Kobe at the end

So much has been said and written of late about Kobe Bryant, old and feeble and struggling to score over players who, not long ago, wouldn’t be allowed near him on the court.

People say Kobe Bryant has lost a step. Two steps. They say he can’t create his own shot, or defend, or jump, or help young players improve. They say, best-case scenario, he’ll average 17 points on 32 percent shooting for a team that goes 20-62. They say he’s a faded version of his own self, even worse than Michael Jordan, Washington Wizard, and Hakeen Olajuwon, Toronto Raptor.

And they’re right.

Kobe Bryant is a shell of a shell of a shell of what he once was. He looks like Kobe Bryant, and talks like Kobe Bryant, but he’s living that scene in Superman II, where the Man of Steel steps into that machine as a powerful being and leaves as a mere human, flaws and warts and weaknesses and all.

And yet … who cares? Seriously, who the fuck cares? We humans are as predictable as the Florida humidity, and this is no exception. Whenever a great athletes nears the end, we bemoan his final days and question whether his legacy will forever be tarnished. Pick a legend—any legend—and it happened: Ken Griffey, Jr.’s final run in Seattle. Sugar Ray Leonard’s last few fights. Jim Palmer coming back in spring training. Emmitt Smith as a Cardinal, Shaq as a Celtic, Brett Favre as a Viking, Ichiro as a Marlin, Wayne Gretzky as a Ranger, Roy Jones now, fighting in Russia. Hell, I vividly recall Patrick Ewing spending his final two NBA seasons in Seattle and Orlando, and New York newspaper columnists suggesting the odd uniforms and foreign cities would forever scar his legend.


Truth is, Kobe has a right to do this, and we shouldn’t mind. An athlete is a human being who, as the old saying goes, dies twice—once when he literally leaves the earth, the other when his career ends. It’s a process; a coming to grips with the realization that you are not now—and will never be—who you were.

Plus, why shouldn’t he hang on as long as possible? Kobe’s making $25 million this season, flying on a private plane, staying in first-class hotels. Once it’s over, it’s over. So why rush out, simply because a bunch of people feel uncomfortable watching you struggle to dunk? Why rush toward the inevitably dull-yet-necessary career as a (fill in the blank) [commentator/coach/celebrity speaker/automotive dealership owner]?

Take your time, Kobe.

It’s no problem.

6 thoughts on “Kobe at the end”

  1. Jeff, he doesn’t have a “right” to do this. It is a choice, both his and ownership. Funny, but my wife and I discussed it while watching him shoot 1-14 tonight. Get it while you can! He clearly has done this. But, it has been done much to the detriment of a great franchise. And I am a lifelong GSW fan.

  2. Good piece. Blowhards prattle on about “legacy”. He’s a professional athlete, not a world leader. Play ball and as long as you wish or as long as someone will pay you to do so. Of the things Kobe has been accused of doing, tarnishing our memories of his career with unremarkable play in his mid/late 30s is among the lesser offenses.

  3. If Kobe wants to go out and play horribly night after night, it’s OK with me. I’m enjoying it immensely. And you didn’t mention Willie Mays as a Met. That was sad to see.

  4. Respect the post !!! Kobe take your time, really who would watch the Lakers this year if he wasn’t on the court. He’s there to mentor and teach, while still being the face of the franchise. Kobe is a global brand! Respect greatness…

    1. If he was mentoring , teaching, coming off the bench and collecting his money that would be one thing. But he is still trying to dominate the game and failing and looking pathetic. There is an art to knowing how and when to quit. That is true in everything, not just sports. The guys who know how tend to move on successfully (Joe Morgan) . Those who don’t, well (Pete Rose).
      The thing is the young Kobe would never have tolerated the old Kobe on his team. Staying on for a year or two in a lesser role could be a positive but he is turning it into a side show.

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