BY RUBEN A. MUJICA
If all goes according to plan, Kobe Bryant will play his final game for the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on April 13. The five-time champion, 2008 NBA MVP, and two-time gold medal Olympian will call an end to what many fans and pundits would call one of the most illustrious careers ever for a professional basketball player.
For those who grew up in Southern California, Bryant was about a mythical figure any athlete can ever become. At almost every outing you saw a number 8 Bryant jersey. When he changed his number, number 24 jerseys were quickly the norm.
Bryant played a career whose great highs were matched with considerable lows. Championship runs were bookends to a middle portion marred by allegations, court trials, and feuds. He was alienated to his teammate and colder to the media.
In Bryant’s 19 seasons in the NBA, he accumulated 33,498 points, played in 1340 games along with over 48,000 minutes on the hardwood, and most important, he won five Larry O’Brian trophies. He became the brightest star in the city filled to the very brim.
If you grew up anytime in the 2000s, the word ‘Kobe’ was synonymous when any of your friends wanted to do something which required skill or looked awesome and for that we need to thank Kobe Bryant.
Hopefully on April 13, we will see Bryant lace up his sneakers for one last time against the Oklahoma City Thunder. One can make the argument that maybe Allen Iverson or Shaq did not reach their full potential. That cannot be said for Bryant. Bryant squeezed every ounce of potential from his body and mind for 19 seasons of punishments. Farewell to one of the greatest players, and mythical figures, of any kid growing up in Southern California.