Goodbye to the Black Mamba

Kobe Bryant through the years of his iconic career. Photo courtesy of cbssports.com

Sam Valentin 
Sports Editor 

Once you reach the status of an icon, it’s tough to turn away. One of the best players of our generation has decided it was time to walk off the hardwood to hang up the shoes for the last time at the end of the season. The number 8 and number 24 will no longer be seen donning the purple and yellow after this season. Kobe Bryant announced earlier this week that he is officially retiring from the NBA at season’s end.

It is sad news to see a future hall of famer, who revitalized the game and who we grew up watching, head into retirement. We all knew he was not and could not play forever, although we all wish he could have, but for him to finally announce his retirement, which has been written on the wall for years, is crushing. It is an end of an era.

We all love to make comparisons all the time in sports. Mr. Bryant can only be compared to Michael Jordan. That is the only fair comparison to make. The Black Mamba’s jersey deserves to hang next to number 23’s. Many see his retirement like Derek Jeter’s retirement two years ago from baseball but you can’t compare the two.

Kobe Bryant should only be compared to Michael Jordan. Photo courtesy of NBA.com
Kobe Bryant should only be compared to Michael Jordan. Photo courtesy of NBA.com

To me Mr. Bryant is basketball. He is the NBA. He is Mr. Laker. He is Mr. 4th quarter. He is Mr. Clutch. He is a hall of famer. He is a legend. He is one of the greatest of all time. Hands down. Anyone who argues this please go check your temperature or you must be too young to remember Mr. Bryant throwing dishes to Shaquille O’Neal or lighting up scoreboards across not only North America but the world.

It is not only sad to see him finally hang up those Nike shoes, but just the way he is going out should break any fans’ heart. If it does not, go listen to Kanye’s Heartless because that’s what you are. Yes, he is going out under his own power but it’s not the way we want to see him leave.

This man deserves to go out on top and the Lakers have failed him there. For everything he has done for them and the NBA as a whole, to see the Lakers struggle in this final chapter in what is a prolific career of Mr. Bryant’s. Can you imagine seeing the Lakers compete for a championship in his final season? Disney would certainly get the rights to that movie. It would be Miracle-on-Ice-esque if Mr. Bryant could have captured that ever elusive 6th championship tying him with his idol Mr. Jordan.

The Lakers have looked dismal throughout the season. The Mamba would have to revert into number 8’s form to help them slither into the playoffs. We have seen flashes of the old Mr. Bryant this week though when he started off hot in Philly and he dropped 31 the next night in D.C. The body of the snake can no longer keep up with the mind and drive of the legend, so he knew it was time to go. It is tough to watch this man say goodbye to the game he loves before he is ready and not on top. Not to mention before all of us are ready to see him go.

Although Mr. Bryant’s farewell will carry the same media attention as Mr. Jeter’s it will not include the lavish gifts. Also there is no passing of the torch because there will never be another Kobe Bryant in this league. The closest thing to Mr. Bryant is Kawhi Leonard but we will reevaluate that years down the road. The face of the NBA is currently Steph Curry and Lebron James, unfortunately Kobe Bryant thrived too long and got overshadowed a bit. He is one of the most respected players in the NBA, both on and off the court, but as one of his final wishes he has asked for no ceremonies or gifts, even though he deserves them all. As a superstar in the league though he gets what he wants, not necessarily what he deserves.

It was a pleasure watching you lace up night after night, Mr. Bryant. I feel for anyone who did not get to watch this man put in work on that hard floor. He made it his playground, no, his kingdom. I will always remember that signature fadeaway, the night he dropped 81 points, all the buzzer beaters, alley oops and the night he hoisted his 5th championship. You changed the game of basketball sir. So we say goodbye to you Mr. Bryant. There is always a spot reserved in the Pennsylvania sports Mount Rushmore. You will be missed worldwide Kobe! Also a huge thank you for the game will never be the same without you. Here’s to you, Mr. Bryant.