Kobe Bryant and Lil Wayne have dominated the last 15 years. Championships, MVPs, platinum albums and Grammys — these two men have personified greatness with every win and loss. However, like every great story, it must come to an end.

To strive for the top is a daunting task. Most people look at the top of the food chain and try to find an excuse as to why they will never be number one. Kobe and Wayne didn’t do that. Watching Kobe Bryant play is like watching Michael Jordan’s shadow. The similarities between the two players has been documented time and time again.

But Wayne wasn’t shy about where he was trying to take his career either. Self-proclaiming to be “the best rapper alive since the best rapper retired,” isn’t very subtle. But that’s what makes Wayne and Kobe special. Their ability to not just mimic greatness, but chase it down – these two don’t make history, they rearrange it.

But we all have our faults. Troubles with the law put blemishes on both of their careers. Somehow, winning caused amnesia and great music healed all wounds. Kobe and Shaq are arguable one of the greatest duos of all-time, but Kobe does Kobe things. He picks, he pushes and squeezes the life out of every relationship he has on the basketball court. Wayne does a little less; he’s always been behind Baby (or Birdman depending on your age) for better or for worse.

And that’s their problem. Their careers are coming to an end because of their resilience, because they are prodigies, because they are two of the greatest. They don’t know how to quit. For Kobe, his body has given him reason to finally hang up the jersey, but did it have to end this way? NO. Kobe has been able to push people away in a manner unseen from any other athlete of his caliber. And Wayne’s laissez-faire approach has come back to bite him. They are focused on basketball and music, but that focus and lack of relationship building has led their careers to an ugly ending. Lil Wayne’s last project saw small fanfare and wasn’t very good. And Kobe’s last season hasn’t been more than a 1-on-5 exhibition.

But why? At the end of the day, they fell short. Lil Wayne won’t ever get the respect he so much so deserves because Jay-Z came back and proved he wasn’t the best rapper alive. And Kobe? Well, six is still less than five right? Maybe the greatest thing we can learn from Kobe and Wayne is to make your own path and not construct your journey based off of someone else’s.

Wayne loves Kobe. He’s made that clear with his song, “Kobe Bryant.” It makes total sense, two guys following in the footsteps of greatness. You can’t fault them for chasing the best; if you want to be the best, you have to do what the best do. But as two of my favorite people start to decline, I can’t help but wonder: what if Kobe would’ve just been Kobe, and Lil Wayne would’ve just been Lil Wayne? It sucks that we will never know.

Thanks, Kobe and Wayne, it’s been fun.