Kobe Bryant’s NBA journey ended on April 13, 2016. The Lakers legend exploded for 60 points in a 101-96 win over the Jazz at Staples Center, putting the finishing touches on a Hall of Fame career in Los Angeles.
But was it really his last game? Bryant’s former teammate Shaquille O’Neal believes the “Black Mamba” is ready to make a comeback after the Lakers locked up LeBron James this summer. Shaq recently told TMZ Sports he has no plans to return to the league — O’Neal is 46 years old and hasn’t played in the NBA since 2011 — but added, “Kobe coming back. You heard it here first.”
OK, let’s shut down this wave of rumors right now. Bryant is done. He had a storybook ending to his career after struggling with significant injuries his last few seasons. He has already found success outside of basketball, winning an Oscar for Best Animated Short at the 2018 Academy Awards.
And beyond those reasons, Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, says Kobe is enjoying free time with his family.
The mamba ain’t comin back. U heard it here first @espn @lakers @sportscenter @bleacherreport @miketrudell @worldstar @vanessabryant @kobebryant @kingjames @zo @1ngram4 @kuz
“Kobe will not be coming out of retirement to play again,” Vanessa said in response to a question on Instagram. “He doesn’t want to play again and frankly we really enjoy spending time together as a family without the crazy game schedule interfering with birthdays, holidays and special events.”
Lakers fans would lose their minds if Kobe and LeBron took the floor together, but it’s just not happening. Bryant modeled his game after Michael Jordan, but going for a Wizards-like comeback tour is a bridge too far here.