Have Kings fans seen the last of Lakers guard Kobe Bryant?
Bryant, who will have season-ending surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, had played in just 35 of the Lakers’ 45 games and sat out eight of the previous 16 to rest. But injuries have been a problem for Bryant, 36, the past few seasons. In April 2013, his season was cut short by a torn Achilles’ tendon. Then, as he attempted to come back last season, a broken knee sidelined him again and he played just six games.
Bryant is expected to return for his 20th season because he doesn’t want his illustrious career to be shut down by an injury. Plus he has one year left on his contract, worth $25 million.
Bryant has nothing to prove. Struggling through a final season – like Willie Mays and Joe Namath did – would be worse than leaving the game while still able to average 22.2 points, as he has this season.
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The Lakers are going nowhere, the playoffs out of the picture for just the second time in Bryant’s career. Bryant could help the Lakers more by retiring than by returning. If the Lakers use his $25 million to pursue a free agent or two to go with another top draft pick, it would hasten their return to the playoffs.
In Sacramento, Bryant will be remembered for his role on those Lakers teams that kept the Kings from possibly winning an NBA title. Fans here might not like him much, but no one can question his talent and drive.
One of his most memorable games in Sacramento came after he reportedly came down with food poisoning after eating a cheeseburger from room service. After receiving IV fluids leading up to that game on May 20, 2002, he played 40 minutes and scored 22 points, but it wasn’t enough as the Kings won Game 2 of the Western Conference finals 96-90 to even the series 1-1.
That series also featured Robert Horry’s winning three-pointer in Game 4 and the now-infamously officiated Game 6 loss that led to the Lakers winning Game 7 to thwart the Kings’ best chance to win a title.
– Tom Couzens
What to watch
NBA, Kings at Toronto, 4:30 p.m., CSNCA: Will four days off help the Kings against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference?
Vincent Bonsignore, Los Angeles Daily News: “It’s time for (Kobe Bryant) to look deeply within and understand the season-ending torn rotator cuff injury he suffered last week is but another reminder his mind might still be willing, but his body has gone from an ally to an enemy.”
On this date
1990: The 49ers beat the Denver Broncos 55-10 in the most lopsided Super Bowl.