It has been a tough season on the court for the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant. The five-time champion's farewell tour has been one of few highs for the purple and gold throughout the past six months.
However, the departing legend, who only has two games remaining in his NBA career, believes his retirement tour would have taken a completely different direction had the franchise been competitive this season.
The Lakers are marooned at the bottom of the Western Conference - only the Philadelphia 76ers have a worse record in the league - and it was clear from the off that they did not have what it took to fight for a playoff spot this season.
Have your say on GiveMeSport - NBA by taking part in our survey here: http://gms.to/1ZIq9kk
Article continues below
Sitting with a 16-64 record, the 37-year-old believes the reception from opposing fans would have been very different had the Lakers been a factor throughout the campaign.
As per Yahoo Sports, he said: "The ovations wouldn't be here. We'd be amidst cutthroat competition. In this season, I've been able to come up for air, take the blinders off, look around, soak it all in - and say thank you."
Article continues below
The 2015-16 season has allowed fans to see a different side of the 18-time All-Star out on the hardwood. The winning mentality and his aggressive, cocky attitude has made way for a calmer, more reflective Kobe this season.
However, if the Lakers were challenging, there is no doubt that his current persona on the court would never have seen the light of day.
"Had we been competing for a championship, there's no way I'd allow all this to happen," Bryant said. "We'd have one goal in mind and that would be winning the championship. In the end, this wasn't hard to accept. I can accept reality and move on."
Bryant's final season has capped a three-year struggle that has seen the Lakers record a trio of consecutive franchise-worst campaigns - the first time this has been done since the Detroit Pistons of the 1950s.
Their 64 losses this season eclipses last year's record of 21-61 as they finished above the Minnesota Timberwolves in the west. The 2013-14 campaign saw the Lakers fall to defeat 55 times.
With the Black Mamba saying his final goodbyes, the Lakers will be planning for their future. There were some signs of improvement earlier in the season, such as their trio of youngsters; Julius Randle, D'Angelo Russell, and Jordon Clarkson coming together to down the Golden State Warriors.
However, performances of that ilk have been few and far between for the famous franchise and there will need to be a huge shift in mentality if they are to break out of their current rut.
Lottery picks are all well and good but the Lakers will need a miracle if they are to return to the heights Bryant achieved in his career anytime soon.