In an article on Grantland titled ‘The Long Autumn of Roger Federer,’ the writer of the piece contests “the saddest moment in the career of a great athlete is the one when he’s tagged with the word ‘still’.”
When one is associated with the word ‘still,’ it means he or she is no longer at the pinnacle of their career but are ‘still’ able to do some of the things that made them famous in the first place.
We should be thankful as Laker fans, that we’re pondering if Kobe is ‘still’ the best player in the league rather than if Kobe Bryant is ‘still’ able to carry the Lakers.
As a die-hard Kobe fan I pray he ages gracefully. Three or four years from now, he won’t be able to score 25 plus regularly, but he will be able to put the ball in the basket in a limited role. If he’s able to accept not being the alpha dog, then he’ll ride into the sunset in style.
We love seeing our former heroes in reduced roles while remaining a prevalent part of our lives. In pop culture, Jennifer Lopez isn’t the seductive “J-Lo” anymore; she has transformed herself into an American Idol judge and is still pumping out a hit here and there.
We’ve all seen what can happen to athletes who can’t accept they’re not the player they once were.
Guys like Steve Francis and Allen Iverson have had to learn that lesson the hard way. Even Michael Jordan’s victory lap around the NBA in a Wizards uniform diminished his reputation slightly, albeit briefly.
Kobe has done what Jordan did before him: prematurely ending an era while fending off a younger one.
I hope Kobe will also be able to mirror how Jordan ended his career with the Chicago Bulls.
As a champion.