Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kobe Bryant (finally) heads to the lockers

Kobe Bryant (finally) heads to the lockers

For better and for worse, Kobe Bryant has been synonymous with the Los Angeles Lakers for 20 years. Whether you knew basketball or not, you knew Kobe. No last name necessary. He was a teenage star, announcing at 17 that he would enter the NBA draft before he even went to his senior prom (with pop star Brandy). Extraordinarily gifted, he was once a contender for the mantle of greatest player of all time.

That conversation, however, is long over. Now, hobbled by ailments that plague lesser mortals — bad knees, sprained ankles, a torn rotator cuff and a ruptured Achilles tendon — Bryant has announced he will retire.

On the court, he has been alternately dazzling and...