When the Los Angeles Lakers faced the Golden State Warriors last night, it was one of the biggest mismatches of this early season. The Lakers shot a woeful 37.8% from the field, including 15.0% from beyond the arc. While most of the team was awful, Kobe Bryant stuck out like a sore thumb for all the wrong reasons. The aging veteran attempted the most shots (14), and was able to connect on just one of them, en route to a pathetic 4 point performance. Suffice it to say, Kobe Bryant is finished.
It’s tough for veterans, especially superstars, to know when to hang it up. In the case of Peyton Manning of the NFL, his skills are clearly declining and before his injury was hurting his team more than helping, but at the end of the day the Denver Broncos are leading their division and likely to make the playoffs. In stark contrast, the Lakers currently sit at 2-12, dead last in the Western Conference with no hope of the playoffs in sight.
The thing about team sports is this… no one player is bigger than the team, and if an organization ever entertains the thought of putting a player ahead of the team, they are heading in the wrong direction. Kobe is a Los Angeles icon, and one of the greatest players ever to play this sport, but the reality of the situation is that when the Lakers win their next championship, there is no way Kobe is a part of that team – they are still years away from fielding a playoff contender and Kobe has shown that he has nothing left in the tank. His shots are bad and he no longer commands attention from the defense, making it difficult for the other four guys on the court to get looks. For every game that Kobe continues to play, the Lakers lose a chance at developing their young players and delay their chances at getting a true read on what this team would be like without Bryant on the court.
Athletes competing at the highest level don’t get there by giving up, but it’s a thin line between quitting and retiring gracefully. No doubt Kobe still thinks he has what it takes to play this game, but his on-court product begs to differ. There has never been an athlete that was able to defeat Father Time, and hundreds of athletes have seen embarrassing ends to their careers because they didn’t know when to quit. So Kobe, if you’re listening, just quit man. It’s over.