This is the day Lakers fans dread: Kobe Bryant’s retirement. He brought it up recently in an extensive interview with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. And it was brought up again a few times after Sunday night’s win over Philadelphia.
First, let’s take a look at Adrian Wojnarowki’s story at Yahoo! Sports.
“He really seemed to be taking it all in and cherishing it tonight,” (Bryant’s high school coach Gregg) Downer told Yahoo! Sports. “He was waving to fans, more interactive than usual. He knows he may be back only a few more times.”
In Bryant’s mind, maybe once more. The possibility of retiring when his contract expires in 2014 still looms large in his mind. He’s weary of the toll that his rigorous workout regimens take on him. It isn’t the winters that wear him out, but the summers.
For Bryant, it took discipline to spare himself the sluggishness that always comes with eating a Philly cheesesteak on a trip home.
“It’s a lot, a lot of work,” Bryant said. “My competitive spirit comes from like every little inch, your body is slowing down, the younger guys are passing you up. It really keeps me on edge.”
Kevin Ding from the Orange County Register also talked to Kobe after last night’s game:
Kobe had 34 points on 12-of-21 shooting against the 76ers. He credited his healthier eating and diligent maintenance (such as ice baths) for keeping him feeling this strong at 34.
But he hinted at retirement again after next season: “Next year could be my last time” playing in Philadelphia.
I heard that last night, too, during Mike Trudell’s interview with Kobe on television immediately after the game. “Next year could be my last.”
Let’s get realistic here. Lakers fans want to see Kobe Bryant break all sorts of records and expect him to play in the NBA until he’s 40 years old but that’s likely not going to happen. Kobe has been in the league nearly half of his life; this is his 17th season. The wear and tear on his body has got to be taxing on him. Few individuals play in the league past 15 seasons and Kobe is in his 17th (and doing it at an incredible level). For him to say it several times over the course of the year about how much time he has left in the league? Yeah, he really doesn’t have much time left.
Kobe Bryant is 34 years old. That’s old by NBA standards. And all the injuries that he had played through? It’s pretty amazing that he’s actually still playing. And I’ll bring this up again: he’s playing at an incredibly high level. And he’s outlasted nearly everybody in his draft class (in 1996). And the draft classes after that. Tracy McGrady is no longer in the NBA and he was drafted in 1997. Steve Francis was very good when he played but he’s no longer in the NBA and he was drafted in 1999. All-Star Michael Redd was drafted in 2000 and he’s no longer playing.
Yes, I get that none of them are as good as Kobe but you appreciate his longevity in the league. For him to play a few more years is a bonus for the Lakers, the NBA, and all of its fans. So we should appreciate him and watch him while he’s still playing because, as Kobe mentioned before, there’s not much time left.
Whether it’s one year or whether he actually chooses to play ’til he’s 40 (very unlikely, I’ll tell you that), don’t miss out on watching Kobe play if you’re a Laker (or NBA) fan. He could be gone before we all know it.