December 7, 2012
Amidst an unordinary season in Los Angeles involving a coaching change and the Lakers first 0-3 start since 1978, Kobe Bryant still found his way on a billboard. This time it was a career milestone. Ironically, the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft came into the night needing 13 points to reach it. On Wednesday night against the New Orleans Hornets, Bryant scored 29 points and led the Lakers to a 103-87 victory.
But it wasn’t the performance that led to the win that was of note, it was the basket he made with 1:15 left in the 2nd quarter. Just another signature slashing drive to the basket with an incredible finish gave Bryant 30,000 points for his career. This is what the 30,000 point plateau means for Kobe Bryant:
1. Youngest player in NBA history to reach 30,000 points.
2. 5th player in NBA history to score 30,000 points.
3. The Hall-of-Fame is all but assured considering the 4 others in this club were all inducted: “Cap” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, “the Mailman” Karl Malone, Michael “Air” Jordan, and Wilt “the Stilt” Chamberlain
4. 5,640 of his points so far have come in the NBA Playoffs, which already puts him at 3rd all-time.
5. The only one in the 30,000-point club to not play college basketball
Although Kobe needed more games to reach the 30,000 mark, I don’t think it’s wise to hold that against him. What is going to happen when somebody like Lebron James hits the 30,000-point club? Are we going to downplay his achievement? The answer is no. Kobe at 34 has played an incredible 16 NBA seasons. By only his fifth NBA season he was dropping 28.5 points per game. I would say he adjusted pretty well.
Even after a knee surgery, Bryant still looks ageless. There will come a time when it is no longer easy to score. That time is a far cry from the present for the man they call “The Black Mamba”.
September 10, 2012
First, it was Roger Clemens who came out of retirement to pitch in a couple of games with the independent league Sugar Land Skeeters. Now, it appears to be former basketball star Shaquille O’Neal tossing his hat into the ring for a brief post-retirement stint. According to ESPN, Shaq is reportedly in discussions with the Fuerza Regia team in Mexico to play a few games this October. His availability may depend largely on his ‘other’ job as a studio analyst for TNT.
Truth is, this type of stuff has been happening for a long time. But with more money to be made now from smaller leagues owned by rich owners, could it be the beginning of a trend? My guess is yes.
Athletes are always looking for ways to earn more money – autograph shows, personal appearances, speaking engagements, and licensing rights are all ways to do that. Some go into coaching or front offices as those jobs can pay well and allow them to stay close to the game. But that doesn’t always work, as we’ve seen. Greats like Magic Johnson had a difficult time coaching mediocre players for the Lakers in the 1990s. Michael Jordan, perhaps the greatest player of all-time, hasn’t exactly produced a winning team as an owner.
You know what most of these guys would die for, though? Another chance to suit up.
With a few exceptions, we all understand the quality of their play isn’t going to be extremely high after retirement. Roger Clemens pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings in independent baseball, but at 50, was unable to even reach 90 miles per hour on the radar gun with his trademark fastball. Throwing in the high 80s as he did is an unbelievable accomplishment at the age of 50, but unfortunately for him, 99% of pitchers in the major leagues can throw as hard as he is right now.
And the last time we saw O’Neal, he was averaging a modest nine points and five rebounds for the Boston Celtics two years ago. Now, out of game shape, Shaq would be fortunate to even come anywhere close to that production in an NBA game.
But guess, what – not much of that matters.
Unlike front office or coaching jobs, performance in these games isn’t a big deal. Fans eat this stuff up and so does the media. There are few things more intriguing than seeing a player well past his prime compete to see what he still has left in the tank. The simple fact is that it doesn’t really matter how well they do – people will pay to watch it. Whether it’s Clemens pitching a third of a game or the Diesel lumbering up and down the court against mediocre players, we’ll watch.
Back to the financial aspect a bit, we all know that Clemens and O’Neal don’t need the money. Those guys made enough in their lifetime to take care of their families handsomely as well as a few others if they wanted to. But what about players who had their careers cut short due to injury? Or star players that squandered their money? There’s room for them to compete in these types of leagues and the good thing is that they don’t even need to do it on a full-time basis.
There was a report last year that an Italian team offered Kobe Bryant $800,000 to suit up for them. Per game. Most of the players that would need the money aren’t on the level of Bryant, of course. But if he could get that much, why couldn’t a former All-Star secure a deal in the high five figures per contest?
As more and more independent and international teams open up their checkbooks, it’s easy to see that former athletes will be flocking to them to play a game or two.