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Kobe Bryant ending retirement to play with LeBron James would be ‘dope,’ says Matt Barnes


Well, Lakers fans can dare to dream, right? (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

Following the announcement that LeBron James was joining the Lakers, the team’s further moves in free agency, including adding Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee, struck many as, well, unexpected. But what if that was all a prelude to Los Angeles bringing aboard a certain recently retired franchise icon?

Okay, Kobe Bryant almost certainly won’t be setting aside his new, Oscar-winning career as an entertainment industry entrepreneur to once again don the purple and gold and help James take on the Warriors. But if he did — man, that would be dope.

At least, that was Matt Barnes’s take on the hypothetical scenario, when presented with it recently by a roving TMZ Sports reporter. Told that “L.A. is calling for Kobe to come out of retirement to play with LeBron,” and asked for his thoughts, the former Lakers teammate of Bryant’s said, “I think that’d be dope.”

“Don’t know if it’ll happen,” Barnes added, before repeating his “dope” sentiment. He agreed that it sounded “like a big stretch,” if only because, with Bryant and himself both out of the NBA and nearing 40, “It’s not as easy to get that engine started anymore.”

However, more than a few Lakers fans are hoping that the improbably does come to pass. That group includes LaMelo Ball, the youngest brother of Los Angeles point guard Lonzo Ball, who took to Twitter last week to wonder if it had been “planned [for] a long time” that Bryant would “come out of retirement to play [with] Bron.”

Bryant, who retired from the NBA in 2016 after winning five championships and going to 18 All-Star Games with the Lakers, fanned a flame or two himself last week, when he said of James, “Whatever he needs, I got him.” Well, a glance at the team’s roster reveals that James could use an experienced teammate with perimeter defense and scoring skills, and as Paul George is staying in Oklahoma City, Bryant might just fit that bill nicely.

For the Black Mamba, having a teammate of James’s caliber would make up somewhat for the final couple of years of his career, when he was miscast as the grizzled leader of a team otherwise featuring the very young likes of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. In addition, wouldn’t Bryant, who famously idolized Michael Jordan, relish a chance to make one last run at tying the six NBA rings won by His Airness?

Of course, if he were to help James win another championship (just to continue the suspension-of-disbelief portion of this article), Bryant would be pushing a rival superstar that much deeper into his own solid argument for GOAT status, and Bryant might well think twice about that. In any event, the Mamba said last month that he definitely wasn’t going to acquiesce to his friend Ice Cube’s multiple requests that he suit up for the Big3 league, so at least we know that’s not happening.

Bryant made those comments during a podcast in which he also said that, at the 2016 All-Star Game, Golden State General Manager Bob Myers told him, “Hey listen, if there’s any chance you want to change your mind and come back and play another year, you can always come over here.”

Bryant added that Myers’s recruiting pitch was “tongue-in-cheek,” which no doubt came as a relief to Los Angeles fans who would have been horrified to see their idol in a Warriors uniform. But a Kobe-LeBron partnership on the Lakers would make for a blockbuster event in Tinseltown, even if you might have to actually be on dope to think it’s likely to happen.

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