Since last Sunday, the sporting world is experiencing a strong injection of emotion and nostalgia in the wake of the announcement by legendary Lakers player Kobe Bryant that he will retire at the end of this season, his twentieth in the NBA.
The news was not a surprise; it had been expected since before the season began, but now that Bryant’s retirement plans have been made official, his fans around the world, and particularly in southern California, have been moved.
Kobe Bryant, a native of Philadelphia who has made his home in Los Angeles under the lights of Hollywood, has been a worthy standard-bearer for the NBA’s best known franchise, the Lakers. Considered by many to be the team’s best player, at least since the days of the great Magic Johnson, Bryant has provided a generation of epic performances, five league championships, awards, records and the fierce competitive spirit of which he is so proud.
Bryant’s legacy has earned him comparisons to none less than Michael Jordan, and while he may not have achieved the excellence of history’s greatest basketball player, there is no debate that Bryant has been the player most similar to him.
Combined with his athletic abilities that gave southern California countless moments of joy, Bryant’s personality also helped him shine like a star in the media.
Bryant exemplifies Los Angeles multiculturalism by speaking Spanish (his wife is Latina) and Italian (he lived in Italy); he enjoys seeing the world, analyzing, and experiencing it (he loves to play soccer). Bryant is also a man of strong opinions and convictions, who learned a lesson after that distant and dangerous moment of marital infidelity that almost ruined his life.
There are four and a half months left in Kobe Bryant’s basketball career; a long send-off that has already begun in cities across the country and that will serve to assess all the impact and inspiration that the future Hall-of-Famer has brought to the sport and its fans.