Parting thoughts on Kobe Bryant

“I can’t believe how fast twenty years went by.”

-Kobe Bryant

On a night where NBA history was being broken in Oakland, another night far more memorable took place right down the California coast.

Kobe Bryant was playing his last game as a Los Angeles Laker.

Kobe scores sixty

As would be expected, L.A. rolled out all the pomp and circumstance for the last stop on Kobe’s season-long, retirement tour.  The faces in the crowd included Jay-Z, Kanye West, Jack Nicholson, Magic Johnson, former teammate Shaquille O’Neal, Arsenio Hall, David Beckham and countless other Tinsel town icons.

They didn’t leave disappointed for Kobe’s final bow included a sixty point outing.  It was just Kobe being Kobe.  For one last night, he was magical.

I’ve never been a huge Kobe Bryant fan.  It’s not that I ever disrespected his talent.  I was just of the Michael generation.  Despite his appeal to an entire albeit next generation, Kobe was the anti-hero, the man trying to chip away at the legacy Mike built.  It was a Beatles-Rolling Stones dynamic.  You couldn’t root for both.

It didn’t take long for Kobe to become the next generation’s Michael Jordan.  Perhaps the label and comparisons were unfair, however, of all the “the next Michael’s,” Kobe fit the bill better than any.

Kobe was a thinking man’s basketball player, perhaps even more so than Michael.  Kobe Bryant saw far more basketball as a lad than Michael. Plus he watched Michael, studied him and wanted what he had more than anything.  The son of an NBA great, Kobe was cut from the same cutthroat cloth as his Hall of Fame predecessors.

Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers

But Wednesday night, we saw a different, far more likeable Kobe, a man who humbly embraced the legacy he worked tirelessly to create.  He laughed, smiled and giggled with the press.  It was his final exhale.  He showed his true colors, not only in his final game but in the press conference thereafter.  He showed a side of himself we don’t always see, the guard’s guard down.  One shrewd reporter asked about his persona, his “joyous letting go” to which Bryant responded   “I’m both, just like everybody in this room.  It’s a very simple concept when you think about it.  We all have a little hero and villain inside of us.  It depends on perspective.”

In his final night, Kobe became likeable even for the haters.  If you’re a basketball fan, you couldn’t help but tear up for the hordes of adoring fans, and entertainers, who appreciated for one last time how HE entertained THEM.

Michael may have done his thing in Chicago but Kobe did his in Los Angeles where the pressure to win is much greater.

L.A. meant “Showtime.”  Magic Johnson made sure of that.  Kobe Bryant solidified that over his entire career and on his final night.  The Warriors winning 73 games was a foregone conclusion.  Kobe scoring 60 points was not.  That, in his twentieth season, was much more must see TV

Kobe’s effort and will to win could never be questioned.  And that’s all a fan can really ask for.  Down 96-95, Kobe rolled off a screen to take his final shot of the game, of his career.  He made it.  Of course he did.  His team took the lead for his and their final time.

He ended up with sixty.  Of course he did.  In a land where the Hollywood script reigns supreme, this ending could not have been any better although if you had asked Kobe, a sixth championship would have been far more apt.

Michael and Kobe

Kobe’s no Michael Jordan.  No one is.  I’m not here to tell you where he ranks among the NBA’s or even the Lakers all-time greats.  What he was was one of the game’s all-time competitors, its third leading scorer all with the same franchise and that demands respect.

It’s weird to see Kobe getting old.  He was always the next thing, the torch bearer.  Someone had to carry that torch.  Without Michael, there would have been no Kobe Bryant.  Without Kobe Bryant there would be no next generation.

So like we saw Kobe finally soften his stance, perhaps I have as well.   In the end, we see a man at peace with himself and his decision to finally step away from the game that defined him.  The NBA is better for having him as a part of it.  To use a far too trite sports expression, he left everything on the floor until his very last minute.

Last night’s performance was something to watch and likely something we won’t see again for a very long time.

Until the next Kobe Bryant.

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23 Replies to “Parting thoughts on Kobe Bryant”

  1. Well said – are you sure you are not working for SI on the side doing written commentary? You could take Peter King’s place. I used to like hearing him, but his “I know more than you” attitude is getting old.

  2. “You couldn’t root for both” (MJ & Kobe)
    I did.

    Even though Michael broke my heart by beating the Lakers in the 91 Finals, I remained a fan and watched every game of his I could. Very few non-Lakers had that affect on me. The one’s that jump to mind are MJ, Hakeem, Stockton, Iverson and now Curry.

    Curry drops 56 and sets the new wins standard of 73, yet gets Kobe’d.

    Oddly fitting somehow.

    Thanks for the memories Kob.

  3. Great player during his era , but a selfish ba#tard as an individual and as a teammate , as borne out by his still fractured relationship with former teammates , Shaquille O’Neal and Rick Fox. If nothing else , you don’t throw your teammates under the bus (during his arrest he called out Shaq and Fox for not coming to his aid and then made insinuations about their sexual indiscretions) , when you’re the one who has #ucked up , having been caught in a lie .

    Kobe Bryant should never have aired the alleged indiscretions of Fox and O’Neal after the Eagle. Colorado incident (the rape of a hotel employee). You keep that $hit on the down-low and you simply do not make it about what Rick Fox and Shaq had done while they were married.

    Bryant may well go down as one of the top-ten players in Lakers’ history and one of the best of his generation. That being said, the Los Angeles Lakers are now heading nowhere aimlessly, because GM Mitch Kupchak , Jim Buss , Johnny Buss and Jeanie Buss do not have a clue , much less a long-term strategy for turning around the fortunes of the franchise. How else can you describe one of the worst seasons in Lakers’ history ?

  4. Well done! Eloquently said PEP 🙂
    As a life long LAKER fan, I can tell you, the fan fare with the “City of Angels”, and his performance will not be forgotten soon. If you could have seen the entire area pre-game, it was insanely crowded hours before game time. Every business with a T.V. and within walking distance of the Staples Center, (about 1/2 square mile from any direction), had folks lined up to see the Mamba do his thing one last time. No one really expected it to be as spectacular as it was, which just made it all the sweeter.

    So, after all is said and done, what’s next. I understand the references to the Buss family and to Mitch, but watch how things work in LaLa land. Don’t be surprised if in the next two years, you see Kevin Durant and R. Westbrook in purple. I’m just saying.

  5. Chris,

    I’m sitting in a packed sportsbook watching 3 games almost simultaneously. UT/LA, MEM/SG and the OT hockey game. It felt like I was in LA. Hardly anyone GAS about the other 2 games. Farewells like Jeter’s, Ted Williams’, etc can’t even compare. What a performance and to rally his team to victory. Someone mentioned that Jazz star Hayward had his foot in the free throw lane just in case Kobe missed the 60th point.

  6. Yea, Moose, that’s what I enjoy about SportsChump.

    It allows me the liberty to say what I want to say, write about what I want to write and not have to worry about what an editor might think if I say ‘fuck’ too many times.

    Thanks, as always for the kind words.

  7. Bleedski…

    After all that criticism that Jeanie took about loading up on Kobe those final few years, it looks like she was right.

    Look, they were gonna suck anyway so why not just draw?

    The question is, with their new beginning, in what direction to they go? Who’s the big target this off-season?

    They have to have a ton of money to spend, right? Will it be Durant? And will a star go there knowing they’ll have to play, at least for a while, in Kobe’s shadow?

  8. I don’t know how much of the last few years of Lakersuck can be blamed entirely on Kobe, Al.

    I mean, he’s not making roster moves.

    As far as where he ranks on the All-Time Laker list? I might let Bleed answer that one.

    I might put him ahead of Kareem (only because of the Bucks years) and maybe West (I never saw him play) but I can’t put him ahead of Magic.

  9. That would be a coup, G, if they can land both those guys.

    Holy shit.

    And yea, a friend of a friend is a Golden State Warriors season ticket holder. He could have sold his ticket to win # 73 for $1600.

    He didn’t.

    I can’t imagine what those tickets to Kobe’s final game were going for.

    Let me know if you hear a number.

  10. Kobe can’t put ahead of Magic on any level and you certainly don’t need game film to tell you that ! With regard to the roster moves , Bryant may not have been making the decisions , by way of the transactions to have taken place , but even you have to admit , he was never constructive by way of providing an assist to the front office led by the Buss Family and GM Mitch Kupchak . Instead , all we ever heard was the constant bitching and whining by Kobe Bryant , his berating his teammates. How is that meant to be of any help to the team or the organization ? Or don’t you factor that in at all ? Bryant yearns to be loved , but he conducts himself like a petulant child , when things are not going his own way. Now with his retirement in focus , everyone bids him farewell and the perception is being created that Kobe Bryant conducted himself with a great deal of class and dignity throughout his career. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unfortunately, this is how the NBA and his most ardent of fans will want him to be remembered and they choose not to deal with the realities of his otherwise dubious conduct.

    The Los Angeles Lakers are spiraling downwards , with their being no long-term planned strategy by the front office and with the roster lacking real depth and leadership. Which player on the current roster do you believe has the makings of being the vocal leader on the team , much less a perennial All Star ?

    Byron Scott and the his Lakers’ coaching staff have been pitiful . They lack the coaching acumen to get the job done and lead the franchise to where they need to be. This off-season Mitch Kupchak should definitely consider whether or not it is worthwhile keeping Scott and the coaching staff around for another season.

    Off topic , but what do you think about Lynn Swann becoming the new Athletics Director for the USC Trojans ? His predecessor , Pat Haden left abruptly , having not turned around the fortunes of the program and there was still incessant missteps by coaches within the Basketball and Football programs (NCAA violations were still taking place without the issues of Steve Sarkissian , which came to light) .

  11. I like Swannie for AD. Too bad OJ got into a ‘little’ trouble. The job was his for the taking. LOL

  12. Interesting, Bets.

    I hadn’t heard that about Hayward.

    So you’re saying OJ had a stab at the job?

    At this point, that USC AD position needs someone who is going to run things by the book til the NCAA gets off their ass. Swann might be that guy.

    The lack of experience though has to be a concern, don’t you think?

  13. And like I said, Al, all those reasons you mentioned were why I never liked the guy in the first place.

    His talent, however, cannot be denied.

    Don’t forget, those are probably the nicest things I’ve ever said about him in eight years of running this site.

    I wonder if he’ll send a thank you card.

  14. Talent may well be everything Chris, but Kobe is and was unpalatable as a teammate and all of the his peers and former teammates likely to be praising him , as well as Lakers ‘ players of the past , are only doing so out of reverence.

    Do you believe Lynn Swann adds real credibility to the position by becoming the new AD for the USC Trojans ? Pat Haden , his predecessor , was said to have all the credibility in the world, but even his dumb @ss couldn’t sort the program out and put it back on the right track. Hell, the university’s President C L Nikias makes E Gordon Gee , the former Buckeyes’ President seem like a MENSA aficionado. Gee if you recalled made the statement that programs outside the BCS should not be allowed to be part the proposed new format or even be treated as an equal within the FBS.

    Pat Haden it should also be noted, sits on the so-called pristine body which is empaneled to oversee the new system for College Football. This same body has an Air Force Colonel seated there , who actually was involved in the coverup of sexual assaults which took place at the US Air Force Academy, but somehow we’re meant to believe these individuals have character and integrity ? What utter bull$hit !

  15. With the way things ended under Haden, Al, I think anything is a step up.

    Look, that’s one of the coveted jobs in college sports. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to find someone competent to take over the position.

    Of course, I think the days of buying Reggie Bush houses are over… or are they?

  16. Hey Chris,
    I heard for rafter seats, $2500. Floor seats as much as 10k. and that’s why I watched it at home. My oldest brother who works with them as a team Psychologist couldn’t get me a ticket, so you know it was crazy up in there.

  17. Tophat,

    Dumb a$$ and Pat Haden don’t belong in the same sentence. I think a Rhodes Scholar with a degree from Oxford might be ‘slightly’ more prestigious than anything from the SEC.

    Chris, why not give an outstanding alumnus(person&athlete) a shot. He knows the game as well as any. He can learn the admin part.

  18. Bets…

    Is Swannie a by the books guy?

    Again, I think that’s what they need at this point.

    Maybe first on the slate he can argue to get both OJ’s and Reggie’s Heisman’s back on campus.

  19. The title is “Parting thoughts on Kobe Bryant”

    …It seems the local windbag has dyslexia and thought it read Parting Shots on Kobe Bryant.

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