This past weekend, Kobe Bryant revealed to the world that yes, much like most of us probably anticipated, he will be retiring from the NBA at the end of the season. Although this news was expected, it came as a surprise because it is very rare for us to see Kobe concede to anything. As all great athletes have/will come to notice, however, father time will always prevail. Accepting that he is no longer superhuman, and that he too has fallen victim to father time is probably the most difficult thing Kobe will have to do in his career. While some of his fans are probably relieved to see him hang it up after what has been a woeful season so far, the basketball fandom at large is saddened by this news, as this will inevitably mark the end of an era.
With 17 all-star game appearances, 5 NBA titles, 2 finals MVPs and 1 regular season MVP, Kobe Bryant will ultimately go down as the 2nd best shooting guard to ever lace them up (barring any other super humans morphing into the league). He has had as decorated of an NBA career as one could possibly have. The most impressive thing about it was that he did it all with one team. Kobe dedicated 20 years of his life (more than 50% of his existence) to being a central piece to the success of the Laker franchise. For that very reason, he is in my opinion the greatest Laker of all time (yes, over Magic, Kareem, Wilt, and Jerry West himself).
Kobe created many memories for us hoop fans. From dropping 81 against the Raptors, to hanging 12 threes on the Supersonics, to the countless game winners he hit, we will never forget the thrilling moments he left us. Although I wouldn’t categorize myself as a Kobe fan, he always put on a show every time I watched him. His footwork, for a guard, was impeccable. His fundamentals was off the chain, and his competitive nature was second to none. From the 8 era to the 24 era, Kobe gave fans, and peers alike, a reason to tune in to Laker games on any given night.
The one criticism I have of Kobe is that unlike the many greats who have graced us with their game, he was not original. From his game to his demeanor and even mannerisms, Kobe was essentially a clone of Michael Jordan. Considering how well he was able to replicate Michael, however, he ended up having one hell of a career. That is nevertheless a knock on his greatness because he wasn’t one of a kind. He was one of Jordan’s kind. Unlike a Barkley, a Bird, a Steph Curry or a LeBron, Kobe was not the first of his mold. To take it a step further, he wasn’t even the best of his mold. Fortunately for him, however, being the second best of his mold was sufficient to earn him a spot on the list of 10 greatest players in NBA history.
In sum, Kobe will be missed by the game of basketball. He gave the game everything he had, and that is one thing we can never take away from him. His hard work and determination will inevitably earn him a spot in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame one day, and in the rafters at the Staples center. I don’t expect to see Kobe get into coaching post retriement, as I couldn’t imagine him having the patience to lead a group of guys less talented than he is; however, I expect him to stay connected to the game one way or another. Maybe as a GM or possibly as an owner (again, following in the footsteps of Michael). One thing is certain, however: Kobe will always be remembered as one of the best to ever do it….and so it is only right that the Nike checks keep coming in.