Kobe Bryant Officially Retires; “Mamba Out!”
Yes, Kobe Bryant officially retires.
Kobe Bryant was both the hero and the villain during his career, depending on your perspective. So many athletes, even of Hall of Fame caliber, are only liked or disliked when playing for or against a fan’s favorite team. Kobe was bigger than that and a polarizing player to all NBA fans, but he especially embraced being a villain. The hate motivated him.
He became the Black Mamba because he wanted to kill the opposition and increase the hate he utilized to fuel his greatness. That greatness has faded in recent seasons as age and injuries have insured Father Time’s record will remain unblemished.
In 2015-16, he’s been a shadow of his former self, rarely resembling the 5-time NBA Champion, scoring champion, MVP, and Finals MVP. He’s averaged nearly 10 points less per game this season than his career scoring average. It’s been 10 years since he scored 81 points in a single game, or 50+ in 4 straight games. The player who achieved all that greatness has been gone for a few seasons now, yet we all tuned in Wednesday night to watch an awful 16-win Los Angeles Lakers’ team hoping to see at least a glimpse of what the Black Mamba used to be.
It didn’t look promising early on as Kobe began the game missing his first 5 shots. It appeared we were witnessing just another star athlete on his last legs perform an embarrassingly sad final act until apparently something poked the snake with a stick. He hit his next 5 shots, including a couple drives aggressively taking the ball to the basket with legs and moves that couldn’t possibly belong to a 37 year-old that’s logged 50,000 minutes in professional basketball.
Kobe finished the first quarter with 15 points. Despite his brief visit to the Fountain of Youth, the worst team in Lakers’ history fell behind the Jazz trailing by 15 points at half time. He finished the first half with 22 points on 20 shot attempts and the Lakers were heading for their 7th loss in a row.
Though Kobe might not have much left in the tank, he floored the gas pedal in the 2nd half. 38 points in a game would be impressive for an NBA all-star in his prime. Kobe scored that in the 2nd half alone, including 23 in the 4th quarter. Volume shooting and scoring is what made Kobe a legend, and that’s exactly how he went out taking a career-high 50 shots while making 22, a respectable 44% clip.
Entering the 4th quarter, Kobe had 37 points while the rest of his team had 29, and they trailed by 9 to start the 4th and by double-digits with 10 minutes to play. The outcome of the game was moderately irrelevant to a Lakers’ team with so little on the line, but to an intense competitor on the level of Kobe Bryant, winning every game matters. He wouldn’t disappoint his fans, and more importantly to him he wouldn’t satisfy his haters.
The Lakers trailed by 9 with under 4 minutes left. Then, we were rewarded with what we tuned in for, that glorious final act of the Black Mamba striking for the kill. While so many other elderly athletes have limped to the finish line, Kobe’s killer-instinct would disallow that result. The deficit was 10 with 3 minutes to play and he took over as he did in his prime, scoring 13 more points and finishing with 60.
In his final game, he became the only player in the NBA to score 60 this season as Kobe Bryant officially retires. Only Wilt Chamberlain has scored 60 points more times in NBA history than Kobe Bryant. His 3 with a minute left cut the Jazz lead to 1 and with 30 seconds left, a vintage Kobe jumper off the dribble gave them the lead. The Lakers held on to win 101-96.
Kobe graciously addressed the fans after the game finishing with,“Mamba Out!” He wraps his career with 33,643 points which is the 3rd most in NBA history. He is the only guard to play 20 seasons in the NBA and the only player to play 20 seasons for one team. 20-30 years after Magic, Michael, and Larry, fans still miss watching them play.
Love him or hate him, Kobe is a member of that exclusive irreplaceable fraternity. As Kobe Bryant officially retires, he had this to say after the game:
“We’re all both. We all have a little hero and villain inside of us, man.”