Daily Archives: August 23, 2010

“A Tale of Two Kobes?”

Kobe Bryant turns 32 today and has truly transformed his image during the course of his amazing 14 year NBA career. He is the greatest winner in the game today.

It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times.  This famous quote from the Charles Dicken’s classic novel, “A Tale of Two Cities” is the best way to describe the career of one of the all time greats.  A man who is one of the top two shooting guards of all time.  A man who is the greatest player in the history of one of the League’s most storied franchises.  A guy who is loved and hated alike. A guy who has done everything there is to do in the game of basketball.  A guy that has shown that it is possible to screw up and come out stronger.  A guy that..

By this point, you all better know who I am talking about.  But I can keep going.  The man who they call the Black Mamba.  The man who is the greatest winner in the game today.  A man who closes out games better than any player in the League since “His Airness.”  A man who sweats perfectly (if there was a perfect way to sweat).  A man who has the smoothest offensive game in the League.  A man who can defend with the best of them.  A man who is the closest thing we have to Jordan these days.  A man who is hated on the East Coast and beloved on the West Coast.  A man who couldn’t share a city with “Superman.”  A man who has demonstrated phenomenal toughness and leadership with age.

Kobe Bryant turns 32 today.  He is no longer the same 17-year-old kid that took LA by storm after being drafted in 1996.  He has matured into a man.  A tireless worker who settles for nothing less than being the greatest winner this game has ever seen, or at least the greatest winner of his generation (he will not catch Bill Russell’s 11 titles).  And he very well could tie Jordan this upcoming year as he goes for his 2nd version of the famous Phil Jackson “3-peat.”  Now I am by no means saying Kobe is Michael Jordan.  Kobe Bryant is and will always be just “Kobe.”  He has not worried about being the greatest player of all time or about his legacy for the better part of a decade now.  Kobe has simply wanted to win.  And sure he was immature and naive early in his career.  Sure he has made his mistakes.  But I have never seen a professional athlete demonstrate the resilience that this guy has shown (maybe outside of Lance Armstrong).  And not only has he demonstrated a phenomenal resiliency, but he has shown that people can change not only themselves, but the perception that people have of them.

Kobe hit an all time low in the Summer of 2003 (hard to believe it was already over 7 years ago).  It came out that he had possibly committed sexual assault towards a woman in Eagle, Colorado.  Now this occurrence was an awful event in the life of Kobe Bryant.  But at the same time, it might have been just what he needed to get back to the top of the game.  Though I feel horrible saying it, this event may have been a blessing in disguise for Kobe Bryant.

Now sure people had the perception that Kobe Bryant was always about numero uno.  And they may have been right.  Slowly but surely, after this horrible off the court situation, Bryant developed into a better person and a better teammate.  He began to change the perception that the country had about him.  Within a few years, the Lakers had acquired Pau Gasol, and were back to being the best team in the West as they were in the early 2000s.  Now it was no easy turnaround, but Kobe made it happen.  He demanded ownership to put a team around him that he could take to the next level.  They listened and now Kobe is on the brink of history.

Even if Lebron wins titles in Miami, he will never be looked at as a winner the way that Kobe Bryant is.  His ship has been sunk due to his own stupidity or lack of confidence.  By leaving Cleveland, he has tarnished his legacy forever. Call it what you want, but the “King” will never be called a winner the way that Kobe Bryant is and always will be no matter what great feats he accomplishes throughout the rest of his career.

So Happy Birthday to the Black Mamba.  Now I am sure Kobe will be tirelessly working on his game and conditioning all day.  But he deserves a day off to celebrate all that he has accomplished not only as a player, but as a person.

Kobe is thinking 3-peat.  Is the rest of the NBA ready?

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.



“Friday Night Lights”

Blue Chip recruits such as former Princeton quarterback and now LSU running back Spencer Ware (pictured above) will be missed this year. But the talent pool is still deep as always and you better believe that the Friday Night Lights will still be as exciting as ever in Southwest Ohio.

With all of the commotion lately revolving around the outstanding play of the Reds and the beginning of a big year for the Bengals, many including myself have lost sight of something that we really pride ourselves on in Cincinnati, “The Friday Night Lights.”  High school football arrives this weekend with the usual Skyline Crosstown Showdown.  Games for this annual event will be played at Nippert Stadium (home of the Bearcats) and at St. Xavier High School’s beautiful football venue, Ballaban Field.

This is the 13th year of this major tradition in the tri state area, and this year features teams predominantly from the local area, but also a highly acclaimed Good Counsel High School squad coming in from Maryland.  In my eyes, this is the year after the “year.”  Sure last year was unusual for Southwest Ohio in that no local team won the State Championship.  The area has been spoiled in the past decade with numerous state champions coming from Region 4 (Southwest Ohio region).  But do not be surprised to see a local team reclaim the title back for the area.

Last year was a year that the tri state area was richer on Division 1 College talent than I can ever remember.  I mean the area was flat-out stacked.  Especially at the Quarterback position.  There were 4 big time quarterbacks in the area with 3 going to major Division 1 programs and the other going to a major NAIA school.  These top guns were Luke Massa (St X now heading to Notre Dame), Andrew Hendrix (Moeller now heading to Notre Dame), Spencer Ware (Princeton now heading to LSU), and Mark Miller (Elder now heading to Ohio Dominican).  Not to mention the local area featured one of the top 5 rated offensive lineman in the country (Matt James who was headed to Notre Dame) and the overall number 1 rated linebacker in the country (according to most polls, Jordan Hicks heading to Texas).  I mean the area was simply amazing.  And though this year does not include nearly the amount of high-profile names, you better believe it will be another exciting year.  Here are some reasons why:

1.  High school football in Cincinnati is always exciting.  It is always the “it” thing to do on Friday nights.  The UC Bearcat football boys mainly play on Saturdays and the Bengals mainly play on Sundays.  So for football hungry Cincinnati, why not go out and watch the next generation of stars?

2.  The level is outstanding in Ohio.  Football in Ohio is widely regarded as one of the country’s elite consistently producing many Division 1 players and consistently putting teams into all of the National Ranking polls.  There is a reason why Ohio teams have dominated the Kirk Herbstreit Classic since the idea came to fruition a few years back.  Ohio says bring on the rest of the country.  We will teach them what high school football is like in the Buckeye State.  For those of you who do not know, the Kirk Herbstreit Classic is an annual event that has Ohio teams play against top high school programs from all over the country.

3.  Though I hate to say it, we feature the Greater Catholic League (GCL).  This league has consistently put out some of the country’s elite teams for years now.  And though at times I and many others feel like these schools have an unfair advantage over the public schools, they do produce some pretty strong teams every year.  The discipline of these kids is absolutely amazing and is a testament to great coaching.  Do not forget that legendary College Coach Urban Meyer got his start handling the defensive backs job at St. Xavier.

4.  Colerain is full of outstanding talent this year.  The public school power is looking to atone for a very unusual absence from the Ohio State playoffs.  Be on the lookout for this team to really make some noise this upcoming season.  Featuring major Division 1 talents such as Tyler Williams, Traylon Durham, Jarret Grace, Andrew Smith, and Chris Dukes.  These guys are simply loaded and will wow fans with their amazing triple option attack.

5.  The GCL South is really up for grabs this year.  All 4 of the teams are expected to be tough as usual.  But for once, the favorite appears to be the Lasalle Lancers.  Lasalle has traditionally been the doormat for this conference in football for some time now.  This year though, they boast a quarterback heading into his 3rd year as a starter.  You better believe this Andrew Kummer kid (the QB) will come in very handy late in games during the major pressure situations that define GCL Football.

6.  And this is my final reasoning.  Do not act like you have something better to do between 7 and 10 on Friday nights.  Go watch your current institution or your alma mater.  We are very fortunate to have an amazing level of high school football in Southwest Ohio.  Not to mention games typically cost 3 to 5 dollars to get into.  So take advantage of the opportunity that has been given to you.

Friday Night Lights are back baby.  Can a Southwest Ohio school bring back the state title crown?

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.