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LA, basketball world buzzing to witness Bryant's league farewell

Dear Kobe Bryant, Love Basketball

With Kobe Bryant set to end his stellar 20-year career with the Lakers later on Wednesday, Los Angeles was buzzing at the prospect of seeing one of the all-time National Basketball Association greats bow out.

Lakers fans arrived in droves at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles several hours before the scheduled start of Bryant's farewell home game against the Utah Jazz, many of them eager to buy Kobe merchandise, including his No. 24 jersey.

SEE MORE: Staples Center transforms into Kobe Coliseum

A Lakers 'Fan Fest' was organized outside the venue, giving supporters a chance to get photo opportunities with the five NBA Championship trophies won by Bryant during his time in Los Angeles.

Rodrigo Duarte, a 24-year-old IT consultant from Brazil, had traveled from South America to attend Bryant's final league game before he makes the trip home on Thursday.

"I just came for the game," Duarte, who had a billboard strung around his neck bearing the legend: "From Brazil to Kobe's last chapter. Thanks KB", told Reuters outside Staples Center.

"I got tickets as a gift from my parents, but I don't know how they got them!

"I've been a Kobe fan since the age of 10, when I started watching him on TV and I wanted to do the same things that he did on court. I bought a basketball and I tried to make the same shots and the same moves. I was fascinated by the way he plays."

KOBE BRYANT THROUGH THE YEARS:

12 PHOTOS
Kobe Bryant's career
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LA, basketball world buzzing to witness Bryant's league farewell
CLEVELAND - FEBRUARY 8: Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers soars for a dunk during the 1997 Nestle Crunch Slam Dunk Contest on February 8, 1997 at the Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1997 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, UNITED STATES: Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant(L) and Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan(R) talk during a free-throw attempt during the fourth quarter 17 December at the United Center in Chicago. Bryant, who is 19 and bypassed college basketball to play in the NBA, scored a team-high 33 points off the bench, and Jordan scored a team-high 36 points. The Bulls defeated the Lakers 104-83. AFP PHOTO VINCENT LAFORET (Photo credit should read VINCENT LAFORET/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY - FEBRUARY 8: Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks during the 1998 NBA All-Star Game played on February 8, 1998 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1998 NBAE (Photo by Steve Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images)
03/02/98 - MCI Center - Lakers' Kobie Bryant(L) listens to teammate Shaquille O'Neal as they sit on the bench during game against the Wizards. - Photo By Rich Lipski TWP (Photo by Rich Lipski/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
USA - 1999: Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers attempts a layup during a 1999 NBA game. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1999 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - JUNE 19: Shaquille O'Neal #34 and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers pose with Lakers legend Magic Johnson after winning the NBA Championship trophy after defeating the Indiana Pacers in Game Six of the 2000 NBA Finals on June 19, 2000 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2000 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
28 Dec 2001: Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers chilling out before their game against the Toronto Raptors at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. DIGITAL IMAGE. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Licence Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice: Copyright 2001 NBAE. Mandatory Credit: Catherine Steenkeste/ NBAE/ Getty Images
Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates victory following Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Orlando Magic at Amway Arena on June 14, 2009 in Orlando, Florida. The Lakers won the National Basketball Association championships defeating Orlando 99-86 for their 15th title and first since 2002. Bryant had 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists as the Lakers completed a four-games-to-one victory in the best-of-seven NBA Finals. AFP PHOTO / Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 27: Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers goes up for the shot over Ben Wallace #3 of the Detroit Pistons during the game at Staples Center on February 27, 2003 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers defeated the Pistons 95-85. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice: 2003 NBAE. (Photo by: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO - MAY 7: Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers answers questions from the press after Game two of the Western Conference Semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs during the 2003 NBA Playoffs at SBC Center on May 7, 2003 in San Antonio, Texas. The Spurs won 114-95. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Copyright 2003 NBAE (Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant answers questions during a press conference held at the Lakers training facility in El Segundo, Calif.. Thursday, July 15, 2004. Bryant chose the Lakers over the Clippers, remaining with the team he joined in 1996 at age 18 and later helped win three NBA championships. (Photo by Steve Grayson/WireImage)
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Asked how he viewed Bryant's NBA legacy, Duarte replied: "Kobe was all about change, innovation and having no fear to play the game."

Bryant, an 18-time All-Star, has cemented his place among the pantheon of NBA greats with a career that also includes scoring titles, the third-most points in league history and a league most valuable player award in 2008.

SEE MORE: Nike releases amazing Kobe tribute video

Though his beloved Lakers have spluttered this season to an embarrassing record of 16-65, the worst for a franchise that has won 16 NBA championships, his league farewell has sparked huge interest at the box office.

Demand for tickets has been as a high as a pivotal Lakers playoff game, ranging in the secondary markets from $700 to $10,000.

According to Stubhub, owned by eBay and the largest online ticket resale site in the United States, the most expensive ticket sold for Wednesday's game went for $27,500.

Media interest has also been at a playoffs-type high with around 500 credentials issued by the Lakers, who had to turn down "several hundred more in requests", according to team spokesman John Black.

Thirty-two international media outlets will be covering Bryant's farewell game, including six alone from China where the Lakers shooting guard has long been one of the most popular players in any sport.

Since announcing last November he would retire after the 2015-16 season, Bryant has been making a farewell tour of the league across the United States and Canada that will now conclude with Wednesday's home game against the Jazz.

"My heart can take the pounding, my mind can handle the grind, but my body knows it's time to say goodbye," said the 37-year-old who has been plagued by injuries in recent seasons.

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