You went and did it. You hung up those low-top Nikes for good. And to be honest, I did not think you would truly go through with it. I figured this was just a small part of one of your crazy schemes. I was not the only one who partially hoped that once the final buzzer in the Staples Center sounded, you would walk straight to center court and proclaim to the world, “The Mamba is coming back!”
And why wouldn’t you? After that 60-point Utah finale, it looks like you still got some venom in those fangs.
But you didn’t. When you said this was your last game … you meant it.
That said, thank you, Kobe. Thank you for loving the game I love so much. Each moment you stepped on the court was a spectacle. From the rare occurrences when you could not buy a basket, to the day you scored 81 points on Jalen Rose’s Toronto Raptors.
The grit you displayed night in and night out was unparalleled to that of anyone else in the NBA nowadays. Quite frankly, your retirement sort of wraps a bow on one of the NBA’s best eras.
Twenty years. Do you know how difficult it is to maintain relevancy in today’s NBA for just five years? Yet you did that four times over.
Whether it was the old Forum, or today’s Staples Center, you made the stage your own. Boy, did you make it your own. I remember watching you walk on the court with the dim lights in the background. You couldn’t see the fans or the stands. All that was visible was the court.
Honestly Kobe, I could not fathom the possibility of anything stopping you from playing. You practically broke or sprained every bone and tore every muscle possible. You even shot free throws with a torn Achilles against Golden State.
On top of that, you never folded under the pressure of being a Los Angeles Laker.
NBA legends such as Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabar and Jerry West all donned the world-famous purple and gold. Not just anyone gets that honor. But you did, and when you did, it fueled you to earn those five championship rings. The pressure ignited a spark within you.
In one of your recent Nike commercials, you told us to hate you because it fueled you. But you will get no such thing from me. Enjoy retirement, Mr. Mamba. Until the next stone-cold killer takes the court, I’ll watch your highlight tapes to hold me over. Trust me when I say there is plenty to choose from.
Sincerely, a Wizards fan named Nate.
P.S. If you really want to be like Mike, I recall him doing a short stint in Washington … Just saying.
HAYWOOD is the editor-in-chief.