Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant sits on the bench during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in New Orleans. Bryant tore his right rotator cuff in the Los Angeles Lakers’ latest defeat, the club announced Thursday. Bryant injured his right shoulder in the second half of the Lakers’ loss at New Orleans on Wednesday night when he drove the baseline for a two-handed dunk. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)
After suffering another season-ending injury, Kobe Bryant will once again finish the year on the shelf for the Los Angeles Lakers. A torn rotator cuff sustained in a Jan. 21 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans prematurely ended a frustrating season for Bryant, and the Lakers haven’t been up to par this year. With talent scarce among the Lakers’ roster and no promising news on the horizon, another rehab and return might be worthless for the future Hall of Famer—unless he just wants the extra workout. Bryant has delivered a great career for the Lakers, and even if he returns in full health next season, he won’t be coming back to a worthwhile team. With his Hall of Fame status already primed and championship rings in hand, should Kobe Bryant retire? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: Bryant’s competitiveness won’t let him retire on an injury or a losing team. Given how glorified his career has been, it will be even harder for him to finally hang up his shoelaces without going down with a fight. The Lakers are one of the worst teams in the NBA right now, and Bryant won’t retire peacefully knowing he went out on a failing squad. The Lakers have been in the limelight for the bulk of his career, and he’s clearly focusing on the team getting back to that status before he’s done. A torn rotator cuff won’t be too difficult to rehab for the veteran and in Bryant’s eyes, there’s still more work to do.
Green: The only way Bryant is going to finish his career on a winning team is if he’s traded. With his mindset already locked on retiring as a Laker, he would just be wasting time trying to push this unit back into contention. His body is breaking down, and it’s clear. At some point he has to factor in his future health and whether he’ll be able to move around and see his daughters grow up once his playing days are done. He’s done everything you can ask in a career, and he still returned this year as one of the leading scorers in the league. There’s no doubt that his critics acknowledge his greatness, so what is left to prove? The Lakers’ roster is painfully thin on talent and the team is playing for a new coach. It’s going to be a slow rebuild in Los Angeles and there’s no point for Bryant in going back.
Riley: That’s even more reason to go back. Helping bridge the gap between new talent and expiring talent would be a great ending for any player. The Lakers are one of those teams that can really turn it around in the off-season. One or two prized free agents, and any team can be an instant contender in today’s NBA. Bryant was averaging close to 22 points per game, so surrounding him with any kind of formidable talent would be an ideal situation. We already know he’s trying to tie Michael Jordan with six championship rings. Having the rest of the season off is probably a blessing in disguise, because the Lakers aren’t going anywhere this year. Bryant will be back in force next year, and the team should be a lot better than this season.
Green: I don’t see how, Riley. Another draft pick will help, but the team was banking on having Dwight Howard in his prime to throw three-pointers around. When Howard opted for Houston, it set the Lakers back a matter of years. The Lakers might be in the worst shape of any team in the NBA when it comes to young assets. There are no promising young players on the roster to build around, and Bryant still has to do too much on the court for the Lakers to win games. Shifting the load on his shoulders will just keep him frustrated and injured. He should definitely go out on his own terms, but after injuries to his knee, Achilles tendon, and now his shoulder, the weight of the Lakers’ franchise is finally crippling the longtime superstar. It might be time for Bryant to reconsider continuing his career. I thought he was done when he tore his Achilles two years ago. I didn’t expect him to return from that, so Kobe may prove me wrong again. But I’ll continue to doubt until there’s reason to believe otherwise.