Written and Digital Media by Jonathan Barker [divide]
On Nov. 29th, The Players Tribune published an article titled “Dear Basketball.” The article was actually a poem written by Kobe Bryant announcing his retirement from the NBA after his 20th season with the Los Angeles Lakers. At the age of 37, one of the all-time greats is preparing to walk away from the game.
The Lakers have been struggling to say the least. The famed franchise has been unable to attain a winning record since the 2012-2013 season and finished their second-worst record in team history at 21-61 last year. Even early into 2015-2016, LA already sits at the bottom rank in the Western Conference. Bryant has also been struggling to stay on the court, undergoing surgery in his right rotator cuff this January and competing in just 41 games in the last two seasons (that’s only 41 out of the last 164 games). Coming into the season, many critics claimed Kobe was entering his last NBA season. Sadly, they were correct.
As Chris Nolan’s version of Batman would say, “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” In the twilight of his career, Kobe’s statistics have been disturbingly below average, shooting .305 from the field and .202 from the 3-point line this season. You can call him the Brett Favre of the NBA, inferring he should have retired long ago, but Kobe’s legacy could never be deteriorated.
Kobe’s competitive arrogance is what made him one of the greats. Modeled after his idol Michael Jordan, Kobe established his own brand of basketball throughout his career. Fans have witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of his career, including a falling out with former teammate Shaquille O’Neal and a few instances of almost leaving his beloved Lakers. Kobe’s ego may have kept him in the limelight for too long, but his performance has backed up his attitude. Considering all Mr. Bryant has accomplished in his extensive career, he will not be remembered for his poor play in his final season. Regardless, if he finishes the season or not, Kobe will go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game.
In his 20-year career, Kobe has won 5 NBA Championships (out of the 7 he has appeared in) and was crowned NBA Finals MVP twice. Bryant has been voted to the All-Star game 17 times, All-Defense Team 12 times, All-NBA Team 15 times and one MVP award. Bryant has set the record for the longest tenure with a single NBA team along with most of the Laker’s franchise records. The list goes on and on. Whether you love him or hate him, Kobe has been one of the most exciting players to watch in our lifetime. Who could forget when Kobe scored 81 points in a single game?
Kobe has earned something even more long lasting than the hundreds of millions of dollars he’s made over the years. He has earned the respect and admiration of a whole generation of sports fanatics who grew up watching him perform. As a 90’s baby, I have never truly known an NBA without Kobe Bryant. I’m sure many of my peers can agree that the game will never be the same without Black Mamba. The only question remaining is if the Lakers will retire his number 8, 24, or both?