The Black Mamba’s last rodeo

Kobe Bryant joins the Los Angeles Lakers after being traded by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA Draft.

Kobe Bryant joins the Los Angeles Lakers after being traded by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA Draft.

By Manny Ibarra, Staff writer

Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest basketball players to ever play the game. He is only one championship ring shy of Michael Jordan, who earned six rings with the Chicago Bulls while he was in the NBA.

After 20 seasons in the NBA, the kid from Lower Merion High School has announced he will finally retire at the end of this season. The 37 year-old Philadelphia native made it official on Nov. 29 with a poem that he released to the fans prior to a game against Indiana, and he confirmed it in a press conference after the Lakers’ 107-103 loss to the Pacers.

Regardless of Bryant’s greatness, the Lakers have struggled to win games and be as dominant as the Lakers franchise has been known for throughout the years. Unfortunately for the Lakers, the previous two seasons, Bryant had season-ending injuries that kept him from seeing the court much. Both seasons the Lakers missed the playoffs and had poor records under .500 winning percentage. The excitement came back to Los Angeles when the season began this year because Bryant was back from injury and ready to play once again.

Even though Bryant is back, the Lakers haven’t found much success this season while they sit at a 2-15 record. Regardless of the rookies performing exceptionally well, the Lakers can’t seem to find a solution. Some may even think Bryant is the problem. He shoots the ball too much and doesn’t make enough shots, he is currently averaging 30.1 percent from the field and 20.8 percent from behind the arc, making him statistically the worst shooter on the Lakers’ roster. Unfortunately for the Lakers, he is not the same young man that we all watched being great in recent years assisting Shaquille O’Neal for a win, dunking over Dwight Howard and many others, and dropping 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in 2006, the second-most in league history.

Bryant is 37 years old, and he has played for more than 19 seasons in the league which has definitely taken a toll on his body.

We all knew the end was near for the Black Mamba. Playing in the league for 20 years has put a lot of mileage in Bryant’s body and he knows he can’t do it anymore. Bryant’s body simply can keep up with his fierce mentality and incomparable work ethic anymore. The Mamba decided to go out with a personal written story. He wrote a poem he named “Dear Basketball,” where he addresses his love for the game of basketball and thanks the sport for making his dream come true.

“I played through the sweat and hurt
Not because challenge called me
But because YOU called me.
I did everything for YOU
Because that’s what you do
When someone makes you feel as
Alive as you’ve made me feel,” Bryant wrote.

The Mamba is the greatest scorer of his era. He averaged 27 points or more per game in 9 seasons, and in 2002-03, 2005-06, and 2006-07 he average at least 30 points per game. He led the Lakers to five NBA championships and he put many smiles on Lakers fans throughout his whole career. This is the last rodeo for Bryant and he will not go out quietly. Regardless of the Lakers’ record he will push his body to the limit and will use whatever is left in the tank to help the Lakers get a playoff spot.

After the season ends, it sure will be a sad day for most basketball fans. The Black Mamba is one of the greatest and he will never be forgotten.

“And we both know, no matter what I do next
I’ll always be that kid
With the rolled up socks
Garbage can in the corner
:05 seconds on the clock
Ball in my hands.
5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1.”