Kobe Bryant can't win battle with Father Time
Kobe Bryant has enjoyed an illustrious NBA career that has included five championships, 16 All-Star appearances, scoring titles, and an MVP award, among numerous other accolades. He has been at the peak of his profession for almost two decades, and he will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the game's greats.
No matter how great however, all careers must come to a close, and the lifetime Laker is reportedly considering calling it quits after the season.
"I'd be lying if I said it hadn't crossed my mind," the former Lower Merion High star told Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke over the weekend. "Right now I doubt it, but anything is possible."
The past couple of seasons have been rough on Bryant, from the failed Dwight Howard experiment, to playing in only six games last year due to injury issues, to trying to will his way through this season on an overmatched and under-talented Laker team; probably not the way Bryant envisioned spending his twilight playing years. Bryant, ever-competitive, probably envisioned going out on top, like Michael did (pre-Wizards stint), or at least on a team capable of contention.
The acquisition of Howard a couple summers ago was aimed at stocking up the Lakers for one last Bryant-led run, with Howard meant to take some of the burden off Bryant's back. Things obviously didn't work out quite that way, with Howard now patrolling the paint in Houston and Kobe putting up points on a bad Lakers team. It is strange to see one of the game's greats, a guy that has long been lauded for his competitive drive and win-above-all attitude, to go out as a statistical sideshow on a team positioned well outside of the playoff picture.
But Bryant is human, and despite his personal vendetta with Father Time, that is a battle that even he can't win. His body aches after games. He often winces as he walks, and ice baths are a far too common occurrence. He is restricted to 32 minutes per game, and sits out on the second night of back-to-backs. While he can still dominate for stretches, he can't do it as often, or for as long, as he used to. With the Lakers well out of the playoff picture, there has been talk of him shutting it down for the season.
Bryant always came off as a guy that would go out on his own terms, and it seems that that is what he intends to do.
"My body is hurting like crazy, around the clock, and if I don't want to do this anymore, I won't do it."
Bryant insists he still loves playing, despite the recent hardwood hardships.
"I'm still enjoying it, but it's hard. You have to find new challenges, not playing for a championship - it's pretty tough."
2014-15 is a lost season in Lakerland, and there is really no benefit to keeping Kobe out on the court. If even part of him wants to continue to play beyond this season, he should shut it down, and soon. The chances of the Lakers morphing into a legitimate contender in the offseason are slim, but they can at least improve and give Bryant a shot at one last playoff push. Los Angeles will get Julius Randle back next season, and could potentially add another high lottery pick (their 2015 pick is top-5 protected), as well as any free agents they may add in the upcoming offseason.
Bryant is owed $25,000,000 next year, and after that he is off the books. Anything is possible, as Bryant said, but at this point, it is looking more and more likely that Bryant won't play past that final year of his current contract, if he makes it that far.
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