What Kobe Bryant was able to do last season as a 17-year veteran spoke volumes about his dedication to the game of basketball and how deeply he desires to be a perfectionist at his craft. The heroic performances, the competitive fire, and the ability for this 35-year-old superstar to bring it every night, all goes on to further illustrate the true essence of what makes Bryant one of the greatest to do it.
For Bryant, he wants to be remembered as the same player throughout his whole career, and doesn’t want to be the guy that played too long, hence why he goes continuously goes through this internal battle regarding when he should retire from the game of basketball.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins, Bryant shows a more transparent reflection of how he is approaching these final years of his career, as well as how this Achilles injury will effect his impact on the court, and more importantly when it might be time to hang it up for good.
The weight-room television plays a highlight of Mariano Rivera, in his last season with the Yankees, striking out a Met. Years ago Jerry West told Bryant, “Don’t play beyond your time,” but now Bryant is asking the inevitable follow-up: “How do you know when it’s your time? How do you know?” He put that question to the recently retired David Beckham. “You just know,” Beckham replied.
This question is something that Kobe will eventually have to answer to, as he knows that he won’t be able to play the game of basketball forever. However, slowly but surely, Bryant is learning to ease himself out of the game of basketball, and it to other ventures that will take up majority of his interest when his playing days are over.
“I’m learning,” he says. “That’s where I am. I don’t think I’ll ever find a replacement for basketball. But you have to find something else you’re passionate about.”
Certainly it is hard to imagine a Lakers team with no Kobe Bryant, but the unfortunate reality remains true: that day is coming. So until that time presents itself, basketball fans need to take these last few seasons to appreciate what Kobe has done for the game, and how much heart he put into being one of the best players to ever lace ’em up.
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