Kobe Bryant’s retirement is imminent, and one section of his fan base will have a future-defining decision to make once the Mamba takes his final bow.
This group, of course, is the "Kobe Stans," a ravenous legion of Kobe Bryant fans who make up the most fanatical element of the five-time champion’s support base. The Kobestani are a proud and jealous people, and they will fight you outside a Gold’s Gym on Christmas if you disrespect the Mamba in their presence.
But now, their way of life is in danger, and with Kobe’s departure nigh, the men and women who buy $22 socks at the Team LA shop are faced with a diminishing supply of Kobe slander and vitriol to subsist upon. Perceived persecution is their lifeblood, and in six short months, the post-Mamba NBA era will officially begin, and they will have to answer a potentially life-changing question: where do they go from here?
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Fortunately, Kobe Stans have some options. None will find these new paths to be…ideal, but to survive is to adapt, and if Kobe’s kingsguard wants their way of life to continue without interruption, they’ll have to do one of the following:
Jump on the Russell Westbrook wagon
Russell Westbrook is a natural character fit for Kobe Stans, who value few things more than their favorite athlete’s willingness to eat his opponent’s children.
Westbrook checks off that box as well as Kobe’s "empty the clip to be sure" mentality when it comes to field goal attempts.
Shift the Old School onus onto LeBron James
Above all else, maintaining their self-appointed position as the torch bearers of physical, sweat-in-your-mouth basketball is paramount to Kobe lifers. And appointing LeBron James as the Kobe heir apparent would consolidate their O.G. juxtapositioning with minimal friction.
By swapping out Kobe for LeBron, Kobe fans can draw a deeper line in the sand between Golden Era, fight-in-the-stands NBA and this Steph Curry Build-A-Bear froo-froo ball of today, which is pretty but lacks the realness of good ol’ Kobe Ball.
Also, surliness is next to godliness among the Kobestani, and no one has become a grumpier NBA veteran faster than LeBron James.
Embrace your Oakland overlords
"It’s all about the West Coast, you know."
Go all in on D’Angelo Russell
He’s no Kobe, but you have to love D’Angelo’s willingness to put up 18 field goal attempts the day after being publicly dragged for a petty surveillance sting.
D’Angelo Russell may be the Fredo of professional hoops, but he may also be the future of the Lakers, and if they have to gloss over old transgressions to legitimize him in the future, well, they might be able to figure that out.
Just walk away from it all
This is the last and most likely outcome for dyed-in-the-wool Kobe-ites: taking their ball and going home.
Walking off with the Mamba means not having to change anything or admit nothing to no one—Kobe stays the GOAT, their lifestyle isn’t questioned and the ’90s Michael Jordan debate echoes for eternity in Internet forums across the world.
Maybe this is the most likely outcome. After all, Kobe Stans don’t need your love. They need your respect. And they are less interested in assimiliating than they are in you admitting you’re wrong on this social media platform.