DOUBLE TAKE: An NBA great says farewell

Matt Algarin and Andrew Metz
Matt Algarin and Andrew Metz

Matt’s Take:

It’s almost impossible to replace a legend.

But that’s exactly what the Los Angeles Lakers must do after this season, as Kobe Bryant has announced his retirement at season’s end.

For the past 20 years, Bryant has been a staple in the purple and gold. The 37-year-old wrote on The Players’ Tribune website that “this season is all I have left to give.”

Bryant’s body has given up on him. If you’ve watched him play over the past few years, it’s quite obvious that Bryant has lost more than one step. He’s no longer the dominant force that won five NBA Championships.

Like him or not, Bryant has been one of the league’s best players for two decades. He is just one of four players in the history of the league to score 25,000 points, haul in 6,000 rebounds and dish out 6,000 assists. Mind you, the only other names on this list belong to Oscar Robertson, LeBron James and John Havlicek.

That’s pretty exclusive company.

Bryant is third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, sitting behind Kareen Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone.

I’ve never been a Kobe Bryant fan, but it’s hard to ignore his talents, determination and drive. His motor is admirable and game a beauty to watch.

Much like the almighty Michael Jordan, Bryant had a very distinct confidence, call it cockiness, that rubbed people the wrong way.

Greatness can be mistaken for hubris.

With the likes of Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Shaq, the Lakers have had their fare share of legends. There is no doubt Bryant will soon see his jersey in the rafters of the Staples Center.

It’s only a matter of time before Bryant hears his name called as an inductee to the basketball hall of fame.

Now let's get this farewell tour over.

Andrew’s Take:

This is a fitting end for a Black Mamba.

By announcing his retirement last weekend, Kobe Bryant secured an entire season of pageantry. Nothing like a little self-gratification, as the franchise that built him circles the drain.

The Los Angeles Lakers are awful, mostly because of Bryant’s bloated contract. The only thing keeping them from the absolute bottom is the existence of the Philadelphia 76ers. (Probably the worst team of all-time.)

So that’s how Bryant wants to go out? 15 points a game to get to 10 wins?

This isn’t going to be like Derek Jeter’s farewell season, when the New York Yankees, at least, competed. This is going to be ugly.

What kind of person wants this, especially when the perfect example is right there in his conference?

Dirk Nowitzki took a salary hit so the Dallas Mavericks could get Wesley Matthews and Chandler Parsons, and it worked. The Mavs are going to be a force in the playoffs, and they’ve got the best player in the history of their franchise to thank.

Tim Duncan has accomplished similar success, in a proportionately better way. “The Big Fundamental” took even less money than Dirk, and his San Antonio Spurs stand to make a serious run at the championship after re-signing Kawhi Leonard and picking up LaMarcus Aldridge.

It seems like the game of basketball matters less to Bryant than it does to Nowitzki and Duncan, and that’s why he will ultimately be remembered as lesser.

I can’t end this column without stating the obvious: Bryant is one of the greats. But I’d be stretching if I put him in the Top 10.

We’re all left wanting more from Bryant. In fact, we deserved more. I’m ready for the playoffs, when the Kobe conversation is officially over.