There are moments in life that you can recall exactly where you were and what you were doing.
I remember when Magic Johnson had to retire.
It was a Thursday afternoon in November, and I was picked up by carpool and headed home to watch Saved by the Bell. I walked in the house and there it was on the TV “Magic Johnson Retires.” I thought it was a misprint, just like when I first saw the ESPN scroll that Kobe Bryant was arrested.
Just like all Lakers fans, I was crushed. Magic stated “”This is not like my life is over because it’s not,” … but to all of us Lakers fans, our life felt “over.” That was it. No more Magic.
I will never forget that feeling I had as a kid, and it wasn’t until late May 2007 when that feeling resurrected.
I remember driving in my car to work when I heard on ESPN radio that Kobe had an announcement to make. It was labeled “Breaking News,” so I had a feeling it was not going to go well.
I called LD2k and we were on the phone together when he said he wanted to be traded; that he would rather play on Pluto. We couldn’t believe it… it couldn’t be true. My first thought was how the hell did we go from Get Garnett to Keep Kobe?
Well, we all know the story and the way #24 has gone back and forth on his trade demands. A couple weeks later on Kobe’s official website (KB24.com), fans comments were posted on his Truth section that supporting him leaving the Lakers. Then “A New Road Ahead” was posted and updated daily.
Furthermore, ESPN columnist Ric Bucher repeatedly stated that Kobe will never play for the Lakers again and he would rather sit out and force a trade than play for the purple and gold. All Lakers fans refused to believe it, but Kobe is Kobe. We all know how he is when he wants something, but would he really go as far as sitting out the season to prove his point and get what he wants?
Rumors have had him meeting up with the Bulls in Chicago for an unofficial meeting.
By the end of September, Kobe gets most of his salary upfront. So, with approximately 70% of his salary paid before the season starts, is it really unlikely for him to sit out?
We all witnessed the Jimmy Kimmel interview (8/8) when Kimmel told him that he as well as all of us wanted him to be a Laker for life. Kobe was visibly uncomfortable and mouthed only a “Thank you.”
Fast forward a week later to TJ Simers “interviewing” Kobe in Vegas:
Simers: Does that mean you will be at training camp?
Bryant: I have no reason not to be.
Simers: “Your guy, [ESPN’s] Ric Bucher, says you will never play in a Lakers uniform again.”
Bryant: You know what, man, we’ll see what happens.
In the first answer he has no reason not to show up to camp, but then we’ll see what happens? Does that mean that he will show up to training camp and THEN sit out? Well, that was Thursday (8/16), and come Sunday (8/19) ESPN airs their “Sunday Conversation” with Kobe and Rachel Nichols.
Nichols: You said one day you wanted to be traded, you said you wanted to be a Laker for Life. There were different phone calls back and forth.
Bryant: I think a lot of people misinterpreted it. But that’s water under the bridge to me, because going forward, we’re handling our situation between ourselves, meaning the Lakers organization and myself. If things, if things were to be different, we both would have handled the situation a little differently.
Nichols: When you look back on that, are you thinking … Oh God, what was I doing then?
Bryant: Yeah, sure, it was just frustration. Frustration gets the best of everybody.
And when asked about the Lakers Kobe stated:
Bryant: This is my team. It’s the team I play for”
To quote Eric Pincus: “Yeah, but for how long? What I didn’t spell out (from latest Hoopsworld article: The Powder Keg) is that Kobe is aware of the situation – that the team can’t improve unless he helps them by backing off.
None of us know how this is going to play out.
It is my belief that the Lakers are willing to gamble with Kobe by backing Bynum this season and hoping that he breaks out. In theory, if Bynum does break out this season, he and Kobe with Odom as a third option could dominate for years to come.
As pretty as that sounds, the flip side is gruesome. Seeing Kobe’s face in Game 2 of the 2007 Playoffs was disturbing for me as a Lakers fan and Kobe supporter. When I watch that game, it makes me livid at Lakers management for ruining 3 prime years of his career.
In my opinion, there have been 3 people who were born to don the purple and gold and be Lakers for Life: Jerry West, Magic Johnson, and Kobe Bryant. I don’t know if Kobe will be a Laker for life, but as Magic said in his retirement speech “Of course, I will miss the battles and the wars … But life goes on.”