The Last Hurrah
Kobe is in the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. Although he’s been noncommittal on whether he’ll retire after the 2015-2016 season or not, there’s at least a 50-50 chance he will.
Health and how motivated Vino is to keep going will be the final determination, but after suffering three consecutive season-ending injuries and enduring a grueling rehabilitation process each time, there’s a very good chance that this could be Kobe’s final go-around.
Even if he ends the season relatively healthy, he may opt to go out on a high note rather than having to worry about incurring another major injury the following season — one that would not allow him to go out on his own terms.
Speaking of high notes relating to health, why not go out on top in terms of winning too?
While the Lakers’ future is finally looking up, there’s little belief that they’ll make the playoffs next year. Even if they do, it would be nearly impossible for them to reach the pinnacle that Kobe Bryant is used to — winning a championship.
So, why not be a part of an elite USA team with a chance to win a gold medal to cap off a truly legendary career?
It could be the perfect way for Kobe to go out, given the circumstances.
If he does play, the impact will garner a global reaction.
It’s remarkable moments similar to what Kobe did in the gold medal game of 2008 — but in the NBA — that gave him legendary status not only in the U.S., but around the world. But to see Kobe do what he had done for the Lakers time after time — this time for Team USA down the stretch of a gold medal game in the Olympics — helped make him a basketball god overseas.
There’s no basketball star bigger than Kobe Bryant in terms of popularity around the world. If you’re Kobe Bryant and are healthy enough to play and invited to play on a global scale one more time, why deprive the world of witnessing your greatness one last time?
At his age (he’ll be nearly 38 entering the Olympics), can he still be great at that level?
In the 2012 Olympics, an older Kobe outside of his prime did take on a lesser role, averaging just 12.1 points in 17 minutes of play.
However, he still contributed and had some electrifying highlights, even cracking the USA Top 10 Dunks list (see video below). Being around his younger superstar peers seemingly invigorated him.
Never one to ride coattails en route to any sort of championship, Kobe would certainly need to be involved to an extent, in order to consider playing in the Olympics again. After all, the Black Mamba is no role player.
However, when asked about a lesser role prior to the 2012 Olympics, Bryant stated: “I’ll just be Mariano Rivera.”
He was certainly still involved quite a bit in 2012, but this time, if he plays, maybe that statement will actually hold true.
Even if he plays just 10 minutes (of 40) per game in 2016, those minutes will last a lifetime for fans who adore the Black Mamba around the world, and I’m sure he’ll still be great in them.
If he’s on the team, fans will undoubtedly be chanting for him every second he’s on the bench, so he’d need to be able to deliver when called upon. The fact that Kobe, true to form, will only play if he earns a spot, certainly would ensure that he wasn’t just given a selection based on his reputation and that he’s still able to compete at an extremely high level, even among players nearly half his age. .
I’m sure the younger stars of the league wouldn’t mind taking some notes from one of the greatest players of all time, either.
Speaking of a global impact, the marketing opportunities are certainly something to consider if you’re Kobe Bryant. While the Mamba will only play if it feels right to him, just as he’s calculated on the basketball court, he’s calculated off the court as well.
He’s certainly taken advantage of his global popularity by monetizing it, most notably during his summer tours overseas.
With his shoe line and new ventures in the form of Kobe Inc. and a significant investment in the BODYARMOR sports drink, what better way to help promote Kobe’s post-basketball career moves than by being visible on a global scale?
Kobe is an extremely smart businessman who knows how to capitalize on an opportunity. This could be one he won’t want to pass up, especially at the tail end of his career.
Just Play, Kobe
At the end of the day, whether you’re a Lakers fan in L.A. who loves Kobe or a Kobe fan halfway across the world, we all have one thing in common: We love to watch Kobe Bryant play the game of basketball.
As a Lakers fan who loves Kobe, while part of me wants to be “selfish” and watch Kobe finish his career in the purple and gold at home in Staples Center (possibly while I spend a ridiculous amount of money to be in attendance), the other selfish part of me wants to see Kobe play as much as possible — even if it’s just for eight more games in the Olympics.
Another reason I want to see Kobe play in the Olympics is I love to see Kobe compete for something that matters — and win. As Lakers fans, we’re used to seeing Kobe go into battle with high stakes on the line, and he usually doesn’t disappoint with his performance. He always plays with fire and flair no matter what, but we all know he takes it to another level when it’s championship time.
Unfortunately, while the Lakers have lots to look forward to, they won’t be at that level just yet next season. The worst thing I could imagine is seeing Kobe Bryant — one of the game’s greatest champions — exiting his storied career without even the chance of competing in the playoffs.
This would be an opportunity to see it once again: Kobe Bryant, competing with and against the world’s best players on a global scale, for something that matters. While he may not be quite at the level of some of the game’s top-tier players at this stage in his career following a number of devastating injuries, his tenacity is unmatched and he’d be sure to bring some intensity to the game.
I’m sure in a limited amount of games with the international lights shining bright, the Black Mamba may just be able to turn back the clock on a few occasions.
Regardless of whether Kobe plays another season after 2015-2016 or not, it would be great for him to allow the world to say its goodbye to him at the 2016 Olympics — as he helps his country win another gold medal.[divide]