Alongside his tasty little Voltron quote about the Heat, Kobe Bryant dropped another nugget soundbyte yesterday that bears repeating, if only as an admission of what we already know. As a guest of teammate Derek Fisher on Jim Rome is Burning, Bryant said that he was “99.9 sure” he is retiring as a Laker (via Dime).
Shocking news, right?
Except that it’s a mark that puts him above other true greats. Think about how many elite players, players considered to be potential Hall of Famers didn’t get to finish on their terms? Shaquille O’Neal, for one, joining the Celtics when he would have jumped at an offer from the Lakeshow. Allen Iverson, still hoping someone will take a chance. Take a chance on the Answer! Hakeem Olajuwon in Toronto, the list goes on. But Bryant will get to finish where he started, on his terms, having never switched teams (despite wanting to at one point). That’s the mark of a true great.
It also means we need to start looking at when that day comes and what it will mean. Bryant’s recently-signed-extension runs through 2014, when he’ll make $30 million at age 35. If he wins the next two championships, giving him seven, (completely within reason), he may want to walk away on top. But then, it’s Kobe, and walking away will feel like it’s on glass. Meanwhile, expect the Lakers to start looking for the next superstar to land, either through the draft or more likely, in free agency, to replace Bryant. The Lakers are unlikely to slip back into their late 90′s funk with the amount of talent they’ve stockpiled.