In a phone interview with Mike & Mike recently, you said you “would love to play” in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Marc Stein, for ESPN, wrote an article explaining the reasons why that would make sense. I write you this letter as a basketball fan from all basketball fans in the world, Team USA does not want you and frankly, you don’t want to play for Team USA. I get it, the old broken-down-has-been always wants to think they have one more great run in him. We all romanticize about the Billy Chappell, Roy Hobbs, Jimmy Morris stories where the old guy beats the odds. But notice that all of those characters were baseball players and, if you haven’t noticed, basketball is really hard on old bodies. Michael Jordan’s comeback to the Wizards after his physical tools had diminished was not what he hoped it would be. That said, I’m sure that right about now you would give anything for MJ’s average of 20 points per game on 44.5% field goal shooting that he had in his final season. Nevertheless, this is a chapter in MJ’s life (along with Ewing’s Supersonics and Magic chapters, Pippen’s Blazers chapter, Malone’s Lakers chapter, Hakeem’s Raptors chapter) that most basketball fans like to imagine never happened. While you have every right to play as long as you wish, for the sake of today’s younger generation that knows you only as a 3-point bomber, chucking shots up at the most inefficient rate of any future Hall of Famer ever, I beg of you, do not play in Rio.
I know that there is precedence for older players to come back and play in the Olympics. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird’s tools had diminished by the time they played with the 1992 Dream Team, but there were three major differences between you and them.
1) Neither Magic or Bird had played in the Olympics before the 1992 Games
You, on the other hand, already have two gold medals from playing in the 2008 and 2012 games. You contributed to two great gold-medal teams and served as a captain. It was understandable for Bird and Magic to limp into the Olympics because they had never had that opportunity before. It’s different for you.
2) Team USA asked Bird and Magic to play
Team USA was trying to do something that had never been done by gathering up the first American group of professionals. Bird and Magic deserved to play on that team. Kobe, times have changed and professionals (including you) have been playing in the Olympics for years and here you are telling the world that you want to play? Why don’t you retire and sit by the phone. If Team USA wants you, they will call you. I have some news for you, Team USA’s storage of Guards is pretty deep with Curry, Westbrook, Paul, Harden, Lillard, and Wall. All of those guys can still create their own shot, hit a shot consistently, pass on occasion, and play D (except for Harden on the D of course).
3) Magic and Bird had shown that they still possessed specific skills that would contribute to a team’s success.
Bird’s shooting skill remained in tact even when the man was nursing his back on the floor during substitutions. Bird shot 40.6% from 3 in his final season. Uh, I hate to remind you, but you are shooting really bad, like 22.2% bad from deep and 31.1% from the floor overall. You can’t get to the basket and defenders know it. You were a much more efficient player as an 18-year old rookie first cutting your teeth on NBA basketball. Your fall has been faster and deeper than any I remember. There is no need for you to “prove yourself” anymore by making yourself look bad.
Magic on the other hand was a 6’9″ point guard that was a master on the fast break. In an Olympic setting surrounded by talent, Magic was the perfect compliment to the other players. Magic relished the opportunity to make his younger and more athletic teammates look good. Younger and more athletic teammates…sound familiar? Instead you have taken the same opportunity to teach your younger more athletic teammates how to lose while watching you shoot much more than anyone on the team at the lowest percentage of anyone on the team, (just ahead of end-of-the-bench Center Robert Sacre’s 33.3% on his 1 for 3 season). Kobe, seriously, you are shooting 3 fewer shots per game than Steph Curry, but averaging half as many points. There is no place on the Olympic team for a scorer that can’t score or a shooter than can’t shoot. It would be embarrassing for you and all Americans.
For these reasons and others too numerous to detail in this letter, you should retire as quickly as possible. I recently heard a couple of 12 year olds in the gym bantering back and forth, the exchange caught my attention when one of the boys said, “Kobe sucks!” I’ve heard that phrase hundreds of times. There has never been a shortage of people that hate you, but this was the first time after hearing that phrase that I thought to myself, “that’s true, Kobe does suck.” That is really sad to me. So please Kobe, please don’t make this worse by playing past this season. Don’t even entertain the thought, just don’t do it. If Team USA offers you a spot (which I can’t imagine they would do as anything more than a publicity stunt), please say no. Your time on the basketball mountain is over. It’s been a great run for you and I look forward to seeing you at the judges table in dunk contests for decades to come.
NBA Basketball Fan