IN HIS PREGAME news conference, Kobe Bryant joked about there not being a chair for him to sit on behind the lectern as he addressed a huge media gathering in a room behind the Wells Fargo Center court. He said he had to save his legs for the game.
Somehow, he had enough spring to get off four three-pointers, with three makes, in the first one minute, 16 seconds of the game to bring an already-buzzing crowd to full euphoria. But it wasn't until the final horn Tuesday night that the crowd really let it go, as the 76ers won for the first time in 19 games this season and for the first time in 29 tries, with a 103-91 victory over the Lakers and Bryant in his last trip to Philadelphia as a pro basketball player.
On a night when the team broke those two streaks and honored the late, great Moses Malone, who died in September, Bryant still was the big story for most of the night. He showed flashes of his younger self, embarrassingly breaking down defenders off the dribble, finding that early stroke. But he also showed why he is calling it quits after this season, missing 14 of his final 16 shots en route to 20 points on 7-for-26 shooting.
"Obviously, it was fun to watch," said Isaiah Canaan, who started for the Sixers at point guard and collected 12 points and five assists. "We knew he was going to come out with that much energy. He's an entertainer, so he came out and tried to give the fans something to see. We were just waiting for him to start missing.
"I'm not gonna lie, when he came out like that, I was, like, 'This can't be an 81-(point) night.' That's vintage Kobe. We just tried to make every shot tough for him. He's one of the greatest that ever played this game. He's capable of making those shots."
Bryant smiled for most of his 32 minutes, not the angry scowl that became his trademark. He joked with fans during stoppages, laughed at himself after a miss and generally seemed to just take the night in as a participant here to have fun for the first away game of his farewell tour.
And though the night was mostly about Bryant, what had the Sixers bouncing off the floor and celebrating was their first taste of victory in about eight months.
Coach Brett Brown chose to bring Nerlens Noel off the bench in his first game back after missing two games with a sore knee, and he responded with 14 points and nine boards. Robert Covington stayed hot, with 23 points, including 5-for-11 from three. Jerami Grant was everywhere and totaled 14 points, seven rebounds and four blocks, while Jahlil Okafor scored 12.
"I don't think that we've blinked or reacted to the obvious place that we're all in," Brown said. "I'm proud that they stay together, that they truly do knock out good days, and we do believe that they will add up. I'm pleased for the city. We don't want this streak continuing. We were pleased to come in here and get a win for our fans. They deserve it. This is a relief on many levels."
The relief was also Bryant's at game's end, as he hugged every Sixer before making his way to center court, and waving and mouthing thank-yous to the sellout crowd. This is where he wanted to start the first date of his going-away tour. And for the most part, he didn't disappoint. And for the first time in 29 games, neither did the Sixers.
Brett Brown said before the game that he thought Jahlil Okafor would be assigned security, in the wake of some off-court scuffles, but that the team would make an announcement at some point about it . . . The Sixers made 14 three-pointers, only two games after hitting a franchise-record 16 in Houston.