Just because everyone expects and wants Kobe Bryant to retire and no longer be part of the Los Angeles Lakers, he’s sending out mixed messages and “threatening” to stick around a little while longer.
This should be it. The last season. Kobe Bryant is no longer useful for the Los Angeles Lakers. The franchise’s time as being a tool for his ambition to win a sixth ring is over. Bryant is no longer good enough to lead them, but doesn’t have the personality that allows him somehow subdue his ego and take the necessary steps, which are either walking away for good and letting the show run without him or actually become a role player, who makes role player kind of money.
We’ve been accused more than once of being Kobe Bryant haters on this site. While the persona that he seems to show off through the media isn’t exactly my cup of tea (like his recent quotes in a GQ article), there’s no doubt of how much he’s done for the Lakers and the NBA in general. Probably the second or third best shooting guard of all-time. But Bryant is also someone who thinks that the fact that he’s won five championships (not alone, but as part of a team) makes him better than others forever and ever.
When the gift known as the amnesty clause was presented to teams in the last CBA, the Lakers should have used it on Bryant. Instead they let Metta World Peace go as part of their job of destroying a team which happened very quickly. Bryant got a two-year contract for $49 million. A player among the oldest in the league, with injury problems and a severely declining ability to dominate the way that he used to, while preventing, through his salary and personality, for the team to reload and become contenders again.
Before the NBA draft Mitch Kupchak made an interesting comment about not drafting or signing players based on what Kobe Bryant wants or needs. That seemed to signal that the Lakers have finally let it into their thick skull. Maybe a bit too late, but always better late than never. It was also a hint that this, the last season on Bryant’s contract, is also his final NBA season as well.
But Bryant doesn’t want to make his haters too happy. He’s not about to roll over and accept that he’s no longer one of the best players in the league. To him, the fact that he won five NBA championships, the last of them five years ago, means that he’s immune to criticism, and that his way of pushing players behind the scenes is the right way, the only way. But Bryant’s personality and playing style have long been only about making himself better, not doing what’s best for the team. That’s been such a big part of the Lakers decline in recent years.
Bryant’s body hasn’t been holding up well, hardly playing any basketball over the last two years. Maybe this time Byron Scott will be wiser and not run him into the ground. Maybe Bryant himself will push for less minutes, more rest. The Lakers drafting a point guard makes us hope (we’re not Lakers fans, but it’s annoying to see dysfunctional basketball programs make mistakes each and every time) they’ve realized Jordan Clarkson isn’t one, and the future is having a backcourt without Bryant interfering.
But getting rid of one of the biggest egos in the history of the game doesn’t happen just like that, especially when you’re not willing to assertively show him the door. Bryant is here to stay at least for another season. The Lakers front office and their fans need to hope he isn’t going to be getting in the way in what could finally be a season with a positive trend, culminating in him finally retiring.