The Lakers’ season ended tragically last Saturday evening. The blowout road loss wasn’t the tragic part, even a casual basketball observer could see it coming in the first five minutes – the tragedy was the death of a basketball god.

Kobe Bryant had me listening to R.E.M., singing “Losing My Religion” after his disappearing act. At halftime, I was telling my roommates that 8-slash-24’s career would eclipse 23’s when all was said and done. I have never choked harder on any words than those.

Apparently, Phil “Let them play through it” Jackson and Kobe agreed that if the Lakers were to win the game, then the entire team would have to be involved. Apparently, Phil “Zen-master” Jackson had spent a little too much time meditating and not enough time watching Bryant this season.

When the Lakers were getting beat by the cellar-dwelling Toronto Raptors, it wasn’t a team effort that lifted the white-adorned Lakers over their foes, but the heroics of a baller I proclaimed as a basketball god. When the 2003 Lakers were being destroyed by Steve Nash’s Mavericks late in the season, it wasn’t a team effort that brought them back; Kobe went insane and locked down the Canuck while filling up the nylon with 21 points in the fourth quarter.

The man who calls himself the “Black Mamba” was more lethal than any assassin, more dangerous than any snake, and certainly the one you called on when all else seemed lost. When things looked dark for Los Angeles, Kobe was the light. He was the savior of a city, of an entire nation of fans, but on May 6, 2006, Kobe Bryant decided to let his team work it out together.

I started to realize why Kobe was changing his number. The number eight had become synonymous with greatness and god-like behavior. He was playing against his boyhood idol, Mike D’Antoni – the original eight and the reason Bryant wore eight – and he couldn’t unleash his powers of destruction against his hero. When LA needed a god, Kobe was a man. Discovering that Bryant is only human was the hardest lesson I’ve ever learned. Maybe the boos got to him when he held his hand to his ear Saturday evening in Phoenix.

Whatever happened, all comparisons to Jordan must now cease or else any who make such comparisons should be charged with blasphemy. Bryant was put to the test and he failed.

Phoenix laid down a wall of fire and Kobe didn’t even try to walk through it. If anybody was capable of cutting off the three-headed monster of Leandro Barbosa, Steve Nash and Tim Thomas – it was Bryant. He could have walked through that wall of fire and not even singed his eyebrows. Instead, he closed his eyes and turned away from the heat.

I’m taking down the shrine I built to honor Number 8 way back in my freshman year in the dorms. In its place I’m erecting a mausoleum. Number 8 is gone and the world is worse off for it. Goodbye 8 and 81, hello 24 and 24. We welcome you and know you are great, but a tear will always form in my eyes when I think of Number 8 and the death of a god.

Daily Nexus staff writer Sean Lewis thinks his friend who really tried to walk through a wall of fire should try out for the Lakers this summer.