It looks like Kobe Bryant is finally ready to hang them up. In his piece for the Players Tribune, Bryant wrote in poetic form:
“You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.”
Bryant, who played for Lower Merion High School, was drafted 13th in the NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 before they traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he played for a record 20 consecutive seasons.
Bryant’s career is almost unparalleled because of his prolific scoring and ability to take over a game at will. He averaged 25.3 points, 4.8 assists, and 5.8 rebounds per game. He has five championships and two Olympic gold medals He earned a regular season MVP Award along with two NBA Finals MVP Awards. Bryant is also a 17-time NBA All-Star and 4-time NBA All-Star Game MVP.
Many compare Bryant to Michael Jordan because of his killer-instinct and his similar game to His Airness. However, Bryant achieved four statistical feats that Jordan did not. He passed Jordan on the NBA all-time scoring list. He is the first player in NBA history to score 30,000 points and dish 6,000 assists for his career. He scored 81 points in a game against the Toronto Raptors in 2006, second only to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100. Bryant also scored 62 points in three quarters against the Dallas Mavericks in 2005, outscoring the entire Mavericks lineup.
Bryant also made a cultural statement Jordan never made by playing in the world known Rucker Park in Harlem during the summer of 2002 and earning his nickname “Lord of the Rings”. Playing in Rucker Park was not unheard of for NBA players, but for some reason Jordan never did, choosing only to appear after his retirement. Bryant played there during the prime of his career, and even busted out a few tricks to entertain the crowd.
Yes, Bryant used Jordan’s fadeaway, elbow jumper, and a myriad of his other moves. He also took post lessons from Hakeem Olajuwon, arguably the best post-player in NBA history. He used Dirk Nowitzki’s one-legged fadeway. He learned the crossover from New York City dribbling legend God Shammgod, the inventor of the Shammgod, a move that any ballplayer from New York City and the surrounding area knows cold.
Bryant isn’t just Jordan’s imitator. He is a student of the game, and Jordan happens to be its best player ever. Bryant would not be a good student if he didn’t study him, but if Jordan never existed, it is likely that he would have still found a way to achieve greatness. All competitors of his caliber do, including Jordan himself.
Bryant is the best shooting guard of the post-Jordan era. Even now, he has no shooting guard who can carry his torch.
James Harden, Jimmy Butler, and Klay Thompson are all great players, but none of them punish teams like Bryant did night in and night out on both ends of the floor. None of them have outscored entire teams, made as many clutch shots, or won as many championships.
With the exception of the injury prone Tracy McGrady, Bryant played his best years without an equal. No shooting guard in today’s NBA compares to Bryant’s greatness. Perhaps he’s compared to Jordan so much because no other shooting guard’s career makes it a worthy conversation.
When this season ends, Bryant deserves his own spotlight as the NBA’s most dominant shooting guard during his prime who ruled the game worldwide from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, to New York City, all the way to London and Beijing.
He never needed to be like Mike. He was and always will be Kobe Bryant, and through his own merits and achievements, he is a guaranteed basketball Hall of Famer.
Let’s just leave it at that.
Well done, Black Mamba. The game will miss you.