Kobe Bryant just played in his final NBA game of his illustrious 20 year career, all 20 of those years being with the Los Angeles Lakers. He won five championships for the Lakers during this time and was a two time finals MVP as well as making 18 all-star games during his career. During his final game he scored 60 points, an NBA season high and won the game for the Lakers. Of course the game meant nothing in terms of standings and playoffs, but it was still a special game with a special performance. I think it is safe to say that Kobe Bryant is a franchise player. A franchise player is a player who is so deeply rooted in his team, who has impacted his team in a positive way and who is considered one of the best players in their respective teams’ history as well as the respective league. There is a small group of franchise players across all four major sports who have played with just one team and has brought that team success. A player of this magnitude does not come around often and I don’t think anyone knows when the next player like this will come around. Right now there are still a few players who can be considered franchise players in basketball. That being Tim Duncan, Dwyane Wade, and maybe Dirk Nowitzki but Dirk only has one championship. Michael Jordan was a franchise player for the Bulls, but he retired as a Washington Wizard. These types of players are a rare breed, especially in today’s salary cap era where teams are constantly making roster cuts each off season. Some more examples of franchise players of this caliber are Derek Jeter, Tom Brady, Mario Lemieux, Martin Brodeur, and a few other Yankees from the 1930s-1950s. A franchise player is someone who, at the end of his career is considered to be one of the franchise greats, and that is undoubtedly true for Kobe Bryant.
All that being said, Jason Whitlock, a sports reporter for FOX sports 1 ripped Kobe Bryant and his career accomplishments calling him selfish and narcissistic. The video can be viewed here: https://www.yahoo.com/tv/fox-sports-jason-whitlock-rips-kobe-bryant-most-143211679.html. He claims that Kobe Bryant ruined the franchise and he is the reason why the Lakers are in such bad shape right now. While this can’t go ignored, it is not what is important. It is about celebrating Bryant and his accomplishments and honoring everything he did for the Lakers as well as the game of basketball. That final game was not about if the Lakers would win or not. It was about seeing a living legend suit up one last team and giving it his all for everyone to watch and celebrate. As for the state of the Lakers, now that Bryant is retired, and is not part of the team, now the Lakers can turn the page and focus on a new era and getting back to their success. Say what you will about Kobe as a teammate, but that is not what the storyline should have been for the final NBA game of his career.
This game definitely had an impact on society because just about everyone knew about it and just about everyone knows who Kobe Bryant is. Whether you love him or hate him, you were aware of what was going on with Kobe Bryant. What was even more special about the game was the fact that Kobe dropped 60 points, a season high for any player. Not even Steph Curry reached that mark. This is similar to what Derek Jeter did in his final game at Yankee stadium, where he hit a walk-off single. While Jeter has not seen the same criticism as Kobe for being selfish, both players were huge contributors to their respective teams.
When a franchise player comes around every generation or so such as Derek Jeter or Kobe Bryant and they produce championships at any point in their career, they should be celebrated and honored when they finally call it a career. Even if the team as a whole has some down years, like the Lakers and Yankees did, that does not mean one should downplay what these players accomplished.
Say what you will as Kobe Bryant as a person, but as a player he contributed greatly to the Los Angeles Lakers. I myself am not the biggest Laker or Kobe fan, but all I could do is sit back and watch, appreciate, and cheer when Kobe dropped 60 points to win his final career game. Now the next few years are crucial for the Lakers as a franchise to see how they will turn the page of the Bryant era and if Jason Whitlock’s claims were true or not of him being selfish and a detriment to the franchise. But one thing is certain among all basketball fans, number 24 will be missed.