Rumors regarding LA Lakers guard Kobe Bryant's final game have been circulating as of recently, and there finally appears to be some clarity. Since the Lakers will not make the playoffs this year, their final game is on Wednesday, April 13, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. While Kobe has received a warm reception at every single road arena on his retirement tour, his last game in Los Angeles is truly going to be special.
With the 2016 Summer Games set to take place in Rio this year, many fans and analysts have speculated that Kobe Bryant could be a part of the Team USA roster. With Bryant's declining play, he would likely be nothing more than a player at the end of the bench. While he is still scoring a respectable 16.7 points per game, he is not exactly doing it efficiently. His 34.6 percent field goal percentage is the worst of his career, and he is also a liability on defense.Unfortunately, for Bryant and his fans, it is no longer 2004. His days as the best player in the league are long behind him, and even Bryant knows that his time has come to an end. According to ESPN, Bryant has decided that he will not be on the Team USA roster for the 2016 Summer Games. While he loves the idea of playing for the USA, he believes that his time has passed him.
"I think as beautiful as it would be to play for our country, when I say my last game is going to be my last game, I'm going to retire, then that's it. It's not like I'm going to walk off the stage and then [say], 'But I'm going to come right back for a minute. Hold on one second.' You know what I mean? I think it's pretty sweet to have the final game be in a Laker uniform and support the players from afar. I've been fortunate enough to win two gold medals, so I've had my moment. I think it's important for them to go ahead and play. I'll watch from afar, support from afar. If they want me to come down and speak to the guys, I will, but that's about it."According to USA Today, there was not even a guarantee that Bryant would have been given a roster spot if he decided to pursue the 2016 Summer Games. While Bryant has an excellent relationship with chairman Jerry Colangelo and Coach Mike Krzyzewski, it is their responsibility to put the best possible team on the floor. While Team USA won the gold medal in 2008 and 2012, they came in third place in 2004. For a nation with the best basketball players in the world, winning a bronze medal was considered unacceptable.
While Bryant's veteran presence on the bench would definitely be an asset, Colangelo and Krzyzewski may prefer to use the 12 spots on the best possible players with a chance of contributing. And as seen in his interview, even Bryant understands that it is time for the younger guys to get their chance. There is a ton of young talent in the NBA, and with only 12 roster spots, a few great players are already guaranteed to be snubbed. At least with Bryant opting out, another young player will be given his opportunity to shine.Los Angeles Lakers fans understand that in order to get good again in the NBA, you have to get bad. It is just the way the league is structured. Sitting at 9-33, the Lakers have the second worst record in the entire NBA. The only team with a worse record is the Philadelphia 76ers, a team that is notorious for tanking for higher draft picks.
While it is difficult to watch their beloved Lakers struggle, better days are on the horizon. The Los Angele Lakers will likely have a top three draft pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. With a young nucleus of Julius Randle and D'Angelo Russell, the future of the Lakers is bright.At this point, Kobe Bryant's poor play is not the worst thing in the world for the team. It all but ensures they will finish with a record towards the bottom of the standings, and Kobe has free reign to leave the league on his own terms. With Bryant squashing the rumors of him playing in the 2016 Summer Games set to take place in Rio, LA Lakers fans will get to see his last game in Los Angeles in April.
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