BY: Trey Walker
November 29, 2015
“Dear Basketball, ……..
……..This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.
And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.”
-Excerpt from Kobe Bryant’s retirement announcement poem, “Dear Basketball”
April 13, 2016
Mamba will lace ’em up one last time to take on the Utah Jazz at the Staples Center in his final NBA game ever.
Kobe has been hooping for Los Angeles for 20 years. During his time there he has truly left a legacy on the sport of basketball.
As a son of a professional basketball player(Joe Bryant), Kobe spent some of his early years in Italy while his pops played in the Italian Professional Basketball League.
Early on, scouts knew Bryant could ball. After leading Lower Merion High School(PA) to a state title his senior year, the guard elected to take his talent to the NBA, and forgo his collegiate eligibility. Scouts and coaches knew that whoever got their hands on the player would punch their ticket to the playoffs as long as he saw court time.
Draft day came around, and Kobe Bryant was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th pick of the 1st round.
Bad news Buzz City- Kobe wanted no business playing in the Old North State. His agent confirmed that he would be unhappy and most likely request to be traded soon, so the proactive and always-logical Hornets front office delt Kobe’s draft rights to the Lakers in exchange for Vlade Divac, (good one guys!).
However, North Carolina did have him first….
People can only wonder what could have been if Kobe stayed with Charlotte.
Kobe started the “one-and-done” movement, as he was the first guard EVER to be selected in the NBA draft straight out of high school.
Mamba by the Numbers:
-5 time NBA Champion
-2 time Finals MVP
-1 regular season MVP title
-3rd on the NBA’s all time scoring list
-18 time All Star selection
Mamba spent 20 seasons with the Lakers, making him the only player ever to spend their entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers. People will remember Kobe for his ability to produce year after year- he has a 25.4 points per game rating over his entire career! Lakers fans could always trust Kobe to come through clutch when it was needed.
The Lakers hired Phil Jackson prior to Kobe’s 3rd season in the league. This coach ended up being the catalyst Kobe needed to start winning rings. Jackson increased playing time and touches for his star guard, and the rest fell into place. The O’Neal and Bryant duo brought home 3 straight titles in Jackson’s first tenure.
Struggles fell on the Lakers after the 3 peat. A loss in the NBA Western Finals to the Spurs(2003) and an upset the following year in the Finals to the Detroit Pistons(2004) brought frustration and disappointment to the team and the city. Phil Jackson’s coaching contract had expired and he had no desire to renew it; Rudy Tomjanovic filled the coaching void.
Players came and left, but Kobe remained in a gold jersey. 2 more titles followed in his marvelous career.
Kobe changed the game. Whether you choose to remember the Kobe that holds the record for most missed shots, or the Kobe that dropped 81 and won 2 gold medals for the United States National Team in the Olympics, Kobe was a beast.