Whenever an athlete of note announces his retirement, the conversation flows to the next phase of his life. Some recently retired NBA stars, like Shaquille O’Neal and Jason Kidd, have followed in the footsteps of greats before them, going directly into the broadcasting or coaching ranks. Kobe Bryant is now in the process of choosing what form his transition into street clothes will take. You probably already know that Kobe isn’t like most athletes, from his musical collaboration with Tyra Banks, to his highly publicized love affair with Nutella, and his refusal to accept a secondary role on a Lakers team with key pieces around half his age. He’s different, which means his life after basketball may also be different from that of his retired peers. Here are just a few of the many different directions he might choose:
Over-35 Rec League Superstar
Instead of quitting the game altogether, Kobe can just alter the level of his competition to ensure his continued on-court success. Paying an $80 fee to compete in an over-35 rec league is a far cry from the $30 million he made in the 2013-14 season for the Lakers, Kobe would have the privilege to play against his area’s best basketball-playing systems analysts and plumbers. Although his opposition would be far from NBA quality (Sixers notwithstanding), Kobe would be able to play his game, taking every shot and gunning to shatter his single-game record of 81 points every time he took the court.
He could also take advantage of several other programs available at the local community center, such as water aerobics, town hall meetings, and fundraisers for the Children’s Playhouse’s rousing interpretation of Our Town.
Star of “Black Mamba,” his own animated children’s program
Kobe, to the naked eye, does not have many kid-friendly qualities. He’s been known to make the lives of his teammates nightmarish with his mean-spirited badgering during games and practices, if the stories are to be believed. One could chalk this up to his hyper-competitiveness and desire to implant that same competitiveness into the skulls of his teammates, at any cost. Not a trait you want your child learning, to be sure. However, another example of an NBA superstar who was impossible to be around is none other than Michael Jordan. Children’s movie star and savior of Bugs Bunny, Michael Jordan.
Children’s media would provide the perfect palliative counterpoint to Kobe’s harsh public image. He already has a built-in angle to create a successful kids TV series: he was known to hiss at opponents on the court, to match his self-given “Black Mamba” nickname. The premise: Black Mamba (voiced by Kobe, with his trademark hiss peppered in liberally) uses teamwork and optimism to fight off the advances of Aristotle the Bear (voiced by a Shaq soundalike), who wishes to steal a vial of Mamba’s potent venom to hatch any number of evil but ill-conceived plots.
Maybe Kobe has already given us a taste of his second calling. When he decided to disclose his retirement to the public, he did so in poetic fashion. Maybe he can take this and run with it: If Kobe decided to embrace literary life, he would immediately be America’s best-known living poet. Seriously, as it is, can you name one poem written in the last 50 years? I can name exactly one, and it’s called “Dear Basketball” by Kobe Bryant. Although an English professor would be able to dissect Kobe’s use of the poetic form and provide criticism, I can only say it’s perfect for the milquetoast artistic sensibilities of today’s audiences. Plus, I’d love to see Anne Bradstreet guard Kobe on a post-up. “Verses Upon the Breaking of my Ankles,” more like.
Jaime Alayon may or may not have ghostwritten “Dear Basketball.” You should follow him on Twitter.