On Kobe

Note: I didn’t know Andy was going to handle a Kobe farewell when I started on this. Definitely check his out if you have yet to do so. It’s quiet a pleasant read, I assume because he’s probably a more pleasant guy than I, and clearly a bigger Kobe fan to boot. Consider this a rebuttal. – Thomas

 

I’ve never been a Kobe Bryant fan. He’s a ball-hog, an asshole, and been plummeting in output the last few years. I know he’s one of the greats. I know he’s the last shadow of Michael Jordan. I remember that 81-point game against the Raptors. I don’t like him, and begrudgingly respect him because I have to. I’m not a fan, but I’m going to miss him.

Yesterday, via 18,997 poems delivered to spectators at Staples Center and a post on the The Player’s Tribune, Kobe announced that this season would be his last. His decision is heartbreaking but at the same time it isn’t really that heartbreaking. Yes, he’s undoubtedly Top 10 All-Time. Yes, he’s maybe the most dangerous scorer the game has ever seen. Sure, he’s a legend. I know, it’s not fair that his body is deteriorating faster than his mind and spirit can handle. That’s heartbreaking. But it’s been no secret that his last few years have been a chore to watch. Whether for the Lakers’ inability to be a decent team (attributed to Kobe or not), his increasingly curmudgeonly attitude, or for the fact that he’s 38 goddamn years old and has played professional basketball for 20 of those goddamn years, it’s been time to say goodbye for a while now. That’s not heartbreaking, and it shouldn’t be. It’s just the way things go. But I’ll still miss him.

I’m going to miss Kobe the same way every franchise misses the big, bad villain. Next season my favorite player[1], and yours too, will have to line up against five dweebs in a yellow and gold jerseys that aren’t Kobe Bryant. There wont’ be any news about him ditching practice, simply because he wasn’t feeling it. No more reports of his teammates crying because he gave them an unwanted/unwarranted nickname or forgot their real one. Fights won’t break out because Kobe flexed a little too much and pissed someone off. I’m going to miss that.

I’m going to miss Kobe because no one else could play as infuriatingly. No one else could make half the clutch shots he’s made[2]. No one else could take on entire teams and win[3]. I won’t get to watch him completely forget about the other four guys from his bench that want to take their open shot. I won’t get to watch him shoot, make or miss. Reggie Miller won’t be able to accoste him for a legitimate reason then bite his tongue as Kobe drains a breathtaking outside jumper. After this year, I won’t see him drive to the hoop, draw a foul, throw the ball up off his backhand, make it, hit the ground hard, get up, shoot the opposing team a look that says “Try Me”, line up at the free-throw line to sink both shots, sink both shots, shoot another glance that says “That’s right,” square up on defense and repeat ever again. I’m going to miss that.

I’m going to miss seeing Kobe trudge the Lakers to a winning season. They’re not a very good team, and in all honesty, not even a likeable one. Like at all. Since Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher, there hasn’t been another genuinely great player to wear the royal colors and there wont be for a while[4]. With Kobe, LA’s dreams of another title retire for the foreseeable future. See, he should have gone out in 2010, after bringing LA its sixteenth championship and nabbing his second Finals MVP. That’s when he was still one of the best players in the world. Without him, they’ll be lucky to clinch 25 wins a season. With him? They were the best team in the world. I’m going to miss that.

I’m going to miss Kobe giving everything to basketball. When he would drive he would often flounder. He had a grace about him that didn’t translate from his jumpshot to his layup. He would drive the key so hard that he could only hit the ground harder. He’s had seven sprained ankles, injured his shooting hand thrice, had surgery on his right knee, shattered his left, sprained his shoulder, torn his left Achilles and later had surgery on it. He’s missed 213 games to pain; that’s almost the equivalent of three regular seasons. On court, he didn’t worry about his body, only the W. I can think of only a handful of players with that type of conviction, though none of them are remotely close to 40 years old. I’m going to miss him for that.

I’m going to miss saying Kobe should retire. I’ve been on his back for his selfishness, injuries, attitude and even ability in the past. I wanted him gone, maybe because I never thought he’d go. Now that it’s happening I’m not sure if I’m ready for it. All I would think about is his drooping shooting percentage and exasperated teammates. Now I’m wondering how the Lakers will ever recover. I used to reminisce on his glory years in the early 2000’s. In retrospect, I’ve extended them till 2010. But I won’t remember the shade typed out by reporters following a loss. I’m not going to think about every could-have-been assists or shot that he missed. I’ll forget these last few seasons. There’s been only one year of my life where he hasn’t played in the NBA for the Los Angeles Lakers. Seventeen of those years he was an All-Star. Fifteen as a member of the All-NBA Team. Five time NBA champion, of which he was the Finals MVP twice in a row. League MVP in 2008. That’s what I’m going to remember him for. Those accomplishments. That legacy. This legend. I’m really going to miss that.

I’ve never been a fan of Kobe. I don’t know if I’ll ever be. But I’m not an idiot either[5]. I know this is a huge blow to the game of basketball. The poem he wrote is called Dear Basketball and it’s beautiful. He tells the game how he’s loved it, but how it’s time to let go. He’s obviously the last person to recognize it, but the last prisoners released in love and war are always the ones who started it. He mentions how much he loves basketball, and how much he’s going to miss it. No one has ever doubted that. Now basketball is going to realize how much it loves Kobe, and how much it’s going to miss him. No one doubted that either. But I’ve always doubted him, always thought less of him than most. Not now. Now I’m just going to miss Kobe Bryant.

 

kobe-dear-basketball

 

[1] Mine is Lebron James. I don’t care what you say, he’s the best. Ever. He just is. He’s a goddamn 6’8, 260 lbs freak. He can post up, call plays, shoot the ball, dribble the ball, and dunk the ball. He could probably make the ball write a top 40 single, and considering a basketball is a 9.5 – 9.85 inch rubber bladder covered in synthetic leather and not a sentient being capable of writing music, that’s really something.

[2] See footnote 1.

[3] See footnote 1 again. And don’t argue this time.

[4] Nick Young could potentially be the next. Pros: He’s funny. He’s got a good shot. His name is Swaggy P. Cons: He’s a little too funny. Iggy Azalea. His name is Swaggy P.

[5] This is up for debate. One time I stubbed my toe so hard I dropped an open 4L of chocolate milk on my floor and subsequently slipped and fell in it.

 

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