Age goes one direction, and it is a direction that Kobe hates to acknowledge.
Bryant turned 36 this past August, coming off an offseason where the Lakers swung and missed on key free agents like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and even their own Pau Gasol.
The effects of a fruitless return from this offseason are on full display after the first week of the NBA season, with Bryant carrying this once prominent franchise into a season that looks bound to run into the ground.
And if the lack of talent that the Lakers signed around him wasn’t enough, the loss of their future star, Julius Randle, to a leg break in the first game of the season and Randle’s young career, further highlights the season that the Lakers are bound to have.
Kobe is, or doing his best to convince everyone that he is, unfazed by these recent blows to the team. Kobe spoke to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports about the rough beginning of the season and the possibility of him leaving LA, and his response was expected:
“I hear the chatter of Kobe should ask out and he should go and play for a contender in this latter stage of his career, but that’s not what I do. I’m extremely loyal to the Lakers.”
Bryant went on to say, “I’ve enjoyed a great amount of success here. You can’t just enjoy the successful times and then run away from the bad ones. No, I don’t even think about [departing]. I’m a Laker.”
Well, while that idea is very respectable and loyalty is a very rare but appreciated thing in today’s NBA, it may be the wrong career move for Kobe, who is viciously searching for his sixth NBA Finals win, chasing Michael Jordan.
The true reality that Kobe has brushed aside aside since the departure of Dwight Howard from the Lakers and the fall of his team’s prominence in the Western Conference is that that sixth finals victory will not come from LA. This team, like most things in life, has had it’s decade and change of vibrance and success, but it is time to accept the fact that this dynasty is over.
One thing that isn’t over is Kobe’s career, and with that his unbelievable basketball skills and competitive nature that ranks among the rafters of the sports elite.
Still young and athletic enough to be a number one option on a contending team, Kobe Bryant should look at the real possibility of taking his talents somewhere that he can utilize his still prominent skills for his main goal that is one of the only that remains in his career – his sixth ring.
As Spears pointed out in his article at Yahoo, “Bryant’s contract (he makes $23.5 million this season and $25 million next season) and age (36) would likely limit the Lakers’ trade opportunities.”
Despite his massive contract and limited long term affects on a franchise that takes him on, I am sure there is at least one coach or owner who wants to win now, so much so that he is willing to sacrifice everything (financial security, key players needed to give up in trade, his job, etc) to get a title now.
The Knicks are a team that come to mind, where reuniting Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher, and Kobe Bryant is a dream of many. They have a history of trading their future for their present and showing no regrets (despite regretting some obvious moves, like Tracy McGrady). The Nets also come to mind for a team who would go all out to win now – they did it just a year ago by shipping the kitchen sink for oldies Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
The Clippers would also be an interesting possibility, as a ceremonial gift from the two LA teams acknowledging the shift in power between the franchises, while maintaining Kobe’s attachment to the city of Los Angeles.
These are all just infant ideas, but they are ideas that everyone, including Kobe, should expand upon.
Nobody lives forever, and Kobe’s life as a premier basketball player is nearing an end. He needs to face this fact before it becomes too late.