LOS ANGELES -- After his career achievements danced across the Staples Center's video screen in the pencil animation of his Oscar-short-listed short film, Kobe Bryant emerged from the northeastern tunnel and into a spotlight at center court. For a man who oozed steely confidence when he entered the arena during his playing days, Bryant appeared humble, flashing aw-shucks smiles as Magic Johnson and Jeanie Buss read him love letters on behalf of the franchise he defined for two decades.
When it was his moment to speak after the unveiling of his pair of iconic jerseys, Bryant first emphasized the sweeping breadth of Lakers history and cited the jerseys that preceded his in the rafters as the source of his inspiration. He then pivoted to "the current Laker roster we have here."
"It's about embodying the spirit that exists in those jerseys up there and carrying this organization forward, so that the next 20 years is better than the past 20 years," Bryant said.
The golden light that bathed Bryant on Monday night accentuated how no NBA franchise is better at telling a story than the Lakers. Mystique, celebrity, premium production value, Lawrence Tanter's baritone -- all of it is the stuff of Lakers mythology, and champions such as Bryant the heroes. Without those larger-than-life stars, the story stalls.
The swath of Bryant 8 and Bryant 24 jerseys across the lower bowl at Staples Center was further illustration of how much work the Lakers have ahead of them to fulfill Bryant's imperative. As Lakers coach Luke Walton -- a teammate of Bryant's during the franchise's last rewarding chapter -- said prior to the game, "The next chapter is coming out of the darkness of the Kobe era."
Stories can't wait for heroes, and it's unlikely that the Lakers currently have anything with the remote potential of a Kobe -- few do. But the elements of the Lakers' young core continued their audition on Monday in a 116-114 overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors, punctuated by a tiebreaking Kevin Durant jumper with less than seven seconds remaining.
"We're putting ourselves in a position to win," Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball said. "We've just got to learn how to win."
Starting the second half in place of Brook Lopez, who left the game with an ankle injury just before halftime, Kyle Kuzma unleashed his bevy of tricks -- running hooks, baseline up-and-unders, the long-range bombs. Kuzma finished with 25 points on 10 for 16 shooting; it was his 10th game of the season in which he has scored 20 or more, as he has assembled the best Laker rookie campaign in a generation.
Brandon Ingram continued to refine his attack off the dribble, as best demonstrated with an assertive one-on-one drive against Kevon Looney to tie the game at 102 with 27 seconds to go in regulation. After leaving the game briefly with a right-cheek contusion (ouch), he concluded the contest with 19 points.
Ball's promising night included a drive down the gut of the lane to give the Lakers an overtime lead and a midrange jumper just prior to that after confidently skating to a spot on the floor as if he were Chris Paul. Ball also drained a trio of 3-pointers and chalked up deflections, blocks and stops all night. His final line: 16 points (6 for 12 shooting), six rebounds and six assists, marred only by an attempted tiebreaking layup in overtime that was swatted away by savvy veteran David West.
"It was good to see him do it that late into the game, instead of just facilitating," Walton said. "That's what we want to see. Obviously, we want those shots to go in, but whether they go in or not, that's the aggression we want him playing with, especially down the stretch."
The Warriors played without their generational star, Stephen Curry, who didn't make the trip to Los Angeles as he recuperates from a sprained ankle. Also out were Draymond Green (shoulder), Zaza Pachulia (shoulder) and Shaun Livingston (knee). Curry's fellow MVP, Kevin Durant, was a high-volume, low-efficiency shooter for most of the night, before finding his shot in overtime, including the game winner. He scored 36 points on 10 for 29 shooting from the floor and collected 11 rebounds along with eight assists.
"Yeah, that was a Kobe night," Durant said. "I had to get them up tonight for Kob. Nah, I felt like I got good shots all night. I felt like some I rushed. I tried to get it all back at once. I just tried to slow down in the fourth quarter and overtime."
The result was a nip and tuck affair between a starless Lakers team exerting maximum effort versus a short-handed Warriors squad. With lesser personnel, the Warriors put more care into their performance than they did three weeks ago in a sluggish overtime win over the Lakers, yet found themselves again with an extra frame of basketball.
Through it all, Bryant sat sideline with family, and with basketball luminaries such as Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, casting a shadow over the Staples Center court.