Basketballghana.com staff writer Yaw Mintah looks at Koby Bryant’s imminent retirement and says the writings have been on the wall.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
Imagine my reaction when I first heard the word combobulated for the first time. Now imagine mixing Milo and Ideal Milk with water and further sweetening things up by adding sugar, you will definitely have a cup of “cocoa” tea; it is not surprising and certainly inevitable.
Logic rules everything we do in life. Paraphrasing Sir Isaac Newton’s law on gravity when you go up, you come down. In 2010, history was made when a southern African country hosted the world’s most popular sport. In its’ first game, Spain without talisman Andreas Iniesta lost to Switzerland but went on to win their remaining games to leave Africa as world champions. Sometimes life issues do not follow a logical pattern. Take the life of many individuals who check all the boxes-a good education, a good family background and good upbringing-yet fall prey to witty ways that sway them off “the right path”. Like the aforementioned Milo and Ideal Milk induced “cocoa” tea, something’s are inevitable.
For an athlete particularly those playing basketball in the NBA, injuries are part of everyday as media men suffocating a star man like LeBron James after a great statistical night. Injuries have played a major part in derailing title ambitions of teams;one only needs to look at what happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers in last year’s NBA Finals as they rode their luck early on in the playoff series when Kevin Love went down with an injury in the first round. However, they couldn’t shore up the production of a Love and Kyrie Irving combo- who exited game one with a broken knee cap- and ultimately fell short against the Warriors. On the players’ part, injuries have curtailed careers (Jayson Williams) and deprived others of maximizing their immense skill set- Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady and really hoping Derrick Rose doesn’t suffer a similar fate.
After dominating the NBA for 13 straight seasons as a starter, Lakers legend Kobe Bryant has for three prior seasons been forced to watch majority of Lakers games from the sidelines. First he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in one leg, tore his meniscus in another leg and the rotator in his shoulder also got torn leaving him precariously tethered towards perhaps another season-ending injury. What differs from injuries Kobe has suffered in the past from that which might happen this year is the high possibility of not seeing Kobe play professional basketball again.
Playing in his 20th season- all with the Lakers-, his production and efficiency have tumbled. According to ESPN.com, Bryant is shooting 38 percent from the floor, and an anemic 28 percent 3-point percentage. His true shooting percentage is at a career-low 48.1 percent. Referencing his 2012-13 campaign, Kobe assembled a 57.0 true shooting percentage.
There is little or nothing he can do as injuries have taken a toll on him so has the wear and tear of playing deep into playoff and regular season games-1286 in all. The one thing, the Black Mamba has tried to fight is father time. Though he remains coy on calling it quits after this season, Kobe must definitely know his time in the NBA is up. In a November 8 interview with ESPN, Bryant stated “If you asked me today, this would be my last year. But you never know,”. “We’ll keep it open. Whatever happens, happens.” Well Mr. Bryant, I am afraid the time has come for you to retire; fans in America seem to share my opinion.
During the Lakers road trip to the east, many fans have cramped into arenas to see Bryant play his final game. The Brooklyn Nets are yet to record any win since the new season began having accumulated a 0-7 record. This shambolic record coupled with ailment to star Center Brook Lopez’s foot, a roster littered with over the hill veterans with little production left in their arsenal and an old school coach (Lionel Hollins) who thinks he is still coaching Memphis Grizzlies’ savvy professionals like Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Zac Randolph, the Barclays Center was packed. Unlike previous years where Kobe was the number one villain and every arena-sans the Lakers half of the Staples Center- not even the Wells Fargo Center in his hometown of Philadelphia showered him with boos, fans chanted MVP anytime he touched the ball. The decibels in the arena pitched highest when he made a basket.
A few days later, the popular basketball teams from America’s two largest cities New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers squared off against each other at the Mecca of Basketball, Madison Square Garden. With Lakers legend Magic Johnson and Knicks lifer Spike Lee in the building, Kobe played in the same building he scored his first NBA points via a free throw 19 years ago. He proceeded to score 18 points at an inefficient rate of hoisting 19 shots in 32 minutes including abysmally missing 11 of his 14 final shots. In this time, Knicks fans took a cue from their fellow city dwellers to serenade the 2008 Most Valuable Player with nothing but MVP chants and rushed to the edge of the tunnel to catch perhaps the last glimpse of the man who holds the most points scored in the arena (81). In both games, the serenading from fans that loved and loathed the man with five NBA titles was a way of thanking him for blessing the game of basketball.
Not every player is destined to have a David Robinson or Bill Russell title winning ending to their career but once the signs become apparent enough like in Kobe’s case, he must be prepared for the inevitable.