The Kobe Bryant Crossroads: What’s the best move for his legacy?

Kobe Jersey in Mouth

For more of our 2014 NBA preview, click here.

 

Following the news that Steve Nash is out for the entire 2014-15 season with another one of those dad-type injuries, there was really only one option: talk about Kobe Bryant.1

Here’s a thing about me – I don’t enjoy watching my favorite teams play in high-pressure, championship-type situations. It’s not really their fault, it’s mainly all mine. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re either in denial, or you have a healthy relationship with professional sports.2 For me, watching the 49ers in the Super Bowl or the Lakers in the NBA Finals is basically an out-of-control stress test that I give myself.

I’d be lying if I told you I’ve never turned my hat a different direction, or sat a certain way on the coach, or placed my hands specifically folded in my lap. To borrow a phrase from Michael Scott: I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious. Besides, you can’t prove to me that doing any of those things DOESN’T help my team win. It’s that kind of ridiculous behavior that led to me saying after the Lakers won game 7 in 2010 that I felt like I had just played in the game myself, because of the beads of stress-sweat on my forehead and the pounding sensation in my heart. And the fact that I wasn’t even excited that we won, just exhausted and relieved.

I bring this all up because Kobe Bryant is the only athlete whose entire career has coincided with my own life. Immediately upon entering the league in 1996, which was one of the first years that I religiously started watching the NBA, to now, his entire NBA lifetime has coincided with seminal life events of my own. I’m not sure if it’s cool, if it’s weird, or if it’s just plain sad, but I can place certain moments of Kobe Bryant’s career by what was going on in my life. You’re right; it’s both weird and sad, and totally not cool.

Let’s just move on to the whole point of this thing, which is basically: what’s next for Kobe? What’s his best move? I’ve boiled it down to five specific options, ordered here from least likely to most likely (sort of):

 

OPTION 5: Adam Silver reverses the vetoed Chris Paul trade, sending him to the Lakers where he rightfully should’ve gone.

Okay, okay I’ll stop bringing this up. Let’s just start over. I’ll (try to) be serious this time.

 

 

Kobe Bryant’s five future options:

 

OPTION 5: Recreate the super-serum that transformed Steve Rogers into Captain America, allowing him to play forever.

Wait, hold on; please just hear me out. I won’t try to convince you that this is the BEST option, but it’s definitely not the worst. The serum was originally created by a German scientist, and Kobe literally goes there once a year anyway, so it’s not like it’s THAT inconceivable. There’s got to be someone there who has an idea of the formula; c’mon now! I mean, I don’t even need him to have that crazy shield or anything; he just needs to get an injection of that super-serum and we’re good to go. What do you mean that’s unrealistic? How dare you!

 

OPTION 4: Hang around and hope the Lakers can field a contending team in 2015-16 & 2016-17, when basically every good player will be a free agent.

This was sort of outlined earlier this summer by some moron, but it seems laughably unlikely. Not only is it hard to believe that Kobe would stick around on team trotting out Jeremy Lin as its starting point guard, but only an act of God or collusion could bring the type of talent needed to field a championship-caliber team to the Lakers while also keeping Kobe both engaged and able to deliver the type of performance needed for this to be designated as “his” team. Weird side note: 2012-13 Kobe scored the most points in his previous four seasons, as he carried a team with a men’s-over-50-league version of Steve Nash, a disengaged Pau Gasol, and a complete douchebag an injured Dwight Howard. I think most of us can agree that Dwight is the worst, but Kobe was completely uninterested in making even the most remote attempt at convincing him to stay. That speaks volumes about his ability to recruit any other future free agents to L.A., especially two years from now when he’ll be even older and way more grumpy.

 

OPTION 3: Leave the Lakers after next season to chase a ring, becoming the closer for a young, contending team on the cusp, a-la Paul Pierce for the Brooklyn Nets and now Washington Wizards.

Why NOT do this? Seriously, if Kobe were really that hell-bent on getting a 6th ring at any cost, this would be his best option. All he’d have to do is sit back in 2016 free agency and see what the NBA landscape looks like. What if the Derrick Rose never gets back to his former self and the Bulls can never re-gain that contender status? What if the Pacers really blow it all up? This seems unlikely, if only because the Eastern Conference seems like it’s on the rise, but what if the Mike Budenhozer-led Hawks become the official Spurs-East? All of the sudden you have you’re very own Kobe as Paul Pierce 2.0, a leader who can take big shots at the end of games or clear things out for Jeff Teague, Al Horford, and a bevy of 3-point shooting? Grasping at straws here, I get it. Here’s one that seems (a little) less inconceivable and crazy:

What if the Spurs dynasty finally comes to a halt, and/or Russell Westbrook jumps ship from the Thunder, leaving a wide-open Western Conference? It would take a serious ego check, but how crazy would it be if Kobe stays put and switches uniforms, becoming a starting, super-version of Jamal Crawford for the Clippers?

You’re right, that’s insane. Let’s talk about something more realistic:

 

OPTION 2: Retire immediately before the season starts, move to New York, and become my best friend.

Personally, this seems like the best option. I feel like me and Kobe would have a really good time together flying around in his helicopter, playing Halo, going to Buffalo Wild Wings and joining my team in our local men’s basketball league. We do already have a starting two-guard, though, so he would have to come off the bench. No, I haven’t been drinking, why do you ask?

 

OPTION 1: Retire after his 2-year extension ends next season and potentially end his career with 5 rings and as the NBA’s second or third all-time leading scorer. 

It pains me to admit it, but this seems like the most logical and likely scenario. Barring significant injury, Kobe will pass Jordan for third all-time in career points this season, and perhaps at the end of his current contract be just shy of Karl Malone for second all-time.3 I think Kobe may be able to hang his hat (ego) on the fact that he scored more points than Jordan, despite being one ring behind him.

 

We have more than a year to figure this out, basically two full seasons if you’re scoring at home. Things change, people change, situations change. The only certainty is when that sad, fateful day comes, when it’s reported that Kobe Bryant is retiring, my exact reaction will be this:

 

More of our 2014 NBA Preview:

D-Fish & J-Kidd: A Word Regarding Those Who Have Never Coached

Why I’m Psyched for the NBA Season – Wide Open West

About Rory Goulding

Rory is a Long Island native working in sports production, spending his time between New York and Connecticut. Rory is an avid football fan, and lover of all things basketball not named LeBron James. He spends his free time competing in professional hopscotch tournaments.
Twitter: @DoogieSchrat

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