In the April 2016 conclusion of a late night game against the Utah Jazz, the world of basketball will see one of the greatest players in the history of basketball, Kobe Bryant, walk off the court where he spent the majority of his adult life.
Adding jubilance and excitement to a league in search of the next great star, Bryant captivated us all with highlight dunks, dazzling feats of athleticism, and awe inspiring scoring binges since his debut in 1996. After winning a total of five NBA Finals Championships, including three consecutive ones from 2000 to 2002, receiving 17 all-star selections, and accumulating 32,000 points, the lifelong Los Angeles Laker is ready to call it quits.
On Nov. 29, Bryant shared a heartfelt letter about the end of his 20-year basketball journey with “Players Tribune,” in which he stated: “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.”
After tearing his Achilles tendon in the latter part of 2013, Bryant hasn’t been the same player. He’s played a total of 57 games over the past four seasons since his injury, while usually averaging 72 games in the previous 16 seasons.
As sad as it is to see him go, it is even sadder to see what he has become. Bryant is not the player he used to be, proving nightly that his performances are nowhere near what they once were. Not only is he missing shots and lacking in defense, but he is taking away the opportunity for younger players to grow and develop.
As a fan of Kobe Bryant, I would love nothing more than to see Kobe ride out into the sunset, receiving a standing ovation as he ends his career. But frankly, that day cannot come soon enough, after what I’ve seen from him over the past three years. Boasting career worsts in almost all statistical categories, it is a relief to know that no one will have to suffer through seeing one of the greatest players to ever play turn into an even larger shell of himself after this season.