Three seasons ago, that Kobe played much of the fourth quarter of a game in Memphis with what turned out to be a broken kneecap. He was just six games back from the ruptured Achilles tendon. Had just started finding his game again, his timing, his Kobe face. You know the one — bottom teeth bared, nostrils flaring, eyes piercing through you, looking for signs of weakness to attack.

Mens Eugene Sims Jersey Kobe was backing down Grizzlies guard Tony Allen in the post and spun around and his knee buckled. He got up and played the rest of the game, even hit a late 3-pointer to hold off Memphis for the win.
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As the Lakers’ plane flies toward Memphis for his last game in town, I send a note asking how long ago that game seems.

The reply comes swiftly.

“It feels like a yesterday from another life.”

Consecutive seasons ended by major injuries — a ruptured Achilles (2012-13), a broken kneecap (2013-14) and a torn rotator cuff (2014-15) — turned him into the wax statue of Kobe that tourists visit and take selfies with, not the Black Mamba.

THE NEXT AFTERNOON, Kobe walks into the restaurant with tired eyes. It’s been raining for about an hour. Just a light shower, not the downpour they were expecting. His dark gray tracksuit is enough. He doesn’t bother with an umbrella.

Two bodyguards flank him as he enters the front door of the Majestic Grille, a classic spot in downtown Memphis inside an old theater that still shows silent films. The restaurant is empty this time of day, so he shoos his security guards away, directing them to sit out of earshot.