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Mamba Out: Farewell

Farewell tours — occurring when iconic athletes who were significant or era-defining to their respective sports receive praise and honor throughout their final season as gratitude for their contributions — have always been present in sports.

There has been extensive debate on whether these farewell tours are necessary. But these tours are not  simply about showmanship and extravagant ceremonies — they are about recognizing and respecting these great athletes who have contributed so much to their respective sports.

Currently, a highly-publicized farewell tour is wrapping up for Kobe Bryant of the National Basketball Association (NBA). A sure NBA Hall-of-Famer, Bryant received extensive adulation and respect from players, organizations and fans from all around the league. I had the amazing opportunity to attend his last game at Oracle Arena, the home of the Golden State Warriors, on Jan. 14. The Warriors, who are in the same division as the Los Angeles Lakers, have been subject to many defeats over Bryant’s tenure as a Laker. However, out of respect for Bryant and what he has done for the NBA, the Warriors team prepared special “Thank You” events throughout the game, even showing highlight videos  of Bryant’s best performances against the Warriors.

I especially remember the end of the game, when Bryant was shooting free throws, and crowd chanted “M-V-P” and “Thank you Kobe,” despite the fact that the reigning Most Valuable Player and fan-favorite Steph Curry was on the same court. After the game ended, I stayed and saw Bryant giving his final interviews to local reporters. Every single Warriors player, including Curry, stayed to pay their respects to one of the league’s best players ever. Although I am a die-hard Warriors fan (since 2005, not 2015), I am a huge fan of basketball, and seeing my favorite players paying tribute was an exceptional sight.

The fact that the fans love and respect Bryant, a rival player who has previously stopped the Warriors short of a championship game, illustrates the power and importance of farewell tours. I was truly amazed with the response and respect Bryant received from people all over the world. Athletes are role models to many, and some who excel greatly at their sport are considered legendary icons whose influences are present beyond their sport.

Having a farewell tour is not a right that all athletes get; instead, it is a privilege to be recognized for their era-defining contributions to their sports. In order to preserve the legacy of these athletes, farewell tours are essential.

However, organizations have tried to commercialize these tours, leading angry fans across multiple sports. Franchises such as the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball (MLB) tried to sell more merchandise after legendary Yankees Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter announced their retirements. The Yankees made a lot of money from merchandise based on the farewell tours of Jeter and Rivera.

Farewell tours become pointless when they deviate from respecting the player’s accomplishments and contributions to sports in an attempt to make money.

Ultimately, as great athletes are making their final laps around their league, such as David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox currently is, fans of the sport should recognize the significance of these athletes and celebrate their accomplishments and legacy to the sport.

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