SIDELINES: The art of the farewell tour

SIDELINES: The art of the farewell tour

Michael Morgan

Kobe Bryant announces his retirement

Retirement in sports is the inevitable end to every career—superstar or benchwarmer.

But it’s a right of passage among the best to announce retirement and have it represent more than “just quitting.”

It involves a few simple steps:

  • Be regarded by some as one of the all time greats in your sport.
  • Announce your retirement pre or midseason, with no more than a season and no less than half a season to go.
  • Then comes the farewell tour…

Not everyone can do step one. Anyone can do step two but not everyone does.

But step three only occurs when steps one and two have happened.

We’ve all seen this routine before, most recently by Derek Jeter.

Every away game is regarded as the player’s “last game in (insert city name).” The player gets a standing ovation from every away crowd, even if those same fans have routinely booed the player in years past. The game becomes more about the player than about the team.

For the rest of the season, NBA fans across the country will be experiencing the farewell tour, as Sunday long time Lakers star Kobe Bryant put the pen to paper and released a poem titled “Dear Basketball” announcing his retirement.

Kobe embodies everything that the first step entails. From the numerous personal accolades he’s received over the years to the success he’s brought to the Lakers franchise, Kobe is regarded by fans, teammates and opponents as one of the best in the game.

Last Tuesday night Kobe made his “final stop in Philadelphia” in a losing effort to the now one-win 76ers. The Lakers, on the other hand, now stand at 2-15 on the year.

And with the 76ers’ and Lakers’ recent struggles, and not much more to play for other than a first and third win on the year, it became clear that the game was all about Kobe.

It was a game in which Kobe attempted 17 3-pointers, converting on just four of them. Even Stephen Curry, last season’s MVP, only averages 11 3-pointers attempted per game.

Kobe didn’t do much to live down his “ball hog” stigma in a game where the spotlight zoned in on him more than ever.

In his poem, he wrote, “My heart can take the pounding/My mind can handle the grind/But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.”

After numerous injuries in recent years, it was only a matter of time before Kobe decided to walk away from the game. He can’t put up the numbers, or lead his team to success the way he used to.

So for the rest of the NBA season, ESPN will be riddled with “Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour” material, but this should come as no surprise.

As for Kobe’s announcement in the form of a poem, I say to chalk one up for originality. But what will follow isn’t far from anything sports fans have seen before.