By: Louis Prejean
As we have all heard by now, Kobe Bryant has announced that he will retire at the end of the 2015-16 NBA season. This will be Kobe Bryant’s last season. That is a sentence any sports writer wishes was never typed. Bryant has, undoubtedly, had himself one luxurious and decorated career: 17-time All Star, 5 time NBA champion, Most Valuable Player, and future Hall of Famer. From the highs and the lows along with the game winners and missed opportunities, Kobe Bryant has defined his own career by being the one of the most fearlessly motivated players in NBA history. The Los Angeles Lakers did not exactly know what to expect acquiring Bryant on the night of the 1996 draft. Flash forward twenty seasons to now and the Lakers have had the privilege of, not only working with, but growing with Kobe. Bryant has clearly been riddled with injuries over the past couple of seasons, thus the Lakers’ chances of winning have become almost nonexistent. The lights of Los Angeles are fading, but Kobe Bryant and the legend he is leaving will remain bright for many years to come.
The Future of Kobe Bryant
To discuss a man’s future, we must first understand his past. Kobe Bryant came into the league eager to soak up whatever he can learn. He did not play much, as he had to watch his first look of NBA action from the bench playing behind Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel. Bryant eventually got what he was looking for when Phil Jackson became the Los Angeles Lakers head coach in 1999. Phil Jackson knew how to handle any and every player on the whatever roster given to him. Jackson knew the game of basketball inside and out. Phil Jackson was exactly the person Kobe Bryant needed to reach his maximum potential. Since Phil Jackson became the Lakers’ head coach, Bryant saw his minutes increase and also saw his performance increase. The Lakers went on to win three consecutive NBA titles from 1999-2002 led by the liked of Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Phil Jackson. Then Phil Jackson’s contract was not renewed and Shaq was moved to the Miami Heat. Bryant seemed to have toxic relationships with both men. Phil Jackson called Kobe Bryant “un-coachable” in one of his books. O’Neal and Kobe had the infamous break up that everyone is aware of and this began another chapter in Kobe’s career, in which he must learn from. Kobe Bryant had to shake off all the doubt from the fans and analysts that doubted Bryant’s ability to continue to win at the highest level without Shaquille O’Neal by his side.. However, in great Kobe fashion, he won back-to-back titles in the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Kobe Bryant came over a lot of controversy because of his mental toughness and killer instinct.
Those components right there are what Kobe Bryant was made of. No one in the NBA can match the amount of mental toughness Kobe Bryant brought to the NBA. Also, Bryant is the last person in this era that had the “killer instinct”. Bryant did whatever it took to win and never turned down the biggest of moments. His preparation and love for basketball are what lasted him through 20 seasons in the NBA. Unfortunately, his body has failed him as his playing days come to an end. Kobe Bryant has suffered major injuries these last two seasons and Father Time remains undefeated. On the other hand, Kobe Bryant has built such a legacy that his light will shine on. His influence will continue to impact the NBA. Basketball players coming up through high school and college will always pattern their game to Kobe’s. Kids starting out will watch highlight videos, go straight outside, shoot a fade away, and yell “Kobe!” in honor of “The Black Mamba”. Kobe Bryant can also take any organizational job in basketball, as many doors will be open for him after he retires. Bryant will no longer be on the court, but still vicariously live through future generations while working on the business end of the operation.
The Future of the Lakers
On the other end of the spectrum lies the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers are a historically successful franchise, but seem to be in a rebuilding project as of late. The Los Angeles Lakers have put themselves in a hole, financially, with the Kobe Bryant contract and have a coach that has no interest in developing the young talent on the Lakers’ roster. The Los Angeles Lakers need to realize they are in a transitional period. The bright lights of Los Angeles are not placing the same expectations of the past because people know they must grow as Kobe Bryant did in his early career. These things take time so the spotlight is not glowing and there should be no pressure for the Lakers to win now. Lakers fans and people watching want to see just how good Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and D’Angelo Russell can be. With Byron Scott as the head coach, the fans will not see these players reach their full potential. D’Angelo Russell not playing in fourth quarters for quality experience is one example of Byron Scott holding the Lakers back. Also, Scott is fine with Kobe Bryant’s poor shot selection because “he’s earned the right.”
The NBA is not the same as it was and Byron Scott is not the progressive, open-minded coach the Lakers need for the roster that they have. Russell, Clarkson, and Randle have shown little glimpses of what they are capable of in the NBA, but in order for them to take the next level the Lakers need to change things up. The Lakers were 21-61 last season under Byron Scott and now they are 2-13 with Scott at the helm. The Lakers look uninspired and are not showing any signs of improvement. The Los Angeles Lakers want to return to their winning ways and playoff appearances, but they are not taking the right steps and the lights are dimming as low as this season’s winning percentage.
Heading in Opposite Directions
Kobe Bryant is retiring and will no longer play for the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe Bryant is walking away happy with what he has done in his career and with a clear mind. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles are in a state of confusion between the balance of Scott’s old ways of coaching and the young roster trying to balance what the coach wants and the current style of today’s NBA.
Let’s not harp too much on the negatives of the Laker organization because we should celebrate that we have had the blessing of watching one of the NBA’s toughest and hardest working players to ever step on a basketball court. Kobe Bryant will walk of the grandest stage in the month of April 2016, the curtains will close, and we will be left giving the Black Mamba a standing ovation.