Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant smiles as he looks on from the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, in Washington. The Lakers won 108-104. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant smiles as he looks on from the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, in Washington. The Lakers won 108-104. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

As a point of reference, I’ve never been known as the biggest Kobe Bryant fan.  Some may have concluded years back that I was one of the oft-mentioned “Kobe Haters.”  But one thing is for certain, no matter what some people may feel about Kobe – the person or player – there is no denying the impact he has made on the NBA. That was evident by the legion of Kobe fanatics that engulfed the Verizon Center (to the dismay of many) for his last game in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 2.

After the Wizards won a huge game in Cleveland the night before, people treated this game against the two-win Lakers as an afterthought. But Mr. Bryant was having none of that, putting on a great performance with 31 points, which included two lead-taking jumpers within the last minute of play to lead his club to the 108-104 victory.

The final score was insignificant in the grander scheme, as every fan of the sport was there to witness, for one last time, one of the true greats of the game.

Fans hold up signs supporting Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

To say Bryant has struggled this season has been an understatement, but with the announcement of his retirement on Nov. 29, the season had turned from an ongoing joke to one last curtain call for the future Hall of Famer.  I have rarely attended a sporting event and not cared who won or lost, but by the middle of the fourth quarter, I, along with the sellout crowd of over 20,000 fans, knew we were witnessing history.

If those who were watching on TV felt like they were watching a road game for the Wizards, let me tell you that it also felt that way inside the arena.  At least 65 percent of the crowd was Laker/Kobe fans and they were rambunctious from the opening tip-off.

As Kobe scored 14 of his points in the fourth quarter in a virtual duel with Wizards point guard John Wall down the stretch, the crowd was as emphatic as I’ve ever heard in the Verizon Center.

Sadly to say, the pro-Laker crowd drowned out any and all Wizards supporters on Wednesday. But for this one night, it felt alright with me, a basketball historian and D.C. sports enthusiast who understands the place Kobe Bryant holds in the hearts of many fans – the kind of fans who long for that type of passion and determination not seen a lot in today’s generation of players.

After watching Bryant soak up all of the cheers from his adoring fans one last time in the District, I was reminded why we love this game so much.  Kobe gave it all on the end of back-to-back games played, in the middle of an East Coast road trip, when he could have just shut it down and coasted through the dregs of his final campaign.  But he didn’t; and that is one of the reasons he is beloved by so many.  I am a believer.  Thank you, Kobe.