Wednesday night in Los Angeles, in front of a star studded Staples Center, the Kobe Bryant era came to an inevitable end. In the Lakers’ final game of the 2015-2016 season against the Utah Jazz, after he scored his 60th point of the night at the free throw line, Kobe Bryant’s last act in the NBA was over. Over! Encima, if you speak Spanish; al di sopra if you speak Italian; Any way you want to say it, in either of the five languages Kobe speaks, it was over.
We really witnessed Kobe Bryant retiring; like REALLY retiring. No way, right? Kobe retiring? Am I the only one who’s still in awe that from here on out, when someone asks me who is my favorite NBA player, Kobe Bryant will no longer be an option? Kobe fans, let that sink in for a second.
I can assure you, 90 percent of us – us as in Kobe fans- probably took his retirement announcement as a joke at the beginning of the 2015-2016 NBA season. Kobe retiring? Yeah right. That’s real funny.
In his “supposedly” last game, in front of a celebrities such as Jay Z, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, the regular Jack Nicholson, and the million of viewers from home, all watched a 37-year-old Kobe Bean Bryant score the highest point total for any NBA player in their last game; 60! So how can we (again, Kobe fans) erase the thought of him coming back for another season or two?
Year after year, and injury after injury, we would always make a prediction of at least three or four more good years in him, if healthy. I guess this is truly his last year of that imaginary contract. After last night’s game he made it clear, that he is done.
“All I can do here is thank you guys,” he told the crowd. “Thank you guys for all the years of support. Thank you guys for all the motivation. Thank you for all the inspiration.”
“What can I say? Mamba out.”
“This season is all I have left to give. My heart can take the pound. My mind can handle the grind but my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.”
It’s shocking to say that we watched Kobe spoil us, game in and game out, completely dominate every individual he faced for 20 years. That is a long time, but let’s not forget how the 18-time All-Star responded to getting hurt before he tore his left Achilles tendon in 2013.
Prior to that seemingly effortless blow by attempted on Harrison Barnes, which turned out to be the injury that ignited the beginning of the end of the Kobe era, it was like a ritual. Whenever Kobe got hurt, he would played like he wasn’t.
Before April 12, 2013—game 80 of the Los Angeles Lakers’ regular season, with 42.2 second remaining against the Golden State Warriors, I don’t think Kobe had ever deliberately admitted he was hurt. Every time he was to get on the court, he gave you everything he had. For that I thank him, but I still didn’t believe it was over.
His retirement became a reality when he announced that his last season would be his “Farewell Tour.” I had to let that sink in too. Kobe, who was a 13 pick of the Charlotte Hornets and traded to the Lakers on draft night, epitomized hard work and longevity. He didn’t come in to the league as an immediate star. He came into a team with three NBA All-stars: Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones and Shaq. Kobe literally had to work to get his minutes.
He went from air balling in the playoffs against the Utah Jazz, to torching every team in the NBA team . He scored 40 plus points on every single NBA team including scoring 81 against Toronto Raptors . If I was a defender, I’d hate Kobe and they did. Some hated him because they couldn’t stop him, others because they just couldn’t beat him. He won 5 Championships. They are NBA Hall-Of-Fame caliber players who went ringless because of the Black Mamba. Most notable, Allen Iverson. Sorry A.I, but if it wasn’t for the Mamba you would have had you one.
What Kobe did for me was motivated me to do everything to my best ability and never settle. Whether my abilities led me to be great or not, I gave everything I had Kobe inspired that. The way he worked and studied to be great, is a method that could be used beyond basketball. What he did in the field of basketball could easily translate to everyday life. He studied the greatest of all time, Micheal Jordan, and duplicated his game to the T. I would even argue his skill level surpassed Jordan. Not saying he was a better player or had a better career because that wouldn’t be true, but from a skill aspect, because of his shot and post game, I’d give the edge to Kobe.
Kobe also mastered the art of focusing on and off the court. Off the court, Kobe battled a number of personal problems. His feud Shaq had him open to free agency, and actually met with teams. That probably scared the fans in L.A. slightly. The Colorado sex scandal put him and rapist in the same sentence of some. But regardless, Kobe’s personal problems didn’t affect his performance on the court. Some would say his off the court issues enhanced his game on the court. His job was to win basketball games and that’s what he did, inspite of the multiple distractions. After the Hollywood divorce between Shaq and him, he took a team Smush Parker as the starting point guard to the playoffs in the Western Conference. We stood aside Kobe through it all. Kobe willed the Lakers’ franchise back to glory by winning two more championships in the post Shaq era.
The seriousness of Kobe and basketball is the same way I look at anything I do in life. I am a follower of the Kobe System. That’s where you’re never satisfied. That’s when you strive to be better than what you’re already is, even if you’re really good. He was a perfectionist. Is he better than Jordan? Who cares, we all know Kobe laid everything on the basketball court. We Kobe fans are just spoiled, but he did it to us. Blame him if we still believes he’s coming back. He constantly raised the bar of excellence. In what seemed to be the fastest 20 years ever, we witness total greatness. I can’t say that I’m happy that he called it quits, but what I can say is, if he’s happy with all his accomplishments, the 5 NBA titles, the 18 All-star appearances, 33,643 points, the 836 games won and the 48,638 minutes, then I’m happy. If he is truly satisfied, then so am I. Although, I wouldn’t mind him coming back, I thank Kobe for 20 years of excellence.
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