Can Kobe Bryant Be Brave Enough to Walk Away from the Game?

As someone who could only observe the life of a professional athlete, I wonder how the supreme ones in this group know when it's time to retire.  Michael Jordan retired and unretired twice.  Evander Holyfield and Roy Jones should have retired years before they actually hung up the gloves.  Derek Jeter is a shell of his former self.  Chipper Jones hung on for two years past the time when he could have walked away.  Allen Iverson, if he had taken care of his body, could have extended his career a few years.  When does Father Time make a call to Kobe Bryant?

I had the privilege of watching Kobe play when he was a senior at Lower Merion High School.  His team played a revenge game against Chester High School on their way to a state championship.  I loved the grit of the Chester players as they played man to man defense against this future Hall of Fame player.  I think the referees put him on the line a few too many times on their way to a win.  He was undeniably a special talent though.  Many people thought he would enter college for at least a year.  His decision to enter the pro ranks was a solid one.

There are many tales of high school players who do not transition well to the NBA.  For every Kobe Bryant success story there are ten stories for players like Korleone Young, Jonathan Bender, Eddy Curry, Kwame Brown and Leon Smith.  It was such a problem that the NBA instituted a one year in college rule in order to save players from themselves.  The NCAA is currently the farm system for Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins.  Kobe was traded for Vlade Divac on draft day and the rest is a solid history.

Kobe is presently the number four all time scorer in the history of the NBA.  He has surpassed players such as Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Adrian Dantley, Dominique Wilkins and John Havlicek.  Active players such as Dirk Nowitski, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are already feeling the effects of numerous years in the league.  I do not think any of the aforementioned active players will make a push towards the lofty status of Kobe Bryant.  At least Paul, Dirk and Kevin all have an NBA championship to complement the sweat and tears that they have left on the court.  I wonder if LeBron James will have the strength to conquer the mountains that Kobe has.  His five rings and indomitable spirit have put him in the conversation with Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul Jabbar for the title of greatest players of all time.

I am concerned about the two recent injuries that Kobe has suffered.  The Achilles injury was caused by minimal contact with an opposing player.  Also, he fractured his knee during a basic basketball move after being off the court for eight months.  Even Laker legend Jerry West had indicated that he did not look like himself.  Kobe once indicated how his goal was to punish opposing players.  His intense workout regimens and utilization of a full time personal trainer were testaments to his belief that his body was his ultimate weapon.  Sadly, it appears that his body is failing him.  Can Kobe accept the fact that the sacrifices that he has made on his way to greatness have left him as a shell of the player that he once was.  Summoning the will to compete against awesome young players like James Harden and Paul George might not be in the cards.

I cannot see Kobe Bryant being content to be a role player based on his personality.  He was already playing close to thirty minutes a game when he suffered his second devastating injury this year.  He will not relegate himself to be a Robert Horry type of player.  He had already been playing point guard because the Lakers decided to sign a past his prime Steve Nash.  I think it might be time for Kobe to consider retirement.  I also think the Lakers erred by signing Kobe to a $48 million two year contract at age thirty-five.  He will miss the Christmas Day games for the first time in years. I know that inactivity will wear on a competitor like Kobe.  Good Luck on whatever decision you make Mr. Bryant!!

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