Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Black Mamba slides away

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33,583 points before tonight his 1,281st NBA game

And so it comes to this. Wednesday 13th April 2016. A day I am sure not many of us thought would occur, and one the man this essay concerns would have wanted to avoid at all costs.
Kobe Bean Bryant is finally retiring from the NBA after 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, five NBA championships, two Olympic Gold medals and 18 All Star appearances.

It is always sad to see a veteran have to ride off into the sunset one more time and when that veteran has had such an illustrious career as Bryant, you do get time to reflect of his career peaks and influence.

When Bryant did announce his retirement shortly after the start of 2015/16 season it came as little surprise. Three years ago Bryant suffered a torn Achilles' tendon, and since the. His play has been limited by season ending injuries to his knee and shoulder. 

Bryant is an all-time Laker, the highest points scorer for the franchise, 4th highest in NBA history and a one team man which is becoming rarer and rarer. Bryant is one of the most tenacious and competitive individuals who could seemingly score at will; yet as Father Time caught up with him that tenacity has waned as has his figures.

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Bryant won 5 NBA championships

A combination of injuries and playing on a lesser Lakers side (this season's side is statistically the worst in franchise history) has seen him become a playoff fixture to a forgotten thought. The mark of a legend is sometimes being able to write your own script, your own perfect ending as say Peyton Manning was able to with his Super Bowl victory.

You got the sense from Bryant that he wanted his talent to grace the playoffs one more time, and yet a mixture of poor off court decision making coupled with the burden to match Michael Jordan's six rings became paramount in the twilight of his career.

Bryant could have done more himself by taking a pay cut which would have allowed the Lakers to entice a viable free agent like Chris Paul instead Bryant took the maximum contract (two year extension worth $48.5 million) thereby hamstringing the team to his want of a better and greater legacy. Yet you look at his contemporaries like Dirk Nowitzki who reshuffled his contract in Dallas to exist in the West or even Tom Brady in the NFL a man who always takes a pay cut to help his team in the off season.

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Did Kobe play well with others?
Bryant is for this writer a top 10 all time talent based on his capacity to win and his frequency of scoring, but it is probably his unwillingness to play well with others, you need only see the unseemly fall out of his relationship with Shaquille O'Neal for evidence followed by his shutting out of Dwight Howard in a misguided super-team endeavour. 

Even the recent debacle on the Lakers between Nick Young and D'Angelo Russell needed an elder statesman to shepherd them through the mess, yet Bryant has remained mute when his words may have spoken volumes. Bryant always wanted to take the shot and will always be remembered as a scorer than a distributor or team player, for a man who was the first great player of this millennium and has five rings.

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Bryant plays his last game 13th April v Utah Jazz
Bryant maybe the Black Mamba but in recent years the player has lost his bite. A career more memorable for sustainability than credibility.

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