So he is going to retire after all.
In my article, Writings On The Wall, I expressed my exasperation at Kobe Bryant’s 20th year in the NBA. The piece pretty much said Kobe was an albatross on a Lakers organization that is stuck in messy quagmire; they try to win now and develop players for the future with an egoistic future hall of famer pouting at every turn.
With one poem that got retweeted 100,000 times according to BBC, everything has changed. Kobe Bryant made the latest and perhaps strongest indication on retiring from the league that made his name synonymous with basketball aside a man from North Carolina. In a poem, Kobe unsurprisingly expressed his undying love for the game of basketball and all the sacrifices he had made because of that love.
No, I am not going to bore you with the minute details of the letter but what I am going to do in this piece is to simply say I agree with Bryant’s impending retirement.
Some naysayers have already speculated that this is just a PR Gimmick meant to keep his name circulating in the media and subsequently keep his name and brand relevant. Some have gone over board hysterical by saying he will make a Jordanesque comeback should the Lakers make the playoffs this year or the next. Should he stick to his word and retire at the end of this season, it is fair to say Kobe will be saving his reputation from further damage.
November 5, 2015 marked the 19th anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s debut point in the NBA. That shot from the free throw would later become the first of 32,683 points that has placed him on the third spot of the all time scoring list in NBA history. In that game on November 5, 1996 against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, Kobe’s point came on the back of one of two free throw attempts. His next points (5) came the following night against the Charlotte Hornets-the team that originally drafted him in the 1996 Draft- with one coming via his first career three point shot.
But enough with the past; lets talk about the present and the prospective future. In the future Kobe’s absence will mean reigning Most Valuable Player ( MVP) Steph Curry and reigning MVP first runner James Harden will continue their duel albeit off the court as both men will cut down Nike’s dominance in the sneaker business as representatives of Under Armour and Adidas respectively and will split jersey sales.
In the present, Kobe’s announcement means fans have to pay more to enter arenas the ‘Black Mamba’ will grace in the remainder of the season. The Black Mamba’s historic displays in arenas in his 20 year career have warranted an upsurge in tickets sale but fans should not be entirely shocked when they file into arenas only to find a Lakers team devoid of their perrenial franchise kingpin. Kobe has over the past three years had his seasons cut short by injuries that have been spotted from his shoulders down to his knees so the thought of the 37 year old playing the remainder of the season looks strangely remote.
The aforementioned point pretty much explains the uptick in ticket sales and prices beacause fans do not know what will be Kobe’s last game. For instance,tickets for today’s game between bottom dwellers of the two conferences of the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia Sixers shot up to $60 dolllars according to ESPN. For teams who have combined for less than four total wins all season, the price hike certainly is an ironic situation but for a player who shot free throws after tearing his ACL , anything is possible.
It is always a great sight to see a legend leave after doing so much for his profession. Think of Sir Alex Ferguson leaving Manchester United, Derek Jeter leaving the New York Yankees or Michael Schumacher’s last ride with Mercedes. Such moments are endearing to those who loathe and those who do not. Not every legend leaves on a high but having that winning ride into the sunset adds gloss to the athlete’s legacy.
Ray Lewis won the Super Bowl in the last game of his career and David Robinson won the 2003 NBA Championship in his last season with the San Antonio Spurs. Kobe Bryant surely will not win another title with the Lakers because the team is simply not built to win a whole of games as things stand. The 16 time champions simply do not have the talent to compete in the stronger Western Conference as the roster is dotted with good but not great veterans like Lou Williams, Roy Hibbert and Brandon Bass and young players like Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell.
He will have a chance to equal Michael Jordan-his idol’s- title haul of six championships if he moves to teams better placed to win the Larry O’Brien trophy come next June like San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors or the Cleveland Cavaliers. The thought of Kobe leaving the Los Angeles Lakers to ride the bench of another championship contender is very remote. However, seeing Kobe jack up shots he could make blindfolded in his hey day but not give into the idea of coming off the bench, has basically made him the laughing stock of the media.
His coach and mentor in his Rookie year Byron Scott, has not helped matters by refusing to cut Bryant’s minutes and rather use those extended minutes to develop the future. (Randle, Russell and Clarkson). His continued preference for Kobe and the shoot at will behavior that comes with it resulted in an embarassing loss to the Golden State Warriors where they were blown away by a 34 points margin. Kobe for his part in that loss, made just 1of 14 field goal attempts.
Even a win could not gloss over the demands on a 37 years old body with 20 years of playing in the long NBA seasons. The Lakers victory over the Phoenix Suns which Kobe starred in was the perfect reminder of the Mamba’s state from a physical standpoint as he admitted he was ‘barely standing’ when speaking to reporters after the game. Bryant has done the honourable thing by doing the most rationale thing by setting a time line on the day he hangs his high tops and tank jersey.