Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour
Last week, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant announced his intention to retire from the game of basketball at the end of the season.
“This season is all I have left to give,” he wrote on the Players Tribune website through a poem called “Dear, Basketball.” You can read it here (http://www.theplayerstribune.com/dear-basketball/) and it’s actually not that bad.
With the announcement out of the way, Kobe is embarking on a farewell tour that will see a wealth of gifts lavishly thrown at his feet as each stop becomes his last stop in a certain city.
In Philadelphia last Tuesday, he was given a framed jersey from Lower Merion High School, where he starred as a 17-year-old before being drafted 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA Draft.
He would later be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in a draft night deal and the rest, as they say, is history.
For a long time, Kobe carried the league in the absence of Michael Jordan. There were great players, but no one captured the imagination or attention of fans like Bryant. Now, he is set to retire. The professional athlete retirement tour is a peculiar thing. Names such as Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Wayne Gretzky and others have done it before where they’ve announced their retirement in the early stages of the season and teams started lining up to shower them with gifts prior to the start of a new series.
Not every athlete gets a farewell tour. All-time greats like Shaquille O’Neal, Steve Nash or Ray Allen never got them.
Neither did Ken Griffey Jr. He retired with the Seattle Mariners, which was good, but never got to the kudos of a season-long farewell.
I think he should have, partly because Griffey was a once-in-alifetime talent, but that’s something for another day.
They quietly packed up their lockers and moved into the shadows; content with the imprint they left on the game.
They’ll each get their due when they’re enshrined in their respective sports Hall of Fame.
I’m not the biggest fan of the farewell tour, to be honest. After the first few stops, it becomes drawn out and boring. The event loses that sense of anticipation.
They become more of an ego boost than a waltz down memory lane.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Kobe was a great player. He is in the conversation for top-5 NBA talent ever and will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Like Jordan before him, Kobe inspired generations of basketball players. The post up-corner fade away became a staple amongst shooting guards in the game because of him.
He was ruthless, as all great players should be, on the basketball floor and had a desire to win that rivaled only his own ego.
Kobe was a multiple time allstar, won an MVP, a Finals MVP and a couple of scoring titles. Things weren’t always great though.
Sometimes, his greed got in the way of the team. The Lakers should’ve gotten three more titles with a Shaq and Kobe combination, but they couldn’t co-exist.
The two-year, $48.5 million extension he signed in 2013 effectively handcuffed the Lakers and free agents balked at the idea of playing with Kobe and his “give me the damn ball and get out of the way” attitude. That was acceptable at the height of his powers, but not as his game started to diminish and the injuries piled up.
Kobe was a generational player and he should take the tour. He deserves farewells in Boston and at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The game owes him that much. I’m just not a big fan of the idea behind it.
I’d much rather see a fading star moving into the background graciously to take their place amongst the greats.