Even without a full tear of his Achilles we were looking at the end of the Kobe Bryant era. Arguably the greatest player the game has ever known Bryant made it clear next season was going to be his last. So if after the 6 to 9 months of recovery from surgery Bryant decides it’s time to walk away then the inevitable will have arrived a little earlier than expected. That is all.
In many regards this moment was coming and all the injury did was put it in plain terms. Whether or not the self-glossed Mamba stages a comeback or simply calls it a career remains to be seen.
What’s debatable now is just where the blame will be spread for wearing down the man that was willing the Lakers to the playoffs.
To be sure Bryant is at a place in his accomplished career that he often decides whether or not or for how many minutes he plays. Kobe’s injury being of the freakish variety also doesn’t allow for much finger pointing. But you’d better believe the blame is coming like a freight train.
Early in the season there was concern that Mike D’Antoni was relying on Bryant far too much asking a 34-year-old vet with plenty of miles to play big minutes. Back then D’Antoni jokingly said he was going to ride Bryant into the ground.
Cut to April 12th, 2013, and Bryant is hobbling off the court mere days after logging a full 48 minutes on the court.
Naturally a lot of the blame for this lost season falls at the feet of Coach No D Antoni. His stubborn reliance on an ill-fitting system combined with plenty of questionable coaching moves haven’t helped endear D’Antoni to a fan base whose second favorite chant after “we want tacos” is “we want Phil”.
And it’s not like there wasn’t plenty of concern all season long with regards to how many minutes Bryant was clocking. The wear and tear was visible with last night being the obligatory breaking point most saw coming.
Again, asking Bryant to dial it down is impossible. His nature is such that there is no pacing. It’s full speed ahead fulltime for KB24.
While we’re hitting our favorite Laker punching bags why not toss Jim Buss into this game of blame as well. Buss has taken plenty of heat for this highly disappointing season so it’s only natural he gets a little ribbing in lieu of the loss of Bryant.
Mike Brown never asked as much of Bryant as D’Antoni did. At this point is there much of an argument to be made that the Lakers are better under D’Antoni than Brown? That’s debatable even though it’s a shortest midget competition. What’s not up for debate is that Brown would have never had Bryant on the court as often as No D.
Brown’s coaching philosophy didn’t demand big minutes from his big players. So one could argue had Buss not made the coaching change that we would have never reached this point.
Going one step further how about Mitch Kupchak bringing in a past-his-prime point guard like Steve Nash? Maybe if the Lakers weren’t without their supposed quarterback for most of this season Bryant’s workload would have lessened.
We can keep going on down the line. Blame Dwight Howard for sulking most of this season instead of rising to the occasion. Blame Phil Jackson for asking for a weekend to think over a job offer he should have accepted on the spot. Blame the Lakers faithful for being so demanding that only championships will satisfy our thirst.
Blame whoever you want. Just know that no matter what this is where the Lakers were going to be: Kobe-less with plenty of questions about the future.
The future has become the present and once the blame stops the sobering reality will set in. This was the only way it could have ended for Bryant. Nothing else was going to get him to leave the game. So in many ways the real blame will fall on anyone who took Kobe’s greatness for granted. You might never see it again and if you didn’t celebrate it then you’ve got no one but yourself to blame now.