Opinion: Kobe and Peyton still worthwhile

Matt Poe

Two of the greatest athletes of our generation are coming to the realization this is the beginning of the end for their respective careers.

On Sunday, Kobe Bryant announced his decision to retire from the Los Angeles Lakers at the end of the season, and much speculation indicates Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos may not play past this season.

For fans of these two historic players, it is hard to imagine the game of basketball without Bryant and football without Manning. Soon, however, it will become a reality.  

Injuries and Father Time have ultimately caught up with the respective legends. Manning, 39, is sidelined indefinitely with a foot injury (along with a borderline dead arm) and his return is unknown. His Denver Broncos are continuing to play great and in prime position for another playoff run.

In fact, they’re probably better with him watching from the sidelines instead of commanding the field like the mad general we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. As of now, he needs the Broncos much more than they need him, a trivial thought when considering we’re talking about one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game.  

On the hardwood, Bryant, 37, has been hampered by serious injuries over the last several years, including a blown Achilles tendon, major shoulder surgery and knee issues. He’s healthy for now, but Kobe’s ultra-competitiveness may lead to further injury during his farewell season.

We millennials have been watching these two dominate the game since our days in diapers and nap time refusal but the versions of these two greats are much different today. Actually, it’s borderline cringe-worthy at times.

Overthrows, underthrows, poorly-timed throws. You name it and Manning has managed to do it this year. For all his greatness, he’s always been interception-prone but nothing like this year.

Bryant’s play meanwhile, thinks it can still put up 30 points nightly like it did a decade ago. His body says otherwise with ghastly air balls, errant shot selection and the inability to defer to teammates.

It’s a bad product on display by these two. It’s hard to watch. But you know what? It’s still worth watching and it’s still must-see TV. Although they are former shades of their great selves, Bryant and Manning have given us so many memorable moments over the years.

Their current struggles serve as a reminder of how great they truly were in their respective primes. Many fans, including myself, get so caught up in rooting for our teams that we don’t realize how great these guys are until they’re finished. That’s fine and all, but it inhibits our ability to recognize and appreciate greatness in present time.

Watching them now as opposed to 10 years ago is like watching different versions of the same people play; the nostalgia is easy to succumb to but it’s hard to debate otherwise. The reality is that they’ve made it look so easy for so long.  

The NBA is now, in all likelihood, Steph Curry’s league. The NFL is on the verge of being claimed by someone like Andrew Luck or Cam Newton. We’ll get to enjoy these guys for years so make an effort to watch Kobe and Peyton reveal those final, faint glimpses of greatness before the curtain calls on two brilliant careers.       

Contact Matt Poe at [email protected].