Anyone that was still holding on to hope that Kobe Bryant was going to come out of retirement and lead the Los Angeles Lakers to their first title in nine years alongside LeBron James was given bad news this past weekend.
Despite Shaquille O’Neal saying that he has heard otherwise, Bryant finally put any rumors of him coming back to play for the Lakers, in the Big 3 league, or anywhere else to bed in an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show.
“There’s about a zero percent chance that I come back and play,” Bryant said.
“Nothing (makes a zero with his fingers). Done, that’s it.”
This isn’t some shocking revelation from Bryant. Since he hung up his sneakers now over two years ago, Bryant has adamantly denied that he’ll ever play professionally again.
He even went as far as to say he doesn’t miss playing basketball in an interview last year and he reiterated that same sentiment with Eisen.
”Never (have I missed it). Never. Here’s the thing: For us athletes, it’s really hard to transition from that. I was really personal about it when I wrote ‘Dear Basketball,’ but that is the true challenge: Finding what comes next, and finding something you love to do every bit as much as you loved your first passion. That is a challenge for us, and I think unfortunately for us athletes, we’ve been pigeonholed into thinking that we can only be one thing.
In true Bryant fashion, staying retired is not only because he doesn’t want to play basketball anymore. It’s also because his legendary competitiveness is driving him to prove those saying he needs the game wrong:
”When I retired and everybody was saying ‘okay, he’s too competitive, he’s not going to know what to do with himself, he’s going to have to come back,’ I took that as a personal challenge of them thinking I am this one-dimensional person, that all I know is how to dribble the ball, shoot the ball and compete at that level.
“So I took that as a personal challenge. I will never come back to the game, ever. I’m here to show people that we (professional athletes) can do much more than that. Creating this business, winning an Oscar, winning an Emmy, those are things that are showing other athletes that come after, ‘No, no. There is more to this thing.’ So I would never (come back). It’s not even a thought.”
Despite the fact that Bryant will not be suiting up in a Lakers uniform next season, or the following seasons, fans of the Mamba can still order Bryant’s jersey for the upcoming 2018-19 season. Yes, really.
In honor of Mamba Day, Nike released a special edition of the Lakers’ new Nike “Icon” jerseys with Bryant’s name and number. Since Bryant won’t be coming out of retirement, that’s about the closest fans will get to seeing James and Bryant in the same uniform.
Perhaps Bryant will have a change of heart one day, but it doesn’t sound like it will be any time soon.
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