ahead in their pursuit, so I switched the TV to ESPN2 and watched Kobe Bryant take a chunk of his 50 shot attempts.
As the commercial break ended, Lakers coach Byron Scott asked if they could get Kobe Bryant 50 points. “We’re going to try,” he said.
Bryant finished with 60 points … including 15 of the Lakers’ final 17 … including the go-ahead jumper with 31 seconds left … all of which resulted in a come-from-behind win I didn’t think possible because, clearly, Bryant’s teammates were intent on him shooting the ball every possession. That’s a tough way to win, but it also upped the degree of difficulty for the all-time great.
He rarely had a clean look. Everyone in the building knew he was going to shoot — 50 times! — and yet here he was, crossing people over, burying jumpers, draining 3s, leading the Lakers to a win in a season where those were few and far between.
When I was a kid, I was a Lakers fan. Not really by choice. My dad was a Lakers fan, so I was a Lakers fan. I adored Magic Johnson. I’d grab the Charleston Gazette in the morning and if I saw the Lakers were going to be on TV late at night — always that 10 p.m. game — I’d ask my parents if I could stay up past my bedtime, well past my bedtime, to watch Showtime in Los Angeles.
Last night took me back to my childhood when I’d be willing to cheat sleep in the chase of catching something incredible and unforeseen in sports. Like Longo’s walk off. Like the Warriors’ 73. Like Kobe’s 60.
Something so incredible that it makes me want to leave a post-it note for my wife so I can tell someone all about it.