In 1978 Muhammad Ali became the first heavyweight champion to win the belt three times.
Immediately afterward, he retired, only to return to boxing and suffer two career blemishing defeats.
20 years thereafter, Michael Jordan stood, seemingly frozen in time, at the free-throw line, as his Game Six winner swished through the net.
He notched his sixth championship ring in the process, then retired as the greatest basketball player to ever live.
Three seasons later, he made a dramatic comeback to the NBA.
Maybe the country needed it.
Months earlier the September 11th attacks shook America to its core, especially in D.C., where Jordan made his majestic return to the NBA.
Though he brought back the nostalgia of the just completed 90’s decade, he left His Airness in Chicago.
He went on to average career lows in field goal percentages (.430) and points per game (21) over the next two seasons, ending without a trip to the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in his career.
Kobe Bryant faces a different type of crossroads than Jordan did in 1998.
Had it not been for the NBA lockout in 1999, and Scottie Pippen’s departure, Jordan may have remained a Bull.
Bryant’s continued tenure as the primary Los Angeles Laker was fortified with the not-so-surprising departure of Dwight
Kobe will also earn $30 million dollars for 2013-2014 season; a figure that led some to suggest that the Lakers should use the “Amnesty Clause” in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Michael Jordan’s final two years in Washington is the only reason why analysts would make such a suggestion.
Statistically speaking, Kobe Bryant experienced a renaissance in 2013. For the first time in his storied career Bryant averaged six assists per game, shot 46% from the field, and averaged over five rebounds- all above his career averages.
There was nothing about Bryant’s game that made it look like he was going Gargamel. There was even a stretch during the season where Bryant took on the challenge of guarding the top point guards who were torching the Lakers’ backcourt.
Howard’s departure may be the best indicator that there is still a lot of Kobe left to give. Howard made it clear that he did not feel like the man, and he bolted to play with a less demanding shooting guard.
Kobe Bryant is recovering from a season-ending Achilles surgery, but claims he is months ahead of schedule, and looks eager to return.
Los Angeles Lakers executive Jeanie Buss recently said that Kobe Bryant “…is part of the Laker family and he always will be.”
With health and an organization which prides itself on championship pedigree, Kobe Bryant has the chance to do what his predecessor did not: End his career with the team he won championships for on his own terms.