On June 7, Kobe Bryant took to social media and asked his followers to come up with a slogan that could best represent his return in the upcoming 2013-2014 NBA season. The winner, which was to be selected by Bryant, would receive a special edition Mambacurial pack of his signature Nike Kobe 8 shoe.
No stranger to being the focus of a talking point, Bryant selected “The last chapter” as the winning slogan on June 14, which was submitted by @eyydylan on Instagram. The choice reverberated throughout Southern California as fans and media dissected the slogan and argued over its meaning.
While it is no secret Bryant only has one year remaining on his current contract, he has deflected questions in recent interviews when asked if the upcoming season would indeed be his last – something that became more of a possibility after he ruptured his Achilles tendon late in the season.
As someone who has spent the majority of my life invested in following Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, I can assure Lakers fans the selection of the slogan isn’t much, if anything, to worry about. It is unlikely next season will be Bryant’s last. While Bryant is undoubtedly in the tail end of his career, it is conceivable for a chapter to be composed of multiple parts (in this case seasons) and I believe that is what Bryant has implied.
Last season Bryant routinely displayed he has plenty left in his tank. Despite injuries to several teammates, lackluster play from them, and coaching deficiencies, he singlehandedly willed the Lakers to victories in games they had no business winning.
The only obstacle capable of finally stopping him was the Achilles injury, which neither he nor anyone else can possibly play through. Though Bryant was sure to make two critical free throws prior to checking out of the game for the final time in the 2013 season.
Throughout his career, many have often been critical of Bryant’s play and accused him at times of being selfish, a detriment to his team, and now seriously question if he’ll even be a shadow of himself when he returns from the Achilles injury. And to those that doubt, I issue caution.
If there is one thing we have all learned in Bryant’s 17 seasons spent in the NBA, it’s we should never question whether or not he will respond to a challenge he’s faced with. He may not always come away victorious, but he will relentlessly continue to fight, defy logic, and go out on his terms.
It’s how he’s wired to compete and we wouldn’t want it any other way.