“Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m a man of wealth and taste. I’ve been around for a long, long years…”
PANIC CITY, NY – Who better to frame a year in which we’ve seen the retirements of several iconic players across Baseball, Football, and Basketball than the Rolling Stones? Some guys just know when to hang ’em up. Some linger too long. But there’s no doubt about these future members of the Sports Mount Rushmore.
Kobe Bean Bryant: Virtually everyone has a reflexive – even visceral – reaction to his name. At 17, Kobe made his NBA debut with the league’s premier franchise (hold your letters, old Celtics guys from the ’60s). The son of a fairly obscure but solid NBA player named Joe “JellyBean” Bryant, Kobe burst on to the NBA scene unlike any other player of the past 50 years. He quickly established himself as – if not quite the “heir apparent” to Michael Jordan – the most electrifying and polarizing figure in the NBA.
Kobe was smart, superb, and aloof. He was alternately charming and infuriating. Teammates and opponents paid him respect for 20 years, but mostly disliked his arrogance, his sense of entitlement. He won. A lot. Five NBA titles buys one a healthy amount of respect, deference, benefit of the doubt and jealousy. Bryant earned each of these. In spades. Was Kobe a selfish player? He sure was. Did he shoot way too much? Absolutely. But he won. A lot. And that “winning” served him well when he was accused of raping a hotel employee in Colorado back in 2003. He slowly rebuilt his image. He leaves the game more maligned for selfish on court play, rather than as yet another entitled athlete treating people badly and getting away with it.
The Black Mamba played his last NBA game last evening. The Mononymous star scored 60 points in his final game. Yes, it meant taking 50 shots (missing 28 of them!) but Kobe’s performance was a fitting way for him to go out. Philosophy has Plato. Music has Sting, Madonna and Cher. The NBA had Michael and now Kobe as well.
Peyton Manning: The legendary QB went out on his own terms when he “guided” his Denver Broncos teammates to a Super Bowl victory-earning himself a much sought after 2nd ring. Unfortunately by the time Manning earned that elusive championship, he had pimped himself so shamelessly that he’s now known as the “Papa John’s Guy” and Not as one the NFL’s three greatest QBs ever. This QB hung around too long.
David Ortiz: Red Sox slugger Big Papi has announced that 2016 will be his final season in MLB. Is Ortiz prominent or successful enough to even be in this conversation? You bet he is. Yes, my suspicion remains that performance enhancing drugs were at some point – and maybe even still – part of the Ortiz legend. But his accomplishments are just undeniable. Hall of Fame legend Ted Williams took part in one World Series in 20 years with the Sox. One! Boston infamously went 86 years without a single World Series Championship. Big Papi led the Sox to three. 3 championships in 10 seasons! The single most clutch baseball player of his era, Ortiz has earned a hero’s farewell tour. Still producing now at age 40, he is retiring at the right time and with a Hall of Fame worthy resume.
Speaking of worthy resumes, come back tomorrow for Different Matt, whose knowledge of the Rangers and Islanders was just a footnote under “Luge” and “Skitching” in the Special Abilities section of his resume. But boy, was he right about the playoffs.