Kobe Bryant. One of the 10 best players in NBA history. The second greatest shooting guard ever. The 3rd leading scorer in NBA History (for now). One MVP; Two Finals MVPs; Five NBA Championships; 16-time All Star; 4-time All Star MVP; 2-time Olympic Gold Medalist; 1997 NBA Dunk Champion; and once dropped 81 points in a game on Toronto. A couple of weeks before that he dropped 63 points in three quarters against Dallas, outscoring them by himself in the process. He’s dunked on countless people & completed some of the most ridiculous shots we’ve seen since Michael Jordan. He has a legendary work ethic both physically & mentally. He has achieved almost everything you can possibly think of as a basketball player and professional athlete. He’ll be a first ballot Hall of Famer whenever he retires. Did I leave anything else out of this paragraph as far as accolades and compliments go? No? Ok…… good!
We now need to add that he has been THE anchor for the Los Angeles Lakers at the end of his career.
Strong words? Yes, but not really. A lot of the strengths that make Kobe as great as he is — his biggest weapon among other things is his supreme self-confidence – which is what holds the Lakers back. That, “I can do this by myself if I have to” and “Hero-ball/I’m throwing on that cape now” combination. It allows him to take crazy shots if need be, shoot over triple teams if need be, and ignore his teammates when he has to. The sad thing is, there is literally no one in the Laker organization that can tell him any differently about his playing style because, well, it worked in the past. However, that past was something that happened a while ago. Kobe has proven over the years that he can’t be the guy doing it his way 100% anymore. It’s something I noticed personally back in 2012, when they faced Oklahoma City in the playoffs. Not only were those young guys (Durant, Harden, but especially Westbrook) past him when it came to athleticism which is expected, but they had no fear against him anymore. That fear factor was totally gone, & the way they went after Kobe the whole series was crystal clear that Kobe’s time as the main guy making the team an automatic contender was done.
The following season, was when the Lakers tried to load up, trading for Dwight Howard & signing Steve Nash, but we all know how that turned out. I actually don’t blame Kobe for that season, I put the blame on Mike D’Antoni. His rigid ways of running his system, only keeping a 7-man rotation on a veteran squad, making Pau Gasol (a guy who’s inside game & footwork is almost masterful at times) spot up & shoot 3s as a Stretch-4, generally running Kobe into the ground & helping to blow his Achilles, should take the majority of the blame. Dwight, leaving shortly after the season was over & leaving somewhere around $30M on the table to get away from Kobe, is not totally Kobe’s fault either. I don’t believe Dwight was ever built for the pressure of winning in LA, he’s just not wired that way & that’s fine. It’s not for everyone & it is possible to be an NBA champion outside of Los Angeles. BUT at the time of his Free Agency, he was the Laker’s #1 future asset going forward & they had no Plan B otherwise. And well, Kobe’s personality helped to put Dwight’s desire to stay a Laker in a body bag & help drive it out of Los Angeles with that whole, “you can learn to be the man, as long as you learn from ME with MY ways” speech during Dwight’s free agent meetings. He can’t get out of his own way. Either that or he knew of Dwight’s mindset & basically set to test it one last time. If Dwight walked out the door, he was okay with it because as long as he didn’t fall in
Kobe’s line, he didn’t need to be there.
Now, after the smoke clears, Laker Nation are forced to watch a 36-yr old shooting guard who’s had major injuries to his lower extremities, & believes he’s still a God. This team is young, has no young studs outside of Julius Randle (who won’t be there until next year unfortunately, while he recovers from a broken leg), & are trying to learn ways to succeed while the losses piles up. I can understand that Kobe is trying to possibly teach them his ways of never giving up & continuing to fight, which is great. However, that message gets lost when you’re watching a guy who has carte blanche to do & say whatever he wants within an organization that still fawns over him (only he’s not quite as good), jack 25+ shots without any remorse. The Kobe lovers/defenders/apologists/stans can’t even ignore the 8 of 30 for 25 pts & 9 TOs display he put on a few days ago vs. Sacramento, I mean….. it’s borderline disgusting. At this age, why is he still trying to get up so many shots?? It can’t be for the sake of winning. It’s dumb basketball, & if you’re a basketball lover watching these Laker games, how can you even support this? Over the course of the year, he’s averaging 24.6 pts on 22.5 shots per, shooting 37% FG and 27% from three. The efficiency simply isn’t there, but it’s not gonna stop him from getting up the 4th most shots per game on average over his 19 year career.
He claims nothing is more important to him than getting his 6th ring before he retires, right? Then does he not realize that his continued refusal to alter or change his style of play is like a nightly audition to future major free agents that could possibly help him get that ring? With every cut eye he shoots off at his teammates, every shot he jacks, you can almost hear another door closing on that option that could help him meet that goal. He’s still trying to prove that he can still be elite at what he does & try to dispel history that a shooting guard at his age can still get it done every night. Only that really shouldn’t matter anymore. He has nothing left to prove as a ballplayer, my first paragraph should tell you that. If anything, his next phase right now should be about trying to make everyone else better, proving to other free agents that they can definitely co-exist with him. At this stage of his ego development, that’s like asking a tiger to change his stripes to zebra. It will never f***ing happen……
……other than that, I love the way Kobe’s been playing this season. It’s been awesome.
**** UPDATE: By the way just so you know, this post was written last night before the Lakers went out and drubbed the NBA League-Leading Golden State Warriors 115-105 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. Also, Kobe not only did not play due to rest (plans to start & give Bulls guard Jimmy Butler every shot he can handle tomorrow at Chicago in front of a worldwide audience), but was nowhere near the building. I watched the 1st three quarters of that game last night, and let’s be honest, Golden St. just didn’t have it. So while I don’t think this is a big deal in terms of the Warriors losing to a crappy team because it’s a long season and these things will happen at some point (remember Chicago’s 72-10 season back in ’96? One of their 10 losses was to an expansion Raptor team that had names like “Zan Tabak” in the starting lineup), I found it interesting to read some of the comments that the players made post-game as well as the overall joy that was in the building from the Staple Center. You can come up with your own conclusions here. *****
- As far as passing Michael Jordan for 3rd all-time in scoring, I think it’s a nice accomplishment & he deserves it. Why don’t I call it great? Because I’m starting to observe articles & hear opinions asking “Is Kobe actually better than Michael?”, and the “Kobe vs. Michael” comparisons. Stop it. Stop it now. I won’t even get into the part where Kobe followed Jordan’s career and mannerisms, wanting to not only be like him, but surpass him so bad that it borderline feels like what Matt Damon was doing to Jude Law in The Talented Mr. Ripley. Passing Jordan’s all-time scoring record if anything means this: whenever this debate comes up 15-20 years from now, it may cloud people’s judgment in their eyes just by looking at the stats. People will look at it & think, “Well, a case can be made that Kobe is better. He did score more points and went to more Finals than he did…and he did win 5.” Let it be known, Kobe’s the closest thing to Michael Jordan…..but he ain’t Michael Jordan. I don’t care if he scores 40,000+ points. Here are some comparisons I’ll mention: He passed a record in Year 19 (One season missed due to injury) that took Jordan just under 14.5 years to get (One season missed due to injury). Mike was THE MAN in all SIX titles that he won, winning all six Finals MVPs, Three-Peated twice in 8 years, while never going past Game 6 in any Finals he was in, much less never losing in one. Kobe won 5 rings, but Shaq was the man for three of those. He also lost twice in the Finals. Michael won 10 scoring titles, Kobe won twice. Michael’s won 6 MVPs, Kobe won once. Also, Kobe never shot higher that 47% in his career. MJ not only surpassed that percentage 10 different times, but shot over 50% six times, while just missing that mark two other times (49.5%). Kobe gave himself two different nicknames (Black Mamba & Vino). Jordan never did that shit. I’m gonna stop this now. Before I start getting upset…..
- My favorite player so far this season outside of Steph Curry: Jimmy Butler. He went from being a solid role player to the best two-way Shooting Guard in the Eastern Conference over the course of one summer. His scoring leaped tremendously from last year (13.1 to 22.1), as well as his FG% (40 to 48), FT% (77 to 83), and 3P% (28 to almost 35), all while keeping his defense at a high level. He is the perfect example of improving your game in the offseason folks. Usually it might be a component or two, but he raised the bar on everything. If he continues like this, I don’t know how anyone’s taking down Chicago in the East on top of all the other weapons that Chicago has added or gotten back off the injured list this season.
- That Rajon Rondo trade makes Dallas super dangerous. However, with the West being so supremely strong this season, I don’t even know what that statement means anymore. This trade could push Dallas over the top & make them NBA champs this season, they could also lose in the first round….. and it would still be a great trade that they wouldn’t regret in both those scenarios.
- Marshawn Lynch’s TD run & crotch dive….. I’m not even a fan of the Seahawks, but that was amazing & rebellious at the same time. It just had to be said, 49er fan or not.
Happy Holiday to all of you, drink responsibly, and have a safe and joyous time out there.
Cal Cee // South Shore Ave
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