Kobe Bryant caught many by surprise when he announced that he would be retiring at the end of the 2015-16 season, prior to the Los Angeles Lakers vs. Indiana Pacers game last Sunday, via a poem he penned for The Players’ Tribune. Over the past several days, there has been an outpouring of support and acknowledgment for his immense success from dozens of current and former NBA players.
This week, NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West joined the Dan Patrick Show to talk about his reaction to the news.
“I’m very conflicted,” West said when asked if he was in a way relieved upon hearing Bryant’s announcement. “I don’t like to watch him play this way, I really don’t. I want him to be remembered for what he is. He was an absolute incredibly great player. He wasn’t great. He was incredibly great. And, to watch him now, it’s hard for me to imagine, knowing him, and I’ve had very little contact with him in the last eight years, very little, but watching him right now, as much as he likes to win and playing with a team that frankly is not capable of winning at a high level, I’m conflicted about that. I don’t know how he goes to bed at night, knowing how much he loves to win.”
West, of course, is largely credited with acquiring the 17-year-old Kobe Bryant in the 1996 NBA Draft, via a trade that sent center Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Bryant’s draft rights. That day, West told the late Dr. Buss, that they just got the best player in the draft.
Since then, Bryant has won five championships with the Lakers, including two NBA Finals MVPs, and dozens of accolades that include 17X NBA All-Star and Lakers all-time leading scorer.
Unfortunately, the final years of Bryant’s career won’t be remembered by championships or even playoff berths. In fact, coming off the their worst season in franchise history, the Lakers have now started the 2015-16 season, just 3-16. West hopes Bryant’s remembered for all that he’s accomplished, rather than their record in the final season of his career.
“I want to remember him for his greatness and for how much winning meant to him. He’s got a completely different mentality than almost any player I’ve ever seen in my life. I wonder how he really feels about it, I’m sure he knows that he doesn’t have to do this anymore at the end of the year, but I just wonder when they’re losing like this, how does he come to grips with it, when that has meant everything to him in his life?”
Asked about life beyond basketball, West said it’s “hard to tell,” whether Bryant will channel his competitiveness and desire into a front office role.
“He’s very, very smart and he’s also intuitive, and I think that some way, some how, I think it would be great if he could get involved at a higher level in basketball,” said West who served as a head coach, scout, general manager and executive vice president for basketball operations with the Lakers.
“I think it would be great if he could get in a position to be able to contribute in other ways with his mind, with his ability to see things on the court that most people could never see. I think it would be something that he would enjoy. It’s hard work, there’s a lot of pressure on you to do it. Does he want to face that pressure? I think only he could answer that question.”
In a press conference before his last game in Washington, Bryant recently said he’s unsure whether he sees himself in the front office, but left the door open.
“If I feel like I can be a part of a franchise and help the franchise grow, then it’s something I’ll look into,” Bryant said.
63 games to go.