Kobe Byrant ended a glorious 20-year NBA career as a lifelong Los Angeles Laker in extremely elaborate fashion
There had almost never been a precedent for a retirement tour, certainly not one on the scale of Bryant's. As a five-time NBA champion and regarded as one of the fiercest competitors to ever grace the hardwood, the Black Mamba's year-long goodbye was, in many eyes, a fitting tribute to a man who had given the game so much.
The icing on the cake was the final performance against the Utah Jazz at the Staples Center where the 18-time All-Star dropped 60 points.
One criticism that frequently surfaced throughout the emotional campaign was the Lakers decision to shine the spotlight on Kobe and forgo the needs of their young team.
The Lakers ended up 17-65 to finish rock-bottom in the Western Conference, and it could be argued that placing all the focus on Kobe overshadowed the progress of a raw, but talented young Lakers unit.
As great as Kobe's final moments on the floor were, there can be little dispute about the Lakers fortunes. Whether the two are intrinsically linked or not is up for debate, but how fellow legend Tim Duncan goes out is not.
The 39-year-old forward has remained with the San Antonio Spurs ever since he was the number one pick in the 1997 draft. One could claim that Duncan is the definition of a franchise player; he's quiet and reserved, a model professional and has led the Spurs to the playoffs in every single one of his campaigns in Texas, not to mention five NBA rings.
Surely, Duncan is as deserving of a retirement tour as Kobe was, if not more so?
According to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News, Duncan's response to that notion was typically concise, branding the idea of a retirement tour as “not my deal” and “not my style.”
Indeed, it wouldn't be. Kobe has always gravitated to the bright lights of Los Angeles and has revelled and excelled in the spotlight. Following his achilles injury, many feel Kobe should have taken a backseat in L.A., but his driven personality might not have accepted that.
On the other side of the coin, Duncan has adapted and made everything about the Spurs, not himself. The 15-time NBA All-Star will be 40 by the time the NBA Finals roll around and if the Spurs are a part of it, Duncan's willingness to change his role to accommodate LaMarcus Aldridge's arrival, alongside effectively handing the keys to the Spurs Kingdom to the young and extremely capable hands of Kawhi Leonard, will have been pivotal to that.
Adi Joseph, editor of Sporting News summed up the difference perfectly. Joseph tweeted: "It's a shame Tim Duncan won't ever get a final game all about him and his greatness … because you have to miss the playoffs for that."
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