The finality of Kobe Bryant‘s decision to make this season his last dates back to this past summer, when he reached out to Michael Jordan to tell him, “This is it,” as Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com relays.
“We had some laughs, went back and forth about it,” Bryant said to reporters about his conversation with Jordan. “But the important thing for him, he said, ‘Just enjoy it. No matter what, just enjoy it. Don’t let anybody take that away from you, no matter what happens, good or bad. Enjoy it, man.'”
Bryant is enjoying even the difficult parts of the experience, telling reporters that he’s not considering a midseason retirement “because there is really beauty in the pain of this thing,” tweets Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. We rounded up some of the early reaction Sunday, and now see more as the countdown begins for Bryant’s final game, scheduled to come at home against the Jazz on April 13th:
- The idea that this season would be Bryant’s last is no shock, as Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak reiterated that it’s been his understanding for a while that this would be the end, Holmes notes in a separate piece. The executive admits that it’s less than ideal for Bryant to play his final season on a losing team, but said “there was really no other way to go about it,” as Holmes relays. “Now we were hopeful that we would get off to a better start this year,” Kupchak said in part. “We think we added a couple veterans, along with a bunch of young players, and I thought we’d be better than two wins into the season. That’s not to say that we’d be on pace to win 50 or 60 games. But I thought we’d be a little bit better. But clearly we’re not playing at the kind of level that a player of Kobe’s age and experience finds challenging.”
- Former Lakers teammate Sasha Vujacic, who’s now playing for the Knicks, isn’t quite sure that Bryant is really in his final season, notes Howie Kussoy of the New York Post. “He’ll be bored with retirement, so he might come back,” Vujacic said. “You never know … He can always come back.”
- Dwight Howard complimented Bryant on Sunday, calling him “one of the greatest to play the game” and citing his “amazing career,” but he couldn’t keep a straight face when asked if he learned something from the legendary shooting guard, observes Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. Howard, who famously failed to mesh with Bryant during their lone season as teammates, laughed for five seconds before asking for the next question, as Bondy details.