2016 is quickly coming to a close and with the exiting of this year, the basketball world saw the departure of four of the games greatest players. Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan each retired from the NBA, nearly closing a gap of the era of active basketball players that were apart of the spectrum which actually played against Michael Jordan (Bulls Era) and Magic Johnson. Stephon Marbury (another link to this era and Class of 1996) has been continuing his professional basketball career abroad in China and has continued to achieve greatness on and off the basketball court. ESHE has put together a photo essay of unique images from the careers of Duncan, Garnett, Bryant and Allen.
4.13.16. Today will officially mark the last time one of the last pillars from the official “Jordan Era” laces up a pair of sneaks to take the basketball court. Kobe Bean Bryant will play his last game for the Los Angles Lakers at Staples Center. 20 years filled with every aspect of emotion, glory, victory, defeat, adversity and resilience will end tonight in Downtown Los Angeles. There is a perfect irony in this final game of Kobe Bryant’s career. The Utah Jazz. The Lakers will face the Utah Jazz at Staples Center, which will be the last game of Kobe Bryant’s illustrious career. It was against the Utah Jazz on May 12, 1997 that Kobe Bryant encountered the worst personal defeat of his career. As a rookie, Bryant showed the courage and poise to take 4 potential game winning/tying shots to help the Lakers to victory in that playoff series against the Jazz that would eventually become the staple of his career. However on that day in 1997 Kobe would shoot 4 air balls that would lead to a Lakers loss and would ultimately assist in the Lakers losing that series. The truest measure of person’s character is how he or she reacts to adversity. Some players never recover from horrible defeats or bad personal performances; but that non perfect moment spearheaded an even more determined drive in Bryant to become not only a better player, but one of the best players ever. Another factor aided in the development of Kobe Bryant; Michael Jordan. 1997 and 1998 allowed Kobe Bryant to compete against the “Chicago Bulls” Michael Jordan; Air Jordan, Black Cat, Champion Jordan. This Jordan was the ultimate measure of greatness (the Washington Wizards Jordan which Bryant and many others would play against was mentally the same, but physically limited as a result of age and injury) and this Jordan presented the vision of greatness that Bryant was able to compete against and learn from. Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett are the other two pillars still in the league from the “Chicago Bulls” era Michael Jordan. The tenacity, heart and ferociousness with which these three players STILL play with is what has not only enabled them all to be great, but has also allowed them to still be competitive in a league that is younger than they are. No friends, no buddy buddy, only results is what defines these three which remain from the Jordan Era. Each of these three players have won NBA Championships and all three are first ballot Hall Of Famers. Greatness enables greatness and this is what playing against Michael Jordan at his best did for Bryant, Duncan and Garnett. This is an appreciation for the last tie to MJ and a salute to not only Kobe Bryant as he closes out his 20 year NBA career but also to Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan; the Alpha Dogs, Omega Players.