Lately, it seems Kobe Bryant is contemplating his own basketball mortality and is seriously thinking about retiring from the NBA. While he’s been everything to the Los Angeles Lakers for a very long time, it’ll be a great step towards a better and brighter future once he does retire.
Whether it’s at the end of this season, the end of his contract (summer of 2016) or actually a bit further down the road, with Bryant also suggesting he might go beyond his current deal, the Lakers are simply in a position of being limited in so many ways while Bryant is on the team, especially with the contract he has. Sure, the salary cap is rising and soon there will be a much bigger one once the new TV money flows in (if the league and players ever come to an agreement), but Bryant still eats up too much of it.
And it’s not just his salary that wasn’t very helpful in the team’s attempts to rebuild and put on a decent team. Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant might cherish his leadership and friendship that they felt when playing Olympic basketball, but Anthony didn’t seem to relish the opportunity of playing for the Lakers and next to Bryant. He chose more money and a terrible team by staying in New York. Durant isn’t a free agent, but lets make a “brave” assumption and suggest he’s not going to join the Lakers while Bryant is still playing there.
At 36, Bryant still has some nights on which he seems like he belongs among the league’s elite. After these games, that happen once every two weeks or maybe a bit more, not to mention the rest he needs to get in order to be prepared and capable of performing them, the old tune of “Bryant is still great” comes from his vocal fans which always love to ignore all the bad that comes with having him. Yes, Bryant is a hall of famer, one of the best ever in his position, but he’s a player and person with flaws, that become greater and more damaging to his team with every season that goes by.
They’ll forget about his 3-of-19 type of games, that come along more and more this season. He’s shooting only 37.2% from the field and most of the Lakers’ best 5-man units in terms of +/- don’t include him. He’s not a washed up player, but he’s no longer good enough to carry a team. His defense is embarrassing if it’s even existent a lot of the time. Yes, he’s cool when he’s chewing his gum; his form of shooting is the thing all shooters want to have; his footwork is often mesmerizing. But it doesn’t mean he’s actually good for the Lakers.
Five championship rings. As if he won it on his own. Even if he was the best player on at least two of those championship teams, it always came with plenty of help, usually in the form of the best frontcourt in the NBA at the time. That’s not a diss at Bryant. All champions had plenty of help, even if they grabbed most of the credit: LeBron James, Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan and others in days of golden oldies.
When he retires, it’ll be easier to forget about all the bad he did to this franchise by hanging on to day of glory and false hope of future success. It’ll be easier to just remember all the points he scored, all the wins he had, all the rings he won. Bryant is still good enough to be a productive NBA players and more for at least one or two more seasons. But as the star of his team? As their leading man? Those days are gone, and the sooner both he and the franchise realize it, the better it’ll be for everyone.