Black Mamba Signing Off…

DENVER, CO - December 30:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers before the game against the Denver Nuggets on December 30, 2014 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)

Kobe Bryant is leaving the NBA. The legendary player announced on Sunday that the 2015-2016 season will be the last of his storied Hall of Fame career.  The question I ask Los Angeles Laker fans is this, five years from now, will his career in Los Angeles have done more harm or good to the franchise? This might seem like an absurd question, but hear me out.

The good: 

1. Let’s start with the five rings. FIVE RINGS! That’s a gaudy number, but can you argue that the first three were more a product of him being on a team with an in-his-prime Shaquille O’neal? I would. I’d argue you could interchange Kobe Bryant with Tracy McGrady and still have as many if not more titles in Laker-ville during O’neal’s prime era. You couldn’t interchange Shaq on that team with anyone else in the league and still win a title. The final two rings (2009, 2010), you have to give it to the guy.  The Lakers go back to back and he adds two NBA Finals MVP awards.

2. January 22nd, 2006, Bryant scored 81 points. DAMN! Kobe might go down as one of the best, if not the best scoring threat of all time. He went for 55 in the SECOND HALF of that game!!! Wow, just wow.

3. Bryant sustained elite level play for 14 years.

4. He made 17 All-Star Game Appearances

….It’s a long list and feel free to add to it

The Bad:

1. The Kobe-Shaq feud. I’m not trying to put the blame ALL on Bryant, but this saga is an absolute embarrassment for all parties involved.  This was an ego battle even the great Phil Jackson couldn’t tame. Bryant wanted to be the number one on a team that clearly belonged to O’neal. He wanted Bryant to defer and run the offense through the post instead of shooting contested jumpers unnecessarily, among other things. Bryant was born a Batman and could never accept the role of Robin. The relationship eroded to its breaking point in the 2003-2004 season, which also saw Kobe investigated for sexual assault and finally ended in an NBA Finals loss to the Detroit Pistons 4-1. 

2. Bryant averaged over 22 points a game in the finals that year, but only shot 38 percent from the field including an abysmal 17 percent from three point range.

3. The 2007 trade demand. Few people remember the year Bryant said, “trade me,” but it happened –Google it. 

4. From 2011 until now Bryant had the salary cap in a stranglehold. He hasn’t made less than $20 million in a season since 2011-12. Not co-incidentally, the Lakers haven’t been viable title contenders in that time.

In subsequent years, the Lakers have become one of the worst teams in the entire NBA. Sixteen games into the 2015-16 season and the Lakers are 2-14. They’ve been in the NBA draft lottery the past two seasons and are headed for a threepeat in that regard. The franchise is in shambles and has very little hope for the near to distant future. Here’s the kicker for this year, if the Lakers don’t end up with a top three pick via the NBA draft lottery, they forfeit the pick to Philadelphia. And, before you counter with the “well the front office made terrible decisions” argument, don’t think for a minute that Bryant didn’t have a ton of influence in the decisions the Lakers have made personnel wise up to this point.

That said Bryant, you’re an all time great, have fun in retirement.

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