The Los Angeles Lakers face the certainty of uncertainty in the future with Kobe Bryant officially plotting his exit at the end of the 2015-2016 season. What's been an amazing ride with the Black Mamba is set to come to its inevitable end, though it's no easier to digest now that we know how little time we have left together.
Bryant's play has been unquestionably bad this season, and with the Lakers winning just two of their 16 games to start the year, it's not surprising he decided it's time to move on once his contract expires. The Lakers have a trio of young players who have promise but need time to grow together. Kobe's all out of that in his hour glass, with nothing left to prove after 20 years in the NBA and a body telling him it's time to go.
An eloquent poem to say just that was the perfect way for Bryant to begin his journey to the end.
What was your immediate reaction to hearing this massive announcement? I asked the Silver Screen and Roll staff just that, and here's what we had to say as the goodbye tour officially begins.
My immediate reaction was to freak out as it seemed based on the outpour was he was done immediately, not at the end of the season. His play has slipped that far. That said, after a moment of reflection and understanding he is definitely not done now, a dull thud hit the pit of my stomach accepting the finality of what will happen at season's end. I honestly can't picture basketball without him.
The Lakers and Kobe are literally one in the same and this season will be one long attempt to figure out how to move on. The first game we watch next season, though, will prove how impossible it will be to do so for the foreseeable future.
For me, Kobe's decision to retire is bittersweet. He is my favorite player of all time, he won five titles with the Lakers, and he's a top-ten player of all time, so I'll be sad that he's gone. But at the same time, the current Kobe is hard to watch. Seeing him shoot 30 percent every night is brutal and it's clear that he just doesn't have it anymore. Retiring is unquestionably the right decision for him. It's also best from the Lakers' standpoint, since they can now put their entire focus on building around their young core without worrying about Kobe's place in the organization. And let's be honest, Kobe sticking around for another year would have been disastrous for this team and the development of the young players.
Still, I'll miss Kobe's impeccable footwork, fall away jumpers, the ridiculous level of creativity that he had in his game, and the passion he always played with. As frustrating as he is to watch now, I'll try to embrace the final moments of his career as much as I can.
Thanks for the memories, Kobe.
My brother texted to ask if I had heard Kobe's announcement, leaving me scrambling to find a computer. When I saw the headline, my stomach dropped. After 20 years as a fierce competitor, leader, and face of the Lakers, Kobe is really retiring. There have already been too many words spilled about his on the court decline this year or the team-building implications - I'd prefer to think about the myriad highlights Kobe treated us to over the years.
His scoring feats were unbelievable, including 62 against Dallas in three quarters and 81 against Toronto. He was the rock of the 2008 US team, both teaching the next generation of NBA greats how to work and owning the clutch. He won five NBA titles - both as Robin to Shaq's Batman and as his own man with Pau Gasol.
For me, Kobe's flaws have always made him more interesting, more endearing. After years of celebrating and defending Kobe's greatness in the face of the haters, I wouldn't have it any other way. It was easy to pick apart Kobe's shot selection, until he started making enough impossible shots to win the game. More often than not, Kobe's fearless and ego-driven approach worked.
Until now. Every NBA player reaches their physical limit eventually. Despite a lengthy injury history, Kobe had always managed to bounce back. I saw Kobe in person against the Raptors a few weeks ago with The Great Mambino, and it was clear how much he'd slowed down and lost a step. His efficiency has bottomed out, but he still has pristine footwork and the ability to surprise you a few times a game. That's the Kobe I'll always remember -- the one with an unstoppable fadeaway who belongs on basketball's Mount Rushmore. Thanks for everything, 24.
I'm nearly at a loss for words. I remember when Kobe came into the league. I always enjoyed seeing his enthusiasm on the court when he got to play. I used to compare him to Magic Johnson because he was so happy to be playing basketball. He was a puppy.
As the years went on, he calmed down, became a full-grown purebred, but some of the "happiness" went out of his game, though it was obvious he was still having a good time, especially when the Lakers were winning during the three-peat years. Of course the battles with Shaq had a lot to do with his loss of joy, and that's always made me sad. Then there was Colorado, the trade demand and his free agency flirt with the Clippers, although I never really thought he was going anywhere.
I thank Pau Gasol for saving Kobe and the Lakers. And I thank them both for the 2009 and 2010 championships. Other players played huge parts, but they were the keys to the kingdom.
Now I'm rambling, writing through tears. Love you, Kobe. Always.
Kobe is my favorite player of all time and in my opinion, the greatest Laker of all time. He was known around the league for his work ethic and competitive drive. You can make the argument that from 2006-2009, Kobe Bryant was the best player in the league. His decline has been disappointing and disheartening, but his career accomplishments and superstar status in Lakerland outweigh whatever negative attention he has received the last couple seasons. Five championships in seven tries and a box-office draw for 20 years. Part of the best one-two punch in NBA history and a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I'm going to miss him.
The Lakers drafted Kobe when I was five years old, so I really have no memory of the team before he arrived. Kobe is the Lakers; the Lakers are Kobe's team. That's just the way it's been for the entirety of my fandom. I feel like I've grown up with Kobe, and even though we've been preparing for the end for a while now, I still can't fathom a season opener without Bean.
Part of me wishes that Kobe would have called it quits in 2013, after that magisterial (that's a Mamba-approved adjective for you) stretch when he almost singlehandedly willed the Lakers to the playoffs. But I think I needed this last act to come to terms with his mortality. I've come to love stubborn, cantankerous Kobe as much as I loved Afro Kobe, peak Mamba, facilitator Kobe, and Kobe the resurgent veteran. So many things that Bryant has done over the years drove me nuts -- including announcing his retirement midseason and most assuredly jacking up ticket prices -- but he was always our guy, our champ. I don't care where he ranks in the "Mount Rushmore" of NBA greats or how advanced stats will view him in the years to come -- Kobe is the reason I started loving basketball, and the Lakers and the league will forever be a little different without him.
I'm 24 years old, which both means my age matches Kobe's jersey number, and that I have no memories of a Lakers team without Kobe. That is probably the most striking part of this announcement for me: the date that I will for the first time witness a Lakers team in which Kobe Bryant is not at the center of the majority of Lakers coverage. A new era is upon us, and it is one filled with uncertainty. Which of the Lakers' young prospects will step forward as the new face of the franchise? Or will the new franchise player be an outsider brought in through free agency, and on that note, what can the Lakers front office do in free agency without Kobe's contract on the books? The Lakers have to answer these questions and more going forward, but there is finally no longer a question on when the Lakers' post-Kobe future begins.
So long Kobe. Perhaps the best compliment we can pay you is that because of the sheer amount of success you brought the purple and gold, there is almost no way the next Lakers era can live up to yours.
I find this announcement strangely surprising, even though we've more or less known that this is Kobe's swan song year from the beginning. Everything the front office, Kobe, and the media have talked about this season has led to the rather inescapable conclusion that barring a significant paradigm shift, this was it. Yet it's rather melancholy nevertheless to finally receive confirmation that Kobe is on his way out.
Kobe has been a pretty inextricable part of my Lakers fandom from the moment I started watching the team and it'll be rather fascinating to see how the team deals with no longer having the luxury of two decades of a superstar, or even how Kobe himself, maniacal competitor he is, handles retirement. It'll be a brave new world for everyone involved, including the fans, but the people still in it are quite worthy of our interest.
I had mostly mixed reactions. Obviously this news is not really a surprise to anyone, given what Kobe has said in the past and how he's performed on the court recently. And yet, it still is a bit jarring to see the words "Kobe Bryant will retire." Just a few years ago, it seemed like his game was aging pretty gracefully. Sure, he had his shortcomings on defense, but his offense looked like it would be pretty great for at least a few more years. My main reaction, though, is mostly sadness. Not only that Kobe will be done soon, but that we have to watch him go out like this. He's so bad now, and he's had such a marvelous career that it shouldn't have to end like this. I think a lot of us had a feeling this is how it would have to be, though - Kobe was destined to go down shooting until he just couldn't shoot anymore. And that time has come.
What can be said that hasn't been said yet? Kobe Bryant's retirement was always on the way, but it becoming an official piece of news out of nowhere caught me by surprise. I'd be lying if I didn't say it got a little misty as the finality of it all set into my mind. The end for one of the greatest ever is only months away. That he did so with poetry plucked at my heartstrings in a way I never could have prepared for.
Kobe Bryant is the reason I love basketball and is the only reason I'm here pecking away at words about just that. I hope to someday master any craft I love with even the slimmest fraction of how the Black Mamba did with hoops.
It's not over yet, but thank you for everything Kobe. Time to finish this journey.
What were your first thoughts after hearing Kobe Bryant was calling it a career at the end of the season?