On April 13, 2016, after a legendary 60-point performance in his final game, Kobe Bryant officially sailed off into the sunset. He’d announced his retirement during the season and ended his career in typical Bryant fashion.
However, in some regard, Bryant’s career did not end as planned. The Los Angeles Lakers were terrible and finished a measly 17-65 on the season. Since then, the Lakers have rebuilt nearly to perfection.
They cleaned house during 2016-17 season, adding Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka to replace Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak in the front office. They found their head coach in Luke Walton, and put their faith in young players like Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart.
But what signaled the end of the rebuild was the signing of LeBron James in free agency. Since Bryant’s last season didn’t go well, some, namely Shaquille O’Neal, have toyed around with the idea of Bryant coming out of retirement to play alongside James.
While common sense suggested otherwise, Bryant’s wife Vanessa put an end to any thought of a potential return:
“Kobe will not be coming out of retirement to play again. He doesn’t want to play again and frankly we really enjoy spending time together as a family without the crazy game schedule interfering with birthdays, holidays and special events.”
Of course, these were never serious rumors. Bryant himself never even commented on them. But the idea of him returning to basketball in order to help James and the young Lakers take down the Golden State Warriors was certainly an interesting premise.
Logistically, it was doable. Realistically, however, it wasn’t. After an Achilles tear and subsequent knee and shoulder injuries, Bryant struggled mightily to get through his last three seasons in the NBA. Once an ironman, he played in just 107 games from 2013-16.
Although many may not have expected as much, Kobe Bryant seems thoroughly content in retirement.