From MJ to Kobe, ESPN’s Doug Collins knows something about iconic farewells


As part of tonight’s monumental evening of NBA coverage, ESPN2 will televise NBA icon Kobe Bryant’s farewell game, at 10:30 p.m. ET.

Despite the magnitude of the event, it’s not the first time ESPN has documented an NBA legend’s last hurrah.

NBA Analyst Doug Collins (Kohjiro Kinno/ESPN Images)
NBA analyst Doug Collins
(Kohjiro Kinno/ESPN Images)

On April 16, 2003, at the conclusion of ESPN’s first season as an NBA rights partner, the network televised Michael Jordan’s farewell game (Washington Wizards at Philadelphia 76ers). MJ’s coach that night? Doug Collins.

Fast forward 13 years, Collins (NBA Countdown) will be part of ESPN’s extensive coverage team documenting Kobe’s last game.

Collins chatted with Front Row about how he approached MJ’s final game.

As a coach, how do you approach your star player’s final game?
The most important thing is the level of communication that you have with one another. Michael and I have a close relationship based on our time together in Chicago and Washington. I think you could say the same for Kobe and [Los Angeles Lakers coach] Byron Scott. You get together beforehand and ask that player what they want this night to be for them. How we can make it special? how much do you want to play? All the little things. The most important thing is you want it to be a great night of memories that you can hold forever. Philadelphia brought in Boyz II Men for Michael’s last game. The song was “End of the Road.” When you listen to it, it was very apropos.

As a broadcaster, how do you compare and contrast Jordan’s final game to Kobe’s?
The huge difference is Michael was recognized throughout his career as a Chicago Bull, then played the two seasons in Washington. He came in as an owner and president and was playing to try and get people interested in the team. Kobe played his entire 20 years for the Lakers, so it’s different from that standpoint. He went in as high school player, you’ve seen his life, what he’s become as a player, saw him get married and have children, become an icon and legend all with one franchise.

What has it been like documenting Kobe’s final season on NBA Countdown?
This thing with Kobe, it’s been a farewell tour. The team has been through this all season long and had they been a team that could have been very good, he may not have had this kind of year. He was OK with this season-long tour given they weren’t really contending.

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