On Sunday, Kobe Bryant made it official. 2015-16 will be his last season as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, and his last as a professional basketball player.
Now, there’s zero chance Bryant is going to want teams to celebrate him with ceremonies, fanfare and gifts. And that’s fine. In reality, Bryant’s "farewell tour" will probably be low-key and focused on basketball.
But that’s not going to stop our NBA crew from imagining what each NBA team would give Bryant as a farewell gift if they had the chance. With the holiday season sneaking up on us awfully quickly, here’s what we think all 30 teams — yes, even the Lakers — would offer as a souvenir of a great 20-year career to the Black Mamba.
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Five chains from the city of ice, presented by 2 Chainz himself. There’s one for each Bryant championship, naturally, although he might need some sort of neck brace to support the weight of all that bling. And if Bryant wants to, he’s welcome to take the mic at halftime for his own impromptu concert.
A green quilt with 6-for-24 and an asterisk stitched on it, hand-delivered as Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins’ knee injuries, from 2009 and 2010, respectively, play on the Jumbotron overhead. Would it be a troll move? Absolutely. But we’re guessing that Bryant would love the sheer audacity — and respect the competitive nature of the gift.
A pet possum, the symbol of the Nets rolling over and playing dead during the 2002 NBA Finals, where Bryant earned his third of five rings. If Jason Kidd’s team was alive at all, maybe Shaq wouldn’t have averaged 36 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks a night in a four-game sweep.
A framed, notarized copy of the paperwork that made Bryant’s trade from the Hornets to the Lakers on draft night official. It was the start of something truly special — and it’s nice that it started Bryant’s career in Los Angeles, too. What? You didn’t think we meant the Vlade Divac era in Charlotte?
Maybe the Bulls could go halvsies on this gift with Michael Jordan — a ring with a big number 6 on it, the one Kobe was never able to get that would have tied him with Jordan for career NBA titles. And maybe Bryant, in return, can give the Bulls a giant mural of Jordan’s time with the Wizards.
A burglar’s mask, signifying the fact that fans all over the world were robbed of the chance to see Kobe and LeBron go head to head in the NBA Finals with a championship at stake.
Enough with the signed jerseys and plaques and blah blah blah. Mavs owner Mark Cuban is going to one-up everybody and gift Kobe 3/4ths of the Dallas Mavericks franchise, to commemorate the 2005 game where Kobe outscored the Mavs all by himself and put up 62 points in three quarters. It only seems fair. Besides, Cuban and Kobe would be terrifying to negotiate against as co-owners, right?
Kobe grew up in Italy, so it only makes sense to have Danilo Gallinari, the greatest Italian basketball player the NBA has ever seen, gift Kobe with a one-way ticket to Italy. Why not round-trip? Because it’s time to convince Kobe to play on the Italian national team if Team USA snubs him. That’s how that works right? Belinelli & Kobe & Danilo & Bargnani & D’Antoni for life.
What do you get the man who has everything? We’ve got it! The Pistons should present Kobe with a really nice vintage ring. Maybe one that’s, say, 11 years old. A big ring, with lots of diamonds. Yeah, that seems nice. We bet Kobe would really like that. Or, if they want to be a bit kinder, the Pistons can give Kobe a bit of Ben Wallace’s afro to replace his own long-forgotten ‘do. A little bit goes a long way.
Golden State Warriors
Give him back the golden touch. Bryant’s jumper is broken right now. So what better gift than to steal some splash from the greatest shooting backcourt of all-time? That way, the future Hall of Famer can finish his career with a little flair.
A time machine, but not to go back and change history. Instead, prime Kobe Bryant will face prime Tracy McGrady in a battle for NBA wing supremacy, so that Bryant can once and for all silence those who might say McGrady was a better player at his peak than the Black Mamba.
Other than Roy Hibbert, you mean? An ankle brace, to remind Bryant of the time Jalen Rose "accidentally" stuck his leg under Bryant and sprained his ankle in Game 2 of the 2000 NBA Finals. With Larry Bird — the then-coach of the Pacers and the most famous Celtic ever — still in charge of the Pacers, Bryant wouldn’t expect anything generous from them.
Los Angeles Clippers
A No. 8 Clippers jersey to represent what could have been. Bryant was reportedly this close to signing with the Clippers in the 2004 offseason after his relationship with Shaquille O’Neal became damaged beyond repair. The Clippers presented an up-and-coming option for Bryant, and though he ultimately passed on the opportunity to move down the hall, it’s fun to imagine how diffierent the L.A. sports scene could have been.
Los Angeles Lakers
The franchise (or, at least, a hefty portion). At this point, Kobe Bryant is probably the most iconic Laker ever — it’s between him and Magic Johnson — and it’d only be appropriate to gift him the entire operation and let him run it as he sees fit. Frankly, he can’t be much worse than Jim Buss. The Lakers are already basically run by Bryant — who really has more power than him? — so why not make it Facebook official?
Pau Gasol. That’s right, just give Kobe Pau Gasol and let him do whatever he wants with him. They can be roommates or besties or movie buddies or Kobe can have nothing to do with him. It doesn’t matter. The Grizzlies already gave Gasol to Bryant once before, back in 2009, which led to two more championships for the Lakers. If Kobe acquired Pau again, it’d certainly work out just as well for him the second time. Sorry, Chicago.
A nice home in South Florida where Bryant can spend his later years. Kobe’s not getting any younger, and where is one of the first places the aged flee when they start moving over to walkers and wheelchairs? South Florida, where Kobe can become the most irrationally competitive bingo player in world history.
What goes great with Vino? CHEESE! Everyone knows this, and Milwaukee knows cheese. So what are we thinking here? Maybe something very salty, a little stinky, definitely well-aged…what’s that? No, we’re talking about cheese. Try and keep up.
A Mall of America gift certificate. Look, Kobe doesn’t need any money or anything material, but a gift certificate to the greatest mall in the entire country is worth more than just the money on the card. Kobe can get anything (anything!) and he can say that he got something from the greatest shopping center he’s ever been to once he’s done.
New Orleans Pelicans
An endless supply of Mardi Gras beads. There’s no basketball-related gift that would be appropriate, so might as well entice Bryant to enjoy all that New Orleans has to offer during its craziest time of the year. And if that doesn’t sit well with the family, Bryant can start a second global economy with a bead-based economy. Kobe "Bead" Bryant, anyone? … anyone?
New York Knicks
A job. The Knicks’ president is longtime Lakers coach Phil Jackson. Their coach is longtime Lakers point guard Derek Fisher. Kobe knows basketball as well as anyone and would already be working with people he knew. Don’t you think Phil and Fish would love Kobe’s brilliance working alongside them in some capacity with the Knicks?
Oklahoma City Thunder
Offering him the starting shooting guard spot. The Thunder have had a revolving door at the 2 since breaking into the playoffs in 2010, and it’s been going downhill ever since James Harden left in 2012. OKC is currently starting Andre Roberson. It can’t get much worse, right? And who says retirement has to be permanent? If Bryant really wants to emulate Michael Jordan …
The right to pick Orlando’s next superstar center. After all, it seemed like the Magic’s best big men always ended up alongside Kobe anyway. Even if it didn’t always work, it’s just polite to give Bryant the first option at this point.
A tee-shirt commemorating Allen Iverson stepping over Tyronn Lue in the 2001 NBA Finals, just to remind Kobe that the Sixers went up 1-0 in that series before the Lakers eventually closed it out.
A simple thank you card for finally retiring and letting the Suns have a chance to flourish. Phoenix last made the playoffs in 2010, but Kobe Bryant ended their postseason run with a masterful performance in the Western Conference Finals.
Portland Trail Blazers
A public and written apology from Ruben Patterson for nicknaming himself the "Kobe Stopper." Bryant, of course, already got his revenge with two clutch shots in a 2004 Lakers win over the Portland Trail Blazers. But it’s always good to get these things in writing.
A bronzed whistle, circa 2002, presented by Scott Pollard, Chris Webber and Vlade Divac. Some grudges are just too hard to let go, even when an all-time great is finishing his career.
San Antonio Spurs
An endless looping video of Derek Fisher’s shot with 0.4 seconds remaining. Neither Gregg Popovich nor Tim Duncan will want anything to do with the presentation. In fact, leave it to the video editor who has to make the highlight. It can be his or her special project.
The scoreboard from Bryant’s 81-point performance. It will serve as a constant reminder of his dominance, and it’s way better than a bunch of Drake swag.
One free shove of Bryon Russell before knocking down a game winner — you know, just to see what it feels like.
A highlight reel of Michael Jordan’s worst plays in a Wizards uniform, reminding Kobe not to taint his legacy by playing for a different team.