The announcement of the retirement of Kobe Bryant not only shocked the Los Angeles Lakers but also the rest of the NBA community. As one of the most highly regarded and influential figures in basketball, the Black Mamba has served as the inspiration for most athletes in the league. His skill and passion for the sport have driven the Los Angeles Lakers to great heights, bringing the NBA team championships and other accolades.
While speculations are rife on Bryant's plan after his days in the NBA are done, a more pressing matter is presented to the fans. The question of how the Black Mamba will perform in the 2016 NBA All-Star arises as the game day draws nearer. Given his injuries and dwindling numbers this season, fans of the Los Angeles Lakers star are anxious if he can live up to the expectations. Adding to the pressure is the fact that Bryant is voted in the starting lineup of the Western Conference. That is, spectators are wondering if he can keep up with the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Curry.
"Knowing Kobe as well as I do, I'm sure if he gets going, and the guys get him going, you know the crowd's going to want it to happen; certain players are going to want it to happen," said Shaquille O'Neal in a press release, referring to his prediction for Bryant's performance in his last All-Star Game.
He added, "If he [Bryant] can find his stroke and get it going a little bit, I can guarantee you he's going to go for the MVP. It's his last one, why not go out with a bang?" O'Neal further shared, "My last one in Phoenix, Kobe and I split the MVP. I kind of knew that would be my last one...Kobe kept feeding me and guys kept feeding me. Knowing Kobe, if he gets it going, especially early, he's definitely going to go for it."
Meanwhile, Charles Barkley comments on the last season of Bryant as well as the Los Angeles Lakers star's final NBA All-Stars game. Praising the fans for their support of the Black Mamba, the former Houston Rockets star described the final games as "bittersweet." Barkley also noted that Bryant will go down in history as one of the greatest basketball stars like O'Neal.
"It's going to be bittersweet. I think it's great that the fans voted him in to be a starter. The one thing me, Kenny and Shaq can talk about is that retirement is difficult because you're not gonna play basketball again," he said.
Barkley added, "It's just not there, it's hard. When it gets close to retirement, you realize how hard the game is... It's gonna be bittersweet and I think the NBA will roll out the red carpet and deservedly so. Kobe's been one of the greatest players we've had in our lifetime, in NBA history. It's been an honor and privilege to watch him play, just like it was for me to watch Shaq play. The game is about greatness. Every player in the NBA is a good player, but there are very few great players who are on Mt. Rushmore, like Kobe is, like Shaq is. They're the guys that make this thing go."
As for Chris Webber, he described Bryant's last All-Star game as special. The former Sacramento Kings star shared, "This All-Star is special because fans will get to witness the best entertainer and the fiercest competitor. I'm sure he's going to give some All-Star moments for people to talk about for years to come."
Bryant has managed to land a spot in the NBA All-Star Games 18 straight times. The record he set is only one game lower than that achieved by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In terms of his efficiency in the hardwood court, the Black Mamba raked in a total of 280 points in the NBA All-Star games - the highest number to date.