Hall of Fame baseball lifer Branch Rickey said, “It is better to trade a player a year too early, than a year too late”. While this is not exactly the world Kobe Bryant lives in, the sentiment is the same. As a life-long Laker fan, I would rather have seen him retire a year too soon, than waiting as he did and retiring a year too late.
Granted, his past few seasons had been interrupted by injury, and one of the G.O.A.T. should never have to go out that way. I guess you could say Kobe has earned the right to go out however he wishes. Doing after this season also gives the Lakers an out.
You see, if he decided to stay on for another year or two, the Lakers would be caught in the position of either having to pay him for games past (which would again take up quite a bit of cap room), or have to let him play with another team.
Seeing Kobe in a Knicks, Clippers or Spurs uniform would be not only strange but sacrilege to some. It would be as weird as seeing someone like Michael Jordan in a Wizards jersey, or even Patrick Ewing in a Magic jersey.
While his five rings, 17 All-Star games, NBA MVP award, two Olympic gold medals and over 32,000 points may have earned him the right to decide how he wants to go out, his 1-for-14 shooting game against the Warriors should have been a tell-tale sign that it is time to give it up.
Hell, on the night he announced his retirement he was 4-for-20 from the field. He is not helping this team, and is a major reason for their 2-14 start. He needs to pass the torch to Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell, who have the chance to be really good.
But you have to walk before you can run, and with Kobe missing 80% of his shots, the youth doesn’t even get the chance to leave the nest. It would not surprise me at all to see the Lakers say Kobe has an “injury” and miss some time this season.
Of course, they would not dare do that without his blessing as he has earned that right. But something has to be done. This two win team is much better than that, and we may never know how good they can be with Kobe remaining the alpha dog. If he does not want to be “injured” how about chopping his minutes to about 25 a game instead of 35.
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have both not only learned their limitations, but are willing to allow others to be the focal point as they get ready to pass the torch.
Look, the Black Mamba will go down as possibly the second best (or best, depending) two guard in history. I am a HUGE fan, and will always be thankful and grateful for what he has done for this team. I am just afraid about how much he is tarnishing his legacy by playing the way he has done this season.
Of course there are several lights at the end of the tunnel. First and foremost, the Lakers will add a ton of cap space heading into the year when the TV money kicks in and the salary cap rises $22 million next season. Then add the names who could be in the free agent pool, Kevin Durant, Dwayne Wade, Al Jefferson and Nicolas Batum (just to name a few studs out there). It sure looks to me, if the team can convince free agents to bring back the shine to the Lakers, then the 2016-17 season will look a lot brighter. But I think even prospective free agents should see how the good the youngsters can be.
As a Laker fan, picturing a line-up of PG) Russell, SG) Clarkson, SF) Durant PF)Randle C)Drummond (yes that would mean they signed BOTH Kevin Durant and Andre Drummond), this would be one scary team.
So Kobe, as a Laker and Kobe fan, I beg of you this: Go out on your own terms, but don’t let any of us forget the greatness that is the Black Mamba. We all know what a valiant warrior you have been, much like MJ was, and how much winning means to you. So give Russell, Clarkson & Randle a chance to take the torch from you and run with it.
Other than Magic, nobody embodies the Lakers more than you do. So thank you for everything you have done for this team, but this team could use one last “game winning” assist from you, do whatever it takes to make the 2015-16 version of the Lakers is going to go down in the greats of Laker lore. That can be your legacy Kobe, teaching the kids to be Lakers.