A must read article by Roland Lazenby. The harsh reality of age hitting Kobe.
HoopsHype: Larry Bird spent his later years in the NBA battling heel spurs and a bad back, the price he paid for the all-out way he played the game.
For Magic Johnson, the end came with an embarrassing loss in the 1991 NBA Finals, followed a few months later by the stunning revelation that he was HIV positive. His later attempts at a comeback were hard to watch.
Jerry West fought through an array of injuries to finally help his Los Angeles Lakers to a championship in 1972 after the team had failed in seven previous trips to the NBA Finals. Two seasons later West found himself tangled in a contract dispute with Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke, so he played one final furious exhibition game and retired in a bitter huff. He then filed a lawsuit against the team for which he had played his entire career.
Michael Jordan was thought to be the one who would finally leave the game on his own terms. He defeated the Utah Jazz with a killer shot in the 1998 NBA Finals to win a sixth championship for the Chicago Bulls. It all seemed so perfect until he gave in to weakness and attempted a comeback with the Washington Wizards three years later that produced two miserably lost seasons. That failed effort was rewarded by an ugly scene in which Jordan was fired as an executive by Washington owner Abe Pollin.
Pro basketball’s select few — its greatest competitors — have all reached the heights of fame and glory only to find themselves staring at a harsh reality — their youth is gone, having been spent in an seemingly endless, dizzying cycle of games and practices, a blur of physically challenging seasons, punctuated by summers that were far too brief and much too busy.