Despite the addition of Anthony Davis to a LeBron James-led Los Angeles Lakers roster, Kobe Bryant reiterated his stance that there is a “zero percent” chance of him returning as a player at age 41 — with a new twist on his answer.
“No, no, no,” the 2016 retiree and future Hall of Famer told Turner Sports broadcasters Candace Parker and Kristen Ledlow when asked on their podcast if he would return for a guaranteed sixth championship. “I like my rings the hard way. I like to fight through them and earn them that way. I don’t like to jump into the easy route, so I wouldn’t take it.”
Would @kobebryant return to the NBA if he were guaranteed a ring?— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) October 30, 2019
KOBE: No. No. No. No. I like my rings the hard way. I like to fight through them. I don’t like to jump into the easy route.”
(Via @KristenLedlow & @Candace_Parker Podcast) pic.twitter.com/VrTk5KoKCB
Six was always the driving force behind Bryant’s maniacal thirst for winning, because a sixth ring would equal his idol and mentor Michael Jordan. The Chicago Bulls legend never rode anyone’s coattails. Jordan was always the best player on a team that three-peat-ed twice in an eight-year period, and he took home Finals MVP honors each time.
Haters will remind us that Bryant only won Finals MVP on two of his five championship runs, and they might even say his first three rings came the easy way on Shaquille O’Neal’s back, but he was no doubt a vital piece to that three-peat.
Entering his fourth season removed from the game, Bryant would be less integral to a team led by James and Davis in their primes, but a ring on this Lakers team would not come easy for Bryant. They are in desperate need of serviceable role players, and it would be quite a story if Bryant were capable of becoming one. Last we saw him, Bryant submitted one of the least efficient high-volume shooting seasons in NBA history, and returning to glory four years later would actually be a remarkable achievement, no matter how certain he may be that a LeBron-Kobe-AD trio would win a title.
“You could pick a team in L.A.,” Bryant said, “it seems like it would be the easier route.”
I would like to know if Bryant thinks he and Shaquille O’Neal had a more difficult road to a championship than the current star pairings on the Lakers or Clippers, or if he thinks his return makes it all the more easier, or if he just would discount the ring because he was playing third fiddle, but it is probably best not to dive too deep into his psyche, especially when this is all just a hypothetical. He has had no inclination of returning as a player, guarantee or not.
What you might whisper in Bryant’s ear if you really wanted to see him come back: Hey, Jordan came out of retirement after three seasons and averaged 20-plus points until after his 40th birthday. You really think you could do that?
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