Lakers legend Kobe Bryant will be coming out of retirement to play for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Really? Well, at least Shaquille O’Neal thinks so. The former Lakers big man recently told TMZ Sports that his former tag team partner is eyeing a comeback. Said Shaq:
"Kobe coming back. You heard it here first."
O’Neal didn’t add details to his statement but if indeed that is correct, then it’s a dream for Los Angeles Lakers fans. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James teaming up would be a piece of NBA history and it would be a big boost to the Lakers both on and off the court.
Bryant and James have played together before and have won championships together. They were teammates in the U.S. Men’s Basketball Team to the 2008 and 2012 Olympics where Team USA won gold medals. They have never teamed up in the NBA though, even in the All-Star game, because Bryant spent his entire career with the Lakers out West while James strutted his stuff with Cleveland and Miami in the East.
But before we enjoy talking about the Mamba and the King playing together, is Kobe Bryant even interested in coming back to play in the NBA?
Let’s find out:
Never Ending Rumors
Despite being three years removed from the NBA picture, it still seems like yesterday when Kobe Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers. Well that’s because Bryant was a fixture in Los Angeles, having played a record 20 consecutive seasons with one franchise. Only Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks has played as many consecutive seasons for one team. Swish 41 is set to break that record when he suits up for Dallas during the upcoming 2018-19 season. But is Bryant not about to give up that record by suiting up for the Lakers next season?
The rumors of Kobe Bryant making a comeback in the NBA has been heard since day one of his retirement. It can be recalled that Bryant announced his retirement in 2016 after missing 129 games in his final three seasons due to injuries. But even if Bryant has been successful with his post-NBA career ventures, he has always been linked to a comeback every season.
This year was no different. When the Lakers signed LeBron James in free agency, they were expected to add a second max free agent to their line-up. But Paul George decided to stay in OKC, DeMarcus Cousins went to Golden State and Kawhi Leonard was traded to Toronto. The Lakers meanwhile, added the likes of Javale McGee, Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo and resigned Kentavious Caldwell Pope on one year deals.
Return To Prominence
With the Lakers not forming a long term team this summer, theorists believed that there is a possibility that they will be bringing back the Black Mamba to team up with King James and help put the Lakers back in the NBA map again.
The Lakers are one of the most successful NBA franchises ever with a total of 16 NBA titles won. Only the Boston Celtics have more at 17. If you take away Boston’s fabled 60’s squad, the Lakers would be the most decorated franchise in the history of the NBA. But success has been rare for Los Angeles lately. After winning back to back titles in 2009 and 2010, the Lakers have made the playoffs just three times in the last eight years and zero times in the last five years.
Jams’ arrival is expected to break that streak but without a second superstar, not many expect the Lakers to challenge the stranglehold of the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference. Now adding Kobe Bryant to the Lakers’ lineup won’t make them any much better. Not the 39 year old Kobe Bryant who has not played for the past two seasons.
But adding Kobe Bryant to the Lakers’ 2018-19 line-up isn’t just about the Black Mamba putting in numbers. It’s about the Lakers’ longtime leader bringing back that leadership and providing his younger teammates with the much needed experience.
Los Angeles has a pretty good young core led by Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart. These four played so well and showed plenty of promise for the purple and gold last season. With the best player in the planet in Lebron James playing alongside them now and the possibility of the greatest Laker ever mentoring them for a season, it would be such a beneficial move for the Lakers organization.
Likewise, Bryant would provide inspiration for the veterans in the squad. Sure, the likes of Stephenson, McGee and Rondo are loving the fact that they will be playing alongside LeBron James. But the possibility of playing with Kobe Bryant only adds to the desire to win. Mamba mentality.
Okay now, we’ve talked a lot about Kobe Bryant making an NBA comeback. But does the Black Mamba really want to return to the NBA?
For sure, Bryant was relatively healthy in his final season, having played 66 games. But prior to that, he missed three fourths of two seasons due to injuries. And yes, he’s already 39 years old and even if he still looks fit, playing in a full 82-game NBA season is a grind and something which may not be physically possible, even for one of the greatest to ever play the game.
Secondly, you’ve got to ask if Bryant has motive to play. When you talk about success, he’s a guy who’s won five NBA titles, two Finals MVP and one NBA MVP awards. The list goes on. So does Bryant want to go for a sixth title and match Michael Jordan’s total? After winning back to back titles in 2009 and 2010, Bryant was locked in on that goal. But in 2015, Bryant told The Los Angeles Times that he “did everything he could” and that he is “fine with that.” With Kobe at peace with that decision, there may be no more motive for the Black Mamba to return.
LeBron’s Time Now
As for the Lakers getting back in the thick of things in the NBA, Bryant said earlier this month that LeBron James can lead the Lakers back to the promised land. Said Bryant via NBC
"Look, Jerry was here. Elgin Baylor was here. Wilt was here. Magic was here. Kat was here. Shaq. Myself. Now, let's carry it forward again, right? You've got LeBron here now. It's his turn now. Hopefully he can -- which he will, he'll take this franchise back to its prominence, man. So I'm excited. I bleed purple and gold.”
Bryant did add though that he’s here to help Bron do that:
“He wants to get a championship back to the city of Los Angeles, and we're all here to help him do that.”
But in most probability, the help he meant was giving James all out support during his tenure in Los Angeles and not playing alongside him.
We know Shaquille O’Neal to be outrageous and not serious about some of his public statements. When Shaq told reporters that Kobe is coming back to play with LeBron, he probably said so not even half heartedly. Because when you say half, there is another 50% chance that he will. Personally, I don’t think Kobe Bryant is coming back at all. His legacy is secure. He is successful with his endeavors now. The Lakers are in good hands with LeBron James. It is LeBron’s time now.
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