Two of the greatest athletes of all time, Derek Jeter and Kobe Bryant, are both revealing glimpses that the end may be near. For Jeter, he was pulled from yesterday’s game, even though it is very unclear why (a hip injury was alluded to, but there appears to be dissent about the severity of the injury). Jeter has struggled all season to put up “Jeter-like” numbers, and at nearly 37 years old, it’s obvious he doesn’t have much left in the tank.
Kobe Bryant is also showing increasingly more signs that he is also on the backside of his career, as he is hardly the player he once was (and his Lakers are down 0-2 to Dallas). In the old days, Kobe would put the Lakers on his back and lead them to victory, but today the team looks helpless - and Bryant looks unable to do anything to change the situation.
Between the two players, they have won a collective ten league championships (each player has won 5 a piece). Both players have been perennial all stars, both play in big sports cities, and both carry a charm and charisma that have made them a big part of the American sports fabric. For the last 15 years, we have confidently assumed that the Yankees and Lakers would compete for championships based largely on the efforts of these two future Hall of Famers. At this point, it looks as though that will all change – and as early as this year.
Derek Jeter’s struggles have been magnified, as his statistics are way, way down. His recent benching for a phantom hip injury has only added fuel to the fire that his days as the regular shortstop in New York may be coming to a close. For Kobe Bryant, his Lakers are getting thumped by Dallas, and appear to have no answers to turn the series around. At an “old” 33 (having played so many games in his career), Kobe has clearly lost a step, and is no longer the unanimous choice for best player in the league.
Derek Jeter and Kobe Bryant are American sports icons, and like the great athletes who have come before them, now face the inevitable twilights of their careers.
Neither has announced any retirement plans, and it’s unlikely either will after this season (Jeter just signed a big contract last off-season, and Bryant is still one of the better NBA players, even if his game has slipped). Still, we are definitely witnessing the “changing of the guard” as these two sport icons face the inevitable ends of their careers.