Kobe Bryant won over the fans — he just couldn’t beat the previously winless Philadelphia 76ers.
With the spotlight on Bryant during the final game of his career in his hometown, the Sixers stole the show and defeated the Los Angeles Lakers, 103-91, on Tuesday night for their first victory of the season.
The Sixers had lost their first 18 games, and 28 overall dating to last season — the longest losing streak in the history of major professional sports in the United States. But they remained tied for the worst start in NBA history with the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets, who also opened 0-18.
Robert Covington scored 23 points and Jerami Grant had 14 for the Sixers, who won for the first time since March 25 at Denver.
Bryant scored 20 points on 7-of-26 shooting and made four 3s.
Hours earlier, Bryant felt the love in Philadelphia as soon as he entered the arena. He took selfies with fans who might never see him play again, and his presence injected a playoff atmosphere into a city that has lost much of its interest in NBA basketball.
With a packed crowd standing and roaring in appreciation, Bryant was introduced to an ovation worthy of a hometown hero, not the ‘‘Hometown Zero’’ he was once labeled in Philadelphia’s tabloids.
Bryant, who will end his 20-year career this season, opened the first leg of his farewell tour in his hometown and was feted with the kind of reverence and gratitude normally reserved for a Sixers great.
He buried a step-back 3-pointer off the opening tip.
He hit another 3 on the next possession.
Bryant made it 3 for 3 and had the Philly crowd chanting ‘‘M-V-P!’’ as he turned back the clock to his championship form.
By the fourth quarter, the Philly fans had turned their attention toward the home team, chanting ‘‘Beat LA!’’ when beleaguered rookie Jahlil Okafor made a layup for a 94-80 lead.
Okafor, the No. 3 overall pick out of Duke, has been attached to a string of off-court incidents that included reckless driving and a fight in Boston. He has apologized for his recent decisions.
Sixers coach Brett Brown said Okafor will likely soon be accompanied by team security on public outings.
Bryant said he would simply tell the 19-year-old rookie to stay focused on basketball.
The Sixers stayed focused and finally finished the job after taking an 80-75 lead into the fourth.
The 76ers had led after three quarters three other times this season: Nov. 21 at Miami (led 74-67, lost 96-91), Nov. 25 at Boston (led 62-57, lost 84-80), and Nov. 29 at Memphis (led 67-64, lost 92-84), according to STATS.
The win belonged to Philadelphia. The night belonged to Bryant.
His homecoming game came with a rare emotional tug for the player fans loved to boo through the years. He waved to the crowd and bowed his head in appreciation as a ‘‘Kobe! Kobe! Kobe!’ chant filled Wells Fargo Center during pregame introductions.
He was greeted at midcourt by his Lower Merion high school coach Gregg Downer and 76ers great Julius Erving. Bryant hugged both in front of a crowd filled with purple-and-gold No. 24 jerseys.
He smiled after every shot and bantered with fans, some who made ‘‘Thank you, Kobe’’ signs.
In a reference to the sorry state of the entire Philly sports scene, one fan held a sign that read, ‘‘Why Can’t Chip Kelly Retire Instead.’’
Bryant even smirked in the third when a brief scuffle broke out among Lakers center Roy Hibbert, who appeared to push a referee, and Philadelphia’s Isaiah Canaan and JaKarr Sampson. All three were hit with technical fouls.
Bryant thumped his chest, waved to the fans, blew a kiss and was serenaded with ‘‘Kobe!’’ chants as he walked off Philadelphia’s court for the final time.
Moses Malone, the late 76ers star selected one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players, was honored at halftime. Malone, who died in September at 60, was the NBA Finals MVP in 1983 when he led the Sixers to the title. His No. 2 was on the back of Philadelphia’s warmup jerseys with ‘‘Chairman of the Boards’’ on the front. The Sixers will retire his number next season.
Wizards 97, Cavaliers 85 — John Wall scored a season-high 35 points as Washington handed Cleveland its first loss of the season.
The Wizards, who never trailed, scored the first 10 points of the game and went on a 9-0 run to begin the second half in snapping a four-game losing streak.
LeBron James had 24 points, but the Cavaliers lost for the first time in 10 games this season at Quicken Loans Arena.
Wall was 14 of 24 from the field and had 10 assists. Bradley Beal scored 18 and Marcin Gortat added 15 points with 11 rebounds for the Wizards.
Grizzlies 113, Pelicans 104 — Marc Gasol scored a career-high 38 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as Memphis won in New Orleans.
New Orleans lost despite the return of starting guard Tyreke Evans and top reserve Norris Cole. Evans was the Pelicans’ best offensive player with 20 points and 10 assists, but that wasn’t enough to overcome a Memphis squad that scored 52 points in the paint and missed only one of 26 free throws.
Gasol was 11 of 22 from the field and made all 16 of his foul shots. Zach Randolph added 14 points, while Courtney Lee and Matt Barnes scored 13 each.
Anthony Davis had 17 points, 14 rebounds and career high-tying nine blocked shots for the Pelicans. But he struggled with his shooting, going 4 of 15 from the field and 8 of 13 on free throws.
Nets 94, Suns 91 — Brook Lopez scored 23 points in Brooklyn’s fourth straight home victory.
Brooklyn reserves Shane Larkin and Wayne Ellington each had 11 points and both made a basket in the brief flurry that helped the Nets win consecutive games for the first time this season. Jarrett Jack also scored 11 and added eight assists.
Brandon Knight scored 26 points and Eric Bledsoe had 17 for the Suns, who had a long dry spell from the field in the fourth quarter after leading by 9 earlier in the period, then botched their final possession trailing by 3 with four seconds remaining.
Magic 96, Timberwolves 93 — Nikola Vucevic had 18 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists as visiting Orlando won its fourth straight game.
Elfrid Payton had 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists and Andrew Nicholson scored 15 for the Magic (10-8), who have won four straight for the first time since December 2012.
Andrew Wiggins scored 27 points for the Timberwolves (8-10), but missed a free throw with 5.6 seconds to play that would have tied the game. Minnesota shot just 37.7 percent and fell to 2-7 at home this season.
The Magic led by as many as 17 in the third quarter. Minnesota had it tied with 4:30 to play, but went 3:40 without a bucket late in the fourth.
. . .
The way the Trail Blazers kept fouling DeAndre Jordan down the stretch in a feeble attempt to rally from a double-digit deficit Monday night in Los Angeles was enough to turn anyone’s stomach — Damian Lillard notwithstanding.
Portland sent Jordan to the free throw line nine times in the final 3:51, and the Clippers’ center missed 10 of 18. But it didn’t help the cold-shooting Blazers, who finished at 37.9 percent as Los Angeles beat them, 102-87.
Jordan had a season-high 24 rebounds to go with 18 points, and Blake Griffin scored 23 to help the Clippers win their third in a row.
The 34 free throw attempts by Jordan was a Clippers record.
‘‘That just means more practice,’’ he said. ‘‘It gets boring. And it makes me miss my reservations after the game. But other than that, it’s the same.’’
Lillard, who leads Portland with a 25.4 scoring average, left the game because of abdominal pain with 10:13 remaining in the third quarter and the Blazers trailing 53-51. He finished with seven points and no assists in 17 minutes.
‘‘I'm pretty sure it was something I ate,’’ said Lillard, who had an omelet at the team hotel after the morning shootaround. ‘‘I didn’t feel sick when we came out there, but when I went through warmups, I started to feel a little bit sick and I was pretty messed up. I had never felt like that.
‘‘As soon as the game started, I just felt dead. ‘I had no energy and I just felt weak. I tried to play through it, just to see if I would be able to get myself going. But I wasn’t comfortable turning and running in different directions with that stomach pain. I thought I was going to throw up on the court.’’
Griffin, who began the day with an NBA-best .548 field goal percentage, made 8 of 19 shots and grabbed eight boards. Chris Paul had 10 points and six assists in 24 minutes, exiting in the third quarter because of a strained rib muscle.
. . .
There’s little doubt the Kings are a much different team with DeMarcus Cousins in the lineup.
The All-Star forward was certainly a difference-maker in his return Monday night. He scored 16 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter of a 112-98 victory over the visiting Mavericks.
Cousins missed the previous three games due to a lower back strain. The Kings are 1-7 without him this season and 6-5 with the big man in the lineup. They are 12-40 when he’s been absent since Cousins joined the club in 2010.
‘‘I hate being out and I hate having to sit to watch my team going to battle without me when you know you could be in helping them,’’ said Cousins, who had nine rebounds and six assists. ‘‘It’s a terrible feeling to be sitting out. But you have to put those games behind you and move forward.’’
Rajon Rondo had 21 points and Rudy Gay added 20 for the Kings, who had dropped six straight to Dallas and 21 of the previous 23 meetings. Sacramento outscored the Mavericks, 22-13, in the third period to take the lead for good.
Darren Collison added 15 points and Omri Casspi 10 for the Kings.
Chandler Parsons had 14 points for the Mavericks. Dirk Nowitzki scored 13 and Zaza Pachulia had 13 points and 10 rebounds. Devin Harris added 11 points.
Dallas, which has dropped four of five, missed 28 of 37 attempts from 3-point range and scored 40 points in the second half.
Cousins shot 5 of 9 from the field in the fourth and hit all six free throws to help Sacramento build on its third-quarter lead. Gay converted a three-point play to give the Kings a 97-86 advantage.