T.J. SIMERS

How to motivate a Mamba? It's a done deal for Lakers' Kobe Bryant

Athletes come and go, and Kobe Bryant is a goner with this injury and surgery. You get a car with as many miles as Kobe has on him and what do you do? You trade it in for something more dependable.

A couple of months ago, Kobe Bryant and I sat down over coffee in Minneapolis to discuss his future.

I mentioned Michael Jordan, who was playing for Washington late in his career, and being there the night Kobe dropped 55 points on the old man.

"There's not a chance you'll see me" like that, promised Kobe. So I guess I won't be seeing him play again.

Bryant is done.

He's so done I could run circles around him now, easily defeating him one-on-one.

Now he's a Pau Gasol cheerleader, which has to be amusing to Gasol, given how frustrated he was to never get the ball. But now Kobe wants to share his thoughts at halftime.

Hey, let's get on with the retirement ceremony so the fans can let the Lakers know how much they really want Phil to return.

Athletes come and go, and Kobe is a goner. Nobody as ancient as he is returns from a torn Achilles' tendon.

The average life expectancy of a Black Mamba is 12 years, and Kobe has already exceeded that and is no longer a threat to anyone but his rehab therapist.

Robert Sacre has a better chance right now of hitting a big shot than the Black Mamba.

If the Kobester tries to come back, his only hope of scoring again is to play for another team so he can play against the defenseless Lakers.

But no way Kobe comes back with any bite to his attack. His spitting venom days are over unless he goes into sports talk radio and fills the void as John Ireland's co-host.

No way do we ever see the Kobester cranking up crazy one-legged jumpers again.

The Lakers now belong to Dwight Howard.

I'm sure they will want to ask him whether they should amnesty Kobe. I'll bet Kobe wishes now he had been nicer to Dwight.

Things change. Who needs someone firing up a last-second shot while falling out of bounds when Howard will determine the outcome from the free-throw line?

The Lakers' new motto becomes, "Smile, there are better days ahead. And lots of free throws."

Courtside seats might again become affordable.

Now that the Ball Hog can no longer have the ball, look how the guys came together to beat the Spurs.

Do you think Steve Blake scores 18 points in the first 18 minutes if Kobe is playing keep-away?

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