Kobe Bryant’s career came to an end last Wednesday as he put up a historic performance. Kobe Bryant took 50 shots in his last ever game in the NBA (for now). Out of these shots, 22 went in, which is a 44% shooting percentage. Not bad for a 37 year old man. Kobe will be remembered by his 5 NBA Championships and as one of the greatest players to ever step foot on the floor. He will also be remembered by going out on top in his last ever game.
Isn’t that a joke. All I’ve heard about from Kobe’s last game is how he went out on top. How? People need to be reminded that Kobe Bryant’s Lakers went 17-65 this season, the second worst record in the entire NBA. I’d rather go out like Peyton Manning, who won the Super Bowl in his last year in the NFL while putting up his worst season statistically of his career. And while it shouldn’t all fall on the 37 year old shoulders of Kobe Bryant in his 20th season in the NBA, that was still Kobe’s team. This is a problem in itself, and a problem caused by Kobe himself. The Lakers have young, promising talent. Julius Randle averaged a double double this season with a little over 11 points and 10 rebounds per game. D’Angelo Russell averaged 13.2 points per game in his rookie season, and this is with Kobe still taking the majority of the team’s shots. The Lakers will also have a lottery pick in the upcoming draft, so there is potential for some new young talent will join the team as well.
So why is Kobe leaving a good thing for the Lakers? Well, he’s been holding back their potential. They have a bunch of guys who can be legitimate NBA players if they have a few years to develop. When you have Kobe Bryant out there tossing up 20-30 shots every game while shooting a career low of 35.8% from the field, it is tough for these players to get the necessary reps and into the gameflow they need to progress as players. If you watch Laker games, you can see the entire team just stop playing basketball while Kobe dribbles around looking for his shot. That’s just not how players get better.
I also believe something that might make some people just stop reading this right here, but that’s ok. Kobe retiring is what’s best for the NBA. That’s right, the face of the NBA for the last 20 seasons retiring, should actually help the NBA. Let’s face it, ever since the Lakers tried to make that super team with Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, they’ve been a joke. The Lakers, along with the Boston Celtics, are the most storied franchise in the history of the NBA. From Wilt, to Jerry West, to Kareem, to Magic, to Shaq, and to Kobe, the Los Angeles Lakers have had all the names along with the most titles in NBA history (tied at 17 with the Celtics). Without Kobe Bryant, they can finally become good again. They will be able to develop talent and have much more cap space to sign big name free agents. And take it from a Boston fan, it doesn’t take much to woo a free agent into signing with L.A. The Lakers will then finally be good again. And when the Lakers are good, it is good for the NBA. I would never take away anything Kobe’s done in his career. He’s the best player I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. But as a fan of the sport, it’s about time he’s hung ‘em up.