If Michael Jordan is God and LeBron is the King, then Kobe Bryant must be the Prince. The Black Mamba has decided to retire at the end of the season and told the world via a peculiar medium- poetry.
The poem entitled Dear, Basketball, announced his retirement with the line “this season is all I have left to give”. It will be quite a farewell tour with the regular season running to April 13th where his last game will take place against Utah. He was a polarising player on and off the court and not everyone loved the Guard who won 5 NBA titles but he has already seen fantastic scenes in Detroit, where he was notably disliked. The Pistons registered a sell-out crowd for the first time this season, and the crowd was a sea of purple and gold jerseys in Bryant’s honour. These will be scenes fans will have to get used to as Kobe tours the country and offers the last chance to see his flashes of brilliance.
The Man, The Myth, The Mamba
Kobe was a prodigy when he left High School at 16 and went straight into the draft. After the small hiccup involving the Charlotte Hornets, Kobe landed in the City of Angels. He was the successor to Michael Jordan and the golden era of the 90’s. To a generation of fans like me, who did not have the privilege of witnessing Air Jordan, the arrival of Bryant with his small fro and explosive dunking was the best you could see in the early 2000’s. It would be scary to think about what the NBA would have looked like without him replacing Jordan so confidently. People will point out Kobe’s lack of a sixth NBA title to show he never fully reached the heights of Jordan, but surely it was an impossible task? Unquestionably however is the sheer scale of Kobe’s stats and successes. He may not reach the mythical status of Jordan but he will easily fall into the legendary status among the Hall of Fame.
The Philadelphian had a 20-year career and amassed an incredible 32,683 points, playing 1,293 games at an average of 25 points. This makes him the 3rd all-time top scorer in the history of the league. He achieved an 81-point haul in a single match and four 60 plus point matches. The NBA has never seen such a pure scorer as Kobe. He won the MVP award in 2008 and made it to 17 All Star Weekends. He will be leaving the NBA as one of the league’s biggest names. LeBron James told the press upon hearing the news “I mean, in high school I wore a nappy-ass afro because of Kobe Bryant,” James said. “Because he wore it. I wanted to be just like him, man”. After being asked for his thoughts on Kobe’s news James spoke for 4 minutes without stopping about his posters of Bryant and anecdotes. He claimed he used Kobe’s work ethic to give himself motivation to get up in the morning and hit the gym. He knew every day Kobe would be training too, and if he missed a day, he would be behind.
Kobe or not Kobe?
A polarising player, not everyone was in awe of the Black Mamba, and his last hurrah doesn’t look like it will be ending in the fairy-tale that perhaps Bryant was hoping for. Most of the criticisms are about whether this retirement has come years too late. His performances have been below his usually exceptional numbers and this season in 16 games he has an average of just 15.7 points. The Lakers are struggling with just 2 wins from 16 and Bookmakers are predicting them to finish outside of the playoff positions. An Underwhelming end to Overwhelming career.
The late retirement has brought back memories of the questionable decision by the Lakers to give Bryant a 2-year contract worth $48 million, when his best was clearly behind him in 2013. Not all fans seem to be happy with his current form and an ongoing joke about his lack of ability from the 3-point line this year is sweeping social media. This has led to fans asking why it seems the coach is chucking his clipboard and allowing Bryant to do whatever he wants to the direct detriment to the team’s season. Of course some would argue his career deserves the ‘exhibition’ style tour but sports fans have short memories and maybe Bryant has overstayed his welcome.
His farewell tour is being much more appreciated by crowds outside of LA, but that may be because he will be arriving with a poor Lakers side. They can sit back and enjoy Kobe being put out to pasture safe in the knowledge that his glory days of beating the buzzer with impossible shots, or showbiz dunks, are long gone. Kobe won’t be putting any teams to the sword any more, but he has plenty of blood left on it from years gone by.
Joshua Mason – Sports team