Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour

The Compass - - SPORTS - Ni­cholas Mercer

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.

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