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.