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Photo Credit:  Kyle Terada | USA Today Sports

“This season is all I have left to give.  My heart can take the pounding.  My mind can handle the grind. But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.” – Kobe Bryant

Let’s get this out of the way first.  According to Wikipedia, Kobe Bryant currently ranks third both on the league’s all-time post-season scoring and all-time regular season scoring lists. He has been selected to 15 All-NBA Team (eleven times to the All-NBA First Team) and 12 All-Defensive Team (nine times to the All-Defensive First Team). He was selected to play in the NBA All-Star Game on 18 occasions, winning All-Star MVP Awards in 2002, 2007, 2009 and 2011 (he shared the 2009 award with Shaquille O’Neal); he is now the first player in NBA history with 30 million career All-Star votes. He also won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 1997.[9] As of December 2015, he has had 1 eighty-point game, 5 sixty-point games, 25 fifty-point games, and 112 forty-point games.  It’s highly likely that there’s some other career stats that I failed to mentioned, but I’m going to stop short here.

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Brian Spurlock | USA Today Sports

A sad–and possibly painful ending of a Hall-of-Fame caliber career in the NBA is rapidly coming to a close for Los Angeles Lakers guard, Kobe Bryant.  When the “Black Mamba” No. 24 hangs up his sneakers for a final time, the world of basketball will truly have lost another legend.  Father time is a hard thing to realize and Kobe is as stubborn as an athlete as they come.

I remember a few years back as I was discussing with close friends and family, that once former UConn star/ NBA free agent Ray Allen and Kobe retires, that there will be a great void to be filled in the league; particularly, at the shooting guard spot. Outside of Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat and perhaps, James Harden of the Houston Rockets, there are no premiere shooting guards left in the game right now.  That window is literally upon the heals of Kobe Bryant; the fans know it, past–and–present NBA legends knows it– and as evident in Toronto, this past NBA All-Star weekend was deservingly, devoted to Kobe Bryant and what he’s done in basketball.

Even more so, Kobe earned the respect of today’s players as well:

“Kobe, the road has come to the end,” said Indiana Pacers forward Paul George. “You’ve been an unbelievable mentor to me.”

“Thank you for everything you’ve done for this league,” said Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond. “[You’re] the reason I play so hard.”

“There’s not a lot of guys who come around like Kobe,” said Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul. “The game is going to miss you.”

“I’m just proud to be your friend, be your brother,” said Chicago Bulls forward Pau Gasol.

“Kobe, you did all you could for the game and being a champion forever, a walking legend, we appreciate you,” said Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant.

“Kobe Bean,” said Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, “salute, my brother.”

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Photo Credit:  Vaughn Ridley | Getty Images 
While the rigors of playing in the NBA for 20 years has taken a toll on Kobe Bryant’s body, he is definitely ending his career on his own terms.  I’ve had the pleasure of watching a prime Kobe and a prime Michael Jordan, who recently gave Kobe complete sets of Air Jordans to celebrate his retirement, and it’s safe to say that Kobe is the closest player ever to being the next MJ.  Personally, I give the edge to Jordan, but not by a large margin.  I can debate with Laker zealots all day, in which I’ll save this topic for another day.  For now, let’s just appreciate all the greatness that Kobe has attained over his illustrious career– and marvel at the extensive body of work he will leave behind in professional basketball.
What were some of your favorite games or moments throughout Kobe Bryant’s career? I would love to read your comments.

 

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