2016 NBA All-Star Game: Kobe Bryant’s Last Hurrah?


With Toronto set to host the 2016 NBA All-Star game, one topic of contention is to ask why shouldn’t this be Kobe Bryant’s last game before retiring?

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As Toronto is set to host the 2016 NBA All-Star game — the first outside the United States ever — there are a few questions. Mostly it’s just fun though, so questions aren’t serious.

Questions like, why didn’t J.R. Smith get to participate in the three-point contest? Or, why isn’t former Slam Dunk Contest champion Terrence Ross participating? Or even, why wasn’t Damian Lillard named to the West squad?

The last two things I do wonder, but really, nobody cares.  Who gets to coach the teams is actually a point of contention, but really, no one should put an inordinate amount of stock into these questions either (Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless included).

A topic of much more importance, though, which isn’t getting much talk is, why shouldn’t the All-Star Game in Kobe Bryant‘s farewell season be his last game? He’s retiring anyway (at the end of the season), his skill-set is inconsistent, and his team, the Los Angeles Lakers, are a piece of garbage, so why not now?

Many people may feel the season isn’t finished, so it wouldn’t be right for him to retire now. Okay, I’ll concede that. But the Lakers season is done effectively. For the Lakers’ star, the stage will never be bigger than at the All-Star Game.

2016 NBA All-Star Game
Dec 14, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) celebrates after surpassing Michael Jordan on the NBA All-Time Scoring List during the second quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports /

Los Angeles is not making the playoffs of course. To get a better lottery pick, L.A. would benefit from more losses. Bryant still tries since that’s how he’s wired, so he wants to win, which is counterproductive to the Lakers (and I’m not buying the claim of Kobe as a mentor…).

Also, the Lakers are a very young team, so minutes — and shots — that Bryant would take, can be better distributed to younger and growing players. Players who need such experience. 1,325 NBA games later and Bryant does not need experience.

I understand that retiring now would ruin the “retirement tour” and possibly sink attendance numbers for remaining Lakers’ games. But big deal — the Lakers are a big draw no matter how bad they are. When Kobe’s gone, that’s not his problem.

The Philadelphia native, by playing the duration of his career dawning the purple and gold, has earned the ability to dictate when he wants to go out. The argument was not that he hasn’t earned a retirement tour, a la Derek Jeter, but that he deserves one for all his achievements.

2016 NBA All-Star Game
Sep 28, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (2) waves to the crowd after defeating the Boston Red Sox 9-5 at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports /

When he wants to leave, well, when better than now? Who does that actually? Retire at the All-Star Game? I don’t know if anyone has ever done that. That’d be completely different from the norm.

People always want to talk about “legacy” — and Bryant? Well, he’s not Michael Jordan, but closer than we may think. Especially when seeing a stringy 19-year old in L.A. completing acrobatic dunks. It’s a feat in itself that when compared with MJ, Bryant’s in the conversation.

On the greatest ever lists Bryant should likely appear in the top 15, perhaps top 10. Third all-time NBA scoring? Five time champion? 18 years an All-Star? Give it up. For him to give it up at the All-Star Game? Now that’d be something a legacy is made of.

And I’ll give him better than 2:1 odds to win MVP of the game (he’s only won this award four times). He won’t be afraid to let it fly on Sunday either — he never has been afraid to let it fly, has he? 25, 838 FG attempts spanning his regular season career, leading the league six seasons shows us that, no, he won’t be restrained.

Once, when he won All-Star Game MVP, he took 26 shots. If he scores anywhere north of 20, it’ll be very hard to believe anyone else has a chance to win.

Next: DeMar DeRozan aiming to remain in Toronto

So when better to retire then in the home of the team he once scored 81 points against while among the game’s best? With the Lakers floundering this season, this is his shining moment of the season. So Kobe, go out on top.