Kobe Bryant‘s return looms large over this NBA season, just like it did last year and the year before. But in those two seasons Bryant played all of 41 games due to two separate season-ending injuries. He and the Lakers hope this season’s storyline is far different, more like a long novel than a haiku. But until Kobe Bryant calls it quits, no matter what style the narrative, he and the Lakers will be a big story. People love glory and greatness — but what happens when a hero is no longer at the top can be just as interesting. Is Kobe Bryant now like Roger Federer — still undeniably great, but not quite up to beating Novak Djokovic in a major anymore?
At NBA.com Sacramento Kings coach and NBA veteran George Karl is as curious about Kobe’s season as all the Uber drivers on Hollywood and Vine. Karl said that even though he himself was just an ordinary player, it was difficult even for him to come to grips with not being able to compete any longer, not being an NBA player anymore. But Kobe’s case is different by orders of magnitude. As Karl puts it: “Now Kobe’s going from the top of the mountain, from a Mt. Rushmore-type, to maybe just being a really good All-Star.” Being a “really good All-Star” is a dream for most players, but a step down for Bryant who has long lived in the basketball pantheon. Kobe Bryant circa 2015 may be the Donald Trump of basketball: whatever he’s doing, good or bad, it’ll be impossible not to watch.