If inside of you dwells a true fan of the NBA or of basketball and sports in general, you most definitely have, at least once, heard about the Los Angeles Lakers all-star Kobe Bryant.
Personally, as a Lakers die-hard super fan, I have always seen the Staples Center, the Lakers’ home arena, as a temple and Kobe as its ever-present priest. That’s the reason why, when last November the number 24 of the Lakers announced with a letter to his “dear Basketball” that he would retire at the end of the current season, dismay and shock came to populate my mind.
Well, we all knew that the 37-year-old all-star would have soon hung up his basketball shoes but nobody really wanted him to. This is largely due to the incredible working ethics and the strive for improvement this champion has always embodied, inspired and never showed off, other than for his successful and rewarding career path.
Kobe’s decision has significantly re-shaped the year of the Californian franchise. Indeed, other than bringing about a general disillusionment and a 25 million salary cap space for next season Bryant’s retirement also created a profound movement around his decision. In fact the Lakers game schedule, rarely marked with a win, most likely resembles a bittersweet farewell tour of the “Mamba” (as his fans fondly call him) of all the NBA sports arenas. Even some of Lakers traditional and greatest rivals, such as the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers, have given him lengthy and well-deserved standing ovations worthy of the true legend he is. The exact same thing happened a few days ago on the annual event of the All-star game, this year hosted in Toronto, where Bryant was included for the 18th time in the western roster, and where he was selected to be one of the starting five. His choice has also significantly affected the availability and the price of Lakers home and away tickets, now as valuable as gold.
Doubtlessly his retirement will signal a crucial point in the League’s history, a spot that will be eagerly filled by some NBA rising all-stars such as Butler, Davis or the very Laker Russell, as well as by well renowned pros such as James, Durant and Curry. However, for many of his fans like me there will be no Kobe’s replacement as his retirement, just like Michael Jordan’s in 2003, will mark the end of an amazing era.
That being said, it is hard to foresee whether like his former teammate Derek Fisher Bryant will ever become the head coach of any NBA team as he personally denied it in an interview. On the other hand it will come to great general surprise if he didn’t decide to cover a relevant role in the future of either the NBA league or the Lakers franchise.
Now, just for the record, Kobe Bryant is a five-time NBA champion, he is currently the third on the all-time regular and post season scoring list, two-time NBA Finals MVP (Most Valuable Player) and 2008 NBA regular season MVP, and many more are the awards he has gained throughout his astonishing career.
Please permit me to add my most sincere wishes to our beloved Mamba for an equally rewarding and most satisfying new life out of (or hopefully very much close to) the court.
Riccardo Scroppo is a first-year Politics and International Relations student at the University of Manchester