After missing all but six games last season while rehabbing a ruptured achilles and a fractured lateral tibia plateau, Kobe Bryant has returned for the 2014-15 to play out the two-year $48.5 extension he signed with the Lakers last November. But should he have returned? Was is really a good idea for everyone involved? As you’ve probably figured out from the title of this list, I suspect not.
It’s certainly not because he has nothing left to offer. The guy is 35 years old and he scored 31 points the other night. He obviously has something left to offer. But just because you can, that doesn’t mean you should. And what follows are nine reasons why Kobe Bryant should not.
Kobe is 36 years old, and he joined the league in 1996 at the age of 18. This is currently his 19th season with the Lakers, and at time of writing he's played 1,249 games, averaging 36.6 minutes per game.
Is Kobe a unique physical specimen? Yes, of course. But nobody outruns time. Everybody slows down, and eventually even the greatest of sports ironmen succumb to injury. In the last 20 months, Kobe has blown his achilles and fractured his knee. You know more injuries are going to happen.
Why languish in career limbo like Lakers teammate Steve Nash? Why not learn from his unfortunate situation and just retire now before the injuries take over everything?
9. Age & Injuries
Does Kobe want to go out on top, as one of the greatest and most beloved players in the history of one of the greatest franchises in professional sports? Or does he want to wind up like Brett Favre, who went through a really messy divorce with the Green Bay Packers that took years to sort through? Because that's the direction in which Kobe could be heading. If things start to get really bad for the Lakers, they could trade or even amnesty him. And nobody wants to see that.
8. Protect His Legacy
The Lakers are not going to win another championship with Kobe. It's just that simple. They can't afford another big star with his insane salary, and since they were winning up until a few years ago they have not replenished their bench with young talent. (No offense, Swaggy P and Jeremy Lin.) This team needs to rebuild. But they cannot do that while Kobe is still playing. It's like Kobe is holding Lakers fans hostage, and the majority of them don't even know it.
7. Let the Lakers Move On
Of course, it's not only Kobe's salary that is preventing the Lakers from adding talent. Though the recent rumors about free agents avoiding L.A. because of Kobe have almost certainly been overblown, everyone knows there is sometruth to them. Kobe needs to be the star, and his legendary intensity rubs people the wrong way. Just look at how the Dwight Howard* experiment ended up? There are plenty of guys who would rather take less money elsewhere and be part of a team than join the Kobe show in Los Angeles.
*In fairness, though, Dwight Howard is also a douche.
6. Alienates Teammates
Today I've put the meatiest part of an argument right in the middle. This fact right here is what would make the difference for me if I were in Kobe's shoes. The man has literally accomplished everything. He won three titles in a row with Shaq, then won two more without him. He's got two NBA Finals MVP Awards, a regular season MVP award, two scoring titles, a slam dunk title, and 16 All-Star appearances.
Perhaps most importantly of all, Kobe Bryant has earned gobs and gobs of money. Over the first 15 years of his career he raked in $196 million. Then he made another $83.5 million from 2011-14 before he signed the two-year $48.5 million extension. And that's not even counting ENDORSEMENTS.
What does Kobe have left to prove? Why go on if he's not going to win championships? Frankly, it's beneath him.
5. Nothing Left to Prove
If Kobe Bryant retired right now, there's almost nothing he couldn't do. He could joint the Lakers front office. He could coach. He could become a league executive and become a global ambassador for the game. He could buy an NBA team. (Well, part of one.) Hell, if he wanted to he could probably make a billion by creating his own line of gourmet Italian pasta sauces.
My point is, it's not like he's going to fade into obscurity if he retires. The guy can literally do what he wants and become the next Magic Johnson in Los Angeles.
4. New Challenges Lie Ahead
What's more appealing—getting a plaque at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, or playing on a crappy Lakers team that is probably going to lose at least 50 games every year for the foreseeable future?
Personally, I'd take the Hall of Fame plaque over all the losing. It's not like Kobe is Karl Malone or Charles Barkley. The guy isn't desperately seeking a ring. He's got five of them.
3. Fasttrack to Springfield
I'm not trying to be a jerk here. Really. I'm totally serious. We all know Kobe has had marital issues over the years as a result of his...um...indiscretions. While I don't want to presume to know what his relationship with his wife, Vanessa, is like, I have to assume it could benefit from Kobe not being on the road a third of the year. And if nothing else, I'm sure his kids would like to see their dad more. Why not just retire and be with the fam?
2. Focus on Personal Life
The Lakers are off to their worst start since moving to Los Angeles in 1960. At time of writing they are 0-4, and while they willwin a game eventually, they probably won't win many. In fact, many people who know a lot more about basketball than me are predicting they will be even worse than they were last year without Kobe Bryant. And last year they lost a franchise-worst 54 games.
Why stick around and bust your ass just to be the laughing stock of the NBA? Just retire. End the misery.
1. This Season Is Going to Be Ugly
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