by Sam Prince
Last night Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers said that he would be retiring at the end of this season. Returning to basketball after back to back seasons that have ended in injury, Kobe has lost a few steps. Making mistakes and shooting an abysmal percentage, it appears that the game has passed him bye.
But the game has not passed him bye. No, I’m not a Kobe Bryant apologist; I just believe that there is a lot of game left in Kobe, even if he’s not the Kobe of old. Believe it or not, Kobe can still be a nightly contributor, shoot a high percentage, and score over 12 points per game.
It is time for Kobe Bryant to recreate himself. Retiring at the end of the season is Kobe’s way of running, instead of looking in the mirror and seeing the adjustments he can make. Either way, I believe we can all agree that Kobe is a first ballot Hall of Famer. That being said, with some adjustments he could play a few more years, and these could be some of his most enjoyable.
First is the look in the mirror. Kobe has to be willing to accept that he not of All-Star caliber anymore, but that the “new” Kobe can still be effective in the NBA. Kobe like many other stars is attached to his stardom. He is infatuated with it, addicted to the way the world has seen him, and anything less is unacceptable to him. It’s time for Kobe to cope with Father Time, and take this opportunity to recreate his approach to basketball.
In the beginning of the season Kobe talked about being a veteran, looking to helping the young players along, but now it is time to show it. Retiring right now and like this is teaching young players to check out and quit when things get tough. Why not teach them to adapt and overcome, not through their talent, but with their intelligence?
Secondly, the Lakers front office hasn’t done Kobe any favors. Through overpaying Kobe, the Lakers ballooned his self-perception in comparison to the rest of the league. Much like the 2008 housing market, Kobe’s bubble had to eventually burst, as the reality is that he hasn’t been the legend we’ve been accustomed to seeing for years. That was a terrible business decision, and the expectations that came with that contract psychologically set Kobe up for this debacle.
The Lakers would have been better off not resigning Kobe, or trading him to a team that could make better use of him.
For Kobe to excel at this point in his career, he needs a coach who can strategize an effective and efficient way to utilize Kobe. Coach Bud in Atlanta, Kerr in Oakland, and Popovich in San Antonio are a few that come to mind. Kobe needs a system, a system where ball movement and spacing are top priorities, and where he doesn’t have to be “the guy” anymore. Kobe could be a solid seventh man off the bench with instant offense, shooting off screens and curling to the basket.
Or, he could just retire.