PHILADELPHIA -- When Kobe Bryant made three 3-pointers in the first 76 seconds Tuesday, the Los Angeles Lakers star said he noticed something about some of the young Philadelphia 76ers players he was facing.
They were starstruck.
"When I came out and made three in a row, I could sense they were like, 'I really don't want to touch him ... and 'Holy crap! Is this going to be an 81-[point] situation?'" Bryant said after his team's 103-91 loss at Wells Fargo Center. "You know what I mean? Like, 'I really don't know what to do.' And I'm just sitting there thinking, 'Man, I'm just playing possum because I know my legs aren't going to carry this energy for 48 minutes.' But certainly I could sense a little bit of that."
Bryant's performance was downhill from there. After opening the game 3-of-4 from the field, he missed 18 of his final 22 shots. He shot 4-of-17 from 3-point range and was one shy of his career high for 3-point attempts, 18.
Still, when Bryant made those opening shots during his final game in his hometown, 76ers coach Brett Brown could see his players were in awe.
"You could almost see a youthful smile on Jerami [Grant] and Isaiah [Canaan] as Kobe just started burying 3s," Brown said. "You forget that Jahlil [Okafor] hadn't even been born when Kobe entered the league. And so youth all over the place and starstruck watching Kobe Bryant. And Kobe, as we all know, commands that type of stage and respect, but I thought initially our guys were a little starstruck."
Bryant shared another story about facing T.J. McConnell in a jump-ball situation at the end of the game.
"We line up, and he goes, 'I cannot believe I'm about to line up and jump ball with you right now. This is crazy,'" Bryant said. "So we had moments like that. You can't help but laugh."
Okafor, 19, said facing Bryant was "surreal."
"It's just different," Okafor said. "I've played against LeBron James twice, you see [Kevin Durant], but when you see Kobe, it's just a different feel. I was in the weight room stretching, and he walks in. It was like you're seeing, like, a God, kind of, in a sense. For me, that was my Michael Jordan. That was somebody that I always watched. You see him score 81 points, you see him win championships, and I was always rooting for him to win, so it was surreal to see him."