To even think about moving the name Bryant from the back of a storied Los Angeles Lakers uniform seems like a cardinal sin. But interestingly, before he has even started his history making 20th season with the purple and gold rumours have already started circulating about where he will end his Hall of Fame career.
Bryant’s current contract is set to expire at the end of this coming NBA season, which given his age, time in the league and status has led to much talk on what will happen next.
Many think he will call time on his legendary career, with the absence of another one of his unbelievably huge contracts sure to clear up some much needed salary cap room for the Lakers.
As for others, they have chosen to speculate on whether the 37 year old could accept a reduced role either on his beloved Lakers, or much more fascinatingly in another city.
Adding fuel to this fire was the words of the man who coached former MVP to his five championship rings, the current President of the New York Knicks, Phil Jackson.
When asked whether this coming season would be the last for his former star player at the NBA’s season opening press conference in September, Jackson raised a few eyebrows with his answer.
“I don’t think it’s his last year,” Jackson responded.
Then, he smiled and added, “sounds like maybe his last year as a Laker, but I think that’s kind of what came out of there.”
In the media, we love to read between the lines and with comments like that, joined with the renowned persuasive power of Jackson, the pair’s successful relationship and the fact that the Knicks Head Coach is also a former five-time championship teammate and friend, in Derek Fisher – well that’s about as juicy as it comes.
Making things even more tantalising is that it even makes sense for both Bryant and the Knicks
For starters, nobody in the league right now would be a better mentor for the young New York unit who is still coming to grips with Jackson’s fabled triangle offence.
Not to mention how salivating the idea of Bryant teaming with, and even tutoring Carmelo Anthony could be.
As for Bryant, he would be ending his career by allowing the Lakers space to trade and improve, while still being able to get good cash at a developing team where his playing minutes will be valuable, but not essential.
This isn’t crazy talk, franchise superstars do move around late in their careers, let’s not forget Michael Jordan’s second comeback for the Washington Wizards way back in the early 2000s.
Bryant has been constantly compared to MJ his entire career anyway, it might as well continue with some late moves as well.
For practicalities sake, all of the boxes get checked.
One problem, speculation is exactly that – SPECULATION!
Face it, how unrealistic is it that arguably the greatest Laker of all time, the man who has played the most seasons for one team in the history of the NBA would suit up for anyone else.
In fact, even though these potential trade rumors and scenarios are swirling around and picking up traction, Bryant has already all but squashed them.
“I’m a Laker, man. How many times do I have to say that?” Bryant said about a week after Jackson’s comments.
“Dude, I bleed purple and gold.”
Stranger things have happened in the world, but imagining Kobe playing ball in any colours besides purple and gold is like telling Allen Iverson to go practice.
We all know how that went down.
Written by Juan Estepa @EstepaJ