Kobe Bryant: Should He Retire in His Prime or Play Until a Shell of Former Self?

Put the pitchforks and the burning torches down. Kobe Bryant is not even close to retiring. The 32-year-old all-world basketball legend still has plenty of business to take care of and is most capable of adding a few more NBA championships above his fireplace.

But Father Time spares no man, not even a superhuman like the Mamba.

So when the time inevitably comes, when the burden of age noticeably catches up to the perennial All-Star and his competitiveness and desire to win becomes overshadowed by earthly abatement, what should No. 24 do?

History can serve as a guide.

As with most debates involving Kobe Bryant, the barometer of choice is Michael Jordan.

Jordan retired twice. First at the age of 35 in 1998 after winning his sixth NBA championship with the Chicago Bulls and again at the age of 40 in 2003 after returning with the Washington Wizards.

Jordan's Favre-like return was met with fanfare and was considered a victory lap for one of the greatest of all time. Competitively, Jordan was a shell of his former, dominant self.

This did not go so far as to tarnish the amazing career of His Airness, but Jordan's last stint with the Wizards could have easily been forgotten. He did not have anything left to prove as his legacy was already sealed as one of the all-time greats.

Another comparison of a superstar extending his playing life past physical decline is the recently retired Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe's former running mate.

Shaq retired at the age of 39. After winning his fourth NBA championship with the Miami Heat, Shaq bounced from team to team looking to provide limited minutes for championship contenders, playing for the Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers and arch-rival Boston Celtics.

His latter four years were more of a spec...

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