By the time the NBA playoffs roll around next spring, it will have been nearly four years since Kobe Bryant suited up for a playoff game.
It will be approaching six years since he won his fifth championship ring with the Los Angeles Lakers. He has finished the last three seasons on the sidelines. With his contract expiring and his NBA experience meter about to click over to 20 years, it's fair to wonder whether this will be it for one of the game's greatest players. Bryant has hinted in the past that this season might be it, though he's left enough wiggle room for the rest of us to speculate.
We were posed this question in the Summer Forecast, and 56 percent of voters decided that Bryant will play on after this season. In reality, no one really knows, and perhaps Bryant himself doesn't know, either.
There's plenty to write regarding the basketball aspect of this. How will Bryant's presence help or hurt the Lakers' growing gaggle of young players? Is he shooting too much? (The eternal question with Bryant.) Can the Lakers afford to commit future cap space to him when they are trying so hard to build the right way and attract an in-his-prime superstar? But today, I want to focus on the historical aspect of this possibly being Kobe Bryant's last stand. Given the physical woes of his last three seasons, what would a successful farewell look like?