Will Kobe Bryant’s Last Chapter with Los Angeles Lakers End in Disappointment?

Now in his 19th NBA season, Kobe Bryant has proved a lot of skeptics wrong by returning from serious injuries and competing at a high level.

But with the Los Angeles Lakers struggling through another subpar campaign, it’s valid to ask whether the star's closing chapter will end in disappointment.

There are no easy answers, but for now, one of basketball’s giants still finds meaning in the game itself.

After a hard-fought 98-92 victory on the road against the Houston Rockets on Nov. 19, a weary but smiling Bryant appeared on SportsCenter and responded to a query about how he keeps his competitive fire going. "We appreciate the struggle that we're in right now," he said. "We find the beauty in it.”

Back-to-back victories have improved the team’s record to 3-9. That's not acceptable, but at least the Lakers have clawed their way out of last place in a loaded Western Conference. 

Bryant is not even one month into a two-year contract extension, and it’s too early to close the door on possible playoff aspirations. But only a true optimist could predict a major turnaround this season, and the Lakers would need a sizable infusion of free-agent talent next summer to contend for a title, during what will presumably be the shooting star’s final year in the league.

The question of disappointment is quantified differently for Bryant than for your average athlete. He has operated at a rarified level throughout his career, usually focused on only one thing: that next championship victory.

At age 36, he has beaten the odds many times over and is locked in on catching Michael Jordan for third on the NBA all-time points list.

And he isn’t just chipping away in some hobbled fashion. Amazingly, Bryant is currently leading the league in scoring at 27.5 points per game.

His amassing of points is ment...

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