Tonight, Kobe Bryant will lace up his Nike basketball shoes and play his final NBA game against the Utah Jazz.
And, I’m particularly happy, no ecstatic, that the Black Mamba will finally be slithering away. His departure is overdue.
The 2008 NBA MVP’s much ballyhooed exit is happening nearly two years too late.
One of the very best players in league history, Kobe Bean Bryant overstayed his pro basketball welcome.
A shell of Kobe Bryant lingered longer than it should.
A broken Bryant battled badly these past two years as a brittle, older baller against young men poised to one up him at every turn.
And, a remarkably gifted athlete allowed hubris to dictate his exceedingly painful exit causing so many hoops fans like me to wince.
Kobe became what Michael Jordan tried to accomplish with the Washington Wizards and Brett Favre with the New York Jets.
Unfortunately, Kobe Bryant’s results were exactly the same.
Kobe Bryant Lost Badly to Father Time
Bryant, too, lost badly to invincible Father Time and his bloated two year contract set his Lakers franchise back years in rebuilding.
Injuries hadn’t just plagued him these past couple years, they derailed him.
Winning games, a common occurrence during his storied 20 year career, eluded him, especially during this year’s anemic 16 win season.
High shooting percentages abandoned the normally reliable Bryant who suffered through one of the worst of his NBA playing campaigns. He shot only 35.4% from the field and a woeful 28.5% from beyond the arc.
Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour
This evening marks the finale of the tirelessly long, overly flattering and fawning Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour.
Sure, the guy was great as a player. He’s a five-time champion and the youngest player ever to amass 30,000 career points.
Obviously, he’s been a fan favorite and will be a first time ballot Hall of Fame inductee.
He’s amassed a $300 million net financial worth.
But, what will his teammates or rivals say about his worth as a man?
Remember, he ruffled feathers regularly, disparaged opponents unnecessarily, ridiculed teammates openly, talked trash incessantly and shared narcissistic comments proudly with the press.
Yes, tonight may be the end of one chapter in Bryant’s young life.
However, I’m curious how he’ll handle the next chapter.
A Bryant quote from June 28, 2015 is most telling, “Friends come and go, but championship banners hang forever.”
The Staples Center will certainly continue to showcase the championship banners that Kobe won during his stellar career.
But, will all the people, teammates and rivals the Black Mamba has bitten over the years stay away. The list is long, very long.
Here’s hoping they don’t because most would agree that friends trump championship banners any day of the week.
MIKE on sports!