Kobe Bryant and his Farewell Tour from the NBA
Kobe Bryant has been one of the most polarizing figures in the sports world since he was drafted in 1996 with the thirteenth pick by the Charlotte Hornets and then traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. Coming into the league, Bryant was often guessed to be the next Michael Jordan and to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor. Since then, Bryant’s career has been a 20-year roller-coaster that has been up more than down.
On Nov. 29, 2015, Bryant announced his intentions to retire at the end of this NBA season, which shook the realm of basketball. Due to what is shaping to be another losing season for the Lakers, who are 9-34 following their worst-ever 21-61 season, the team has made this season the unofficial Bryant farewell tour. A tour that started Dec. 1 in Bryant’s hometown of Philadelphia has resulted in much love and affection for a player many regard as the Michael Jordan of this generation.
Bryant went from starting his career with a four air-ball game against the Utah Jazz in the 1997 playoffs, to winning three straight championships alongside Shaquille O’Neal. Then he was forced to play for a struggling Lakers team for a few seasons, but went on to make three straight trips to the NBA finals with Pau Gasol, winning two of the three championships.
Bryant mentors a young Lakers core constructed of Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle that will hopefully grow to make a bright future for the team. Bryant has filled many different roles for the Los Angeles Lakers franchise as cornerstone, team leader, box office attraction and mentor.
Players such as Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Paul George have all made it clear that Bryant was the player they all grew up watching and hoped to emulate. Bryant has arguably been the player of the decade along with Tim Duncan who both have won five championships during their time playing for the Lakers and the Spurs. What set Bryant apart from Duncan in the eyes of many was the superstar cache that Bryant carried on his shoulders throughout his career.
Bryant’s style of play has always generated ohs and ahs from crowds, which resulted in either love or hate for Bryant’s by various fan bases.
His popularity is documented by the number of venues sold out due to his presence, the number of years he led in jersey sales and the amount of Laker memorabilia sold during his tenure with the team.
For years, Bryant has been seen as the most popular NBA player worldwide, only rivaled by James and recently, Stephen Curry. Even though Bryant is having his worst shooting season of his career, scoring 16.3 points per game on 34 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent from deep, venues are still selling out because fans know this is the last time they will get to see the black mamba on the basketball court. Fans hope he can still give those moments they will forever remember.
The emotion is felt from Bryant’s fans to his contemporaries, who all relish in the chance to see him play or play against him one more time. Even though the end of this season will mark the end of Bryant’s career, the legacy of the black mamba will continue beyond the court for years to come.