Kobe Bryant: Could He Shock the World and Retire If L.A. Wins the NBA Title?
Kobe Bryant is looking for a sixth championship this season, which would immediately make him, by all accounts, one of the most successful players in NBA history.
With 13 All-Star appearances, eight All-Defensive Team honors, a regular season MVP, two NBA Finals MVPs and six titles, Bryant has accomplished just about everything imaginable throughout his career.
This season, with everything going right for Bryant and the Lakers of late, a 2011 NBA championship would be an appropriate way for the 33-year-old shooting guard time to go out.
Here are six reasons why Bryant may retire if the Lakers win the 2011 title.
6. He'll Have Six Rings
A sixth championship for Bryant would put him into elite company.
Bryant and Derek Fisher would become the first players to win six championships as a Laker. They would also become just two of six players in NBA history to win six ore more titles for a team other than the Boston Celtics (Robert Horry, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).
Bryant has been compared to Michael Jordan constantly throughout his career, so a sixth and final title to tie Jordan would be a fitting way to walk away from the game.
NBA players typically regress around the age of 31.
While Bryant has played well in 2010-2011, he will be 33 years old at the start of next season. When you combine Bryant's age with the fact that he will have played in over 1,200 career regular season NBA games and over 200 postseason games, you realize that his body has taken quite a toll over the years.
Bryant has seen his minutes decrease from 38.8 last season to just 33.9 this season, so he clearly does not have the stamina he once possessed.
Over the last few seasons, Bryant has dealt with a bad knee, as well a sprained finger on his shooting hand. Thus, as amazing as he has been throughout his career, Bryant is still human and cannot possibly remain elite for much longer.
4. Lakers Future
It would be shocking if Kobe Bryant finished his career with any team other than the Lakers. That being said, unless Los Angeles can load up on some young talent soon, there is little chance that the Lakers will maintain their dominance for much longer.
While the Lakers have played excellent over the last four seasons, they will be hard-pressed to keep it up after the season with so many players in their early to mid 30s. Recently, Los Angeles has been successful in spite of their poor bench play, but out of their starters, only Andrew Bynum is under the age of 30,
Meanwhile, the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder look like the teams of the future. Each of those teams includes at least one superstar between the ages of 22 and 27 and appear to have their best seasons ahead of them.
Bryant would love to win six more titles after the season, but can you really imagine him leaving the Lakers in order to improve his chances?
3. Phil Jackson Is Expected to Retire
Kobe Bryant, despite all of his accolades, has yet to win a championship without head coach Phil Jackson.
With 13 NBA titles, including 11 as a head coach, Jackson has the most championship rings in NBA history. He was the head coach of the Bulls for all six of Michael Jordan's titles and has been the man behind all five of the Lakers' recent titles.
While Bryant and Jackson have had their issues working together at times, they have clicked very well over the last three or four seasons and have become an unstoppable duo.
At 65 years old, Jackson is the oldest coach in the NBA and is expected to retire after the season when his contract expires. Jackson's likely departure is just one more reason that Bryant may decide to hang it up after the season.
2. Kobe Would Be Retiring at the Top of His Game
Kobe Bryant has been in the spotlight ever since he was drafted in 1996. Throughout that time, there has never been a question as to whether Bryant was one of the most talented and athletic players on the court. But if Bryant is to play deep into the twighlight years of his career, we will see him regress and slow down considerably.
As tough as it can be for a player to retire at the top of his game, for Bryant to win a sixth title this season and immediately walk away would be noble.
Michael Jordan retired in nearly the identical situation, having come off of his sixth championship and third three-peat (all with the same team and coached by Phil Jackson). It was the perfect ending for Jordan, but he decided to come back to the NBA three-and-a-half years later and was just not the same dominant force that he had previously been.
1. Kobe Will Still Be Miles Away from Any Major NBA Record
Although Bryant is already among the leaders in many of the most glorified NBA categories, he is nowhere close to breaking any of the all-time records.
Hypothetically, if the Lakers were to win the title this season and Kobe played great each of the next six seasons, he would have a chance to break the all-time NBA records for championship titles, points, field goal attempts, minutes and free throws made.
However, it is extremely unlikely for Bryant to play six more great seasons after this season and even less likely for him to win six more championships. And when you throw in the possibilty of an NBA lockout next season, which could take a year of Bryant's career away, the odds of Bryant breaking some of the all-time records become even less likely.
The only major record that Bryant has a conceivable chance of breaking is the all-time scoring record, and even that is a stretch. Bryant would need to average over 25 points a game over the next five seasons in order to break Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time record of 38,387 points.
If Bryant were to play 70 games per season and averaged 20 points per game, it would take him nearly eight seasons to break Abdul-Jabbar's mark.