ONE LONGTIME FAN LOS ANGELES SPORTS FAN’S OPINION AS TO WHAT THE LONGTIME LAKERS SUPERSTAR SHOULD DO
For nearly twenty years, you have carved your name in Southern California’s sports scene in such a manner that your legacy in the sport of basketball has taken its place right along such men as Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlin, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Magic Johnson.
And in what I certainly feel is a most impressive feat, this legacy has been accomplished while a member of a franchise with much history and a standard second to none, which is much more difficult than making a legacy with other teams that don’t have the distinguished repuation of the Los Angeles Lakers.
In other words, since you were an 18-year old out of Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia, you have had a lot to live up to, more than virtually any other 18-year old in sports, and you have more than met the challenge.
Such challenge was met not merely in the five NBA championships and two Olympic Gold medals that you have won, but – in what I think is your most impressive feat – in the fact that only two men, Jabbar and Karl Malone (who was a teammate of yours for a time) have scored more points than you in the history of basketball.
No one, least of all me, disputes your career or the impact it has made on the Lakers, sports in Southern California, and basketball and sports in general.
I fear that your legacy may be greatly tarnished, simply because you seem to have what I feel is a rather uncompromising desire to beat something that has and always will defeat even the best of athletes:
This latest season-ending injury that you suffered in New Orleans marks the third season in a row that such misfortune has happened to you, the third straight year that you have failed to get through an NBA campaign in good health.
This while your coach Byron Scott, has elected, with your blessing, to periodically keep you out of games to conserve a body that has gone through 19 seasons of running on hardwood courts, which I and everyone else knows can’t be good for anyone’s lower extremities.
The torn Achilles tendon and broken knee cap that you sustained in the past couple of years certainly attest to this.
Though I know it is your unmatched determination and desire to exit the game on your own terms – namely to return to the Lakers for the last year of your contract in 2015-16…
It is my view that this latest injury, this torn rotator cuff of yours, should serve as a strike three.
To put it frankly…
It would best for yourself, and for the Lakers franchise, if you retired.
Your retirement will be, to quote baseball immortal Lou Gehrig, “For the good of the team”, because the $25 million that you would forfeit will serve to greatly help the Lakers’ issues with the salary cap and will better enable them to obtain quality players that would greatly help to change the fortunes of a team that’s in perhaps their worst stretch in history.
It would also help preserve your legacy, rather than be remembered as someone who “stayed at the dance too long” like so many other legendary athletes, from Babe Ruth to Willie Mays to Johnny Unitas, unfortunately did.
I know that you don’t want the fans’ last image of you to be of someone who “did not know when to quit”.
I also know, as sure as I’m writing and posting this, that you will not take this advice to heart, that you will dearly want to end your career on a high note due to your obsessively competitive nature, which is the prominent factor of your greatness.
as former Celtics great Kevin McHale recently stated, “When your time’s up, your time’s up…it happens to everybody…everything comes to an end.”
My bottom line, so I won’t ramble on and one, is this:
It would be best for your yourself and the Lakers franchise if you retired.
Realistically speaking, I know this won’t happen – at least not until at least a year from now.
But with all due respect, I humbly ask that you please consider this as you recover from an injury that in baseball was once considered career ending and even now signals a recovery period of roughly a year.
A longtime fan and observer of the sports scene in Southern California