Dwight Howard, The Los Angeles Lakers and the 94 Games From Hell by @ProfessorCorria

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“The road to hell is paved with good intentions”- Saint Benard of Clairvaux. An alternative form of the proverb is “hell is full of good meanings, but heaven is full of good works”.

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        The 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers season reached critical mass at approximately 1:15 AM, Eastern Standard Time, on April 13th, 2013. That is when the news broke that Lakers guard Kobe Bryant had torn his Achilles tendon, and was done for the season. As bad as things had been going for the Lakers all year, if you were a Lakers fan, this was truly the backbreaker. The final nail in the coffin. Like Kano ripping your heart out in Mortal Kombat, this was the final blow, a true fatality. When I was scrolling down my twitter feed and I saw the official statement from the Los Angeles Lakers that “Guard Kobe Bryant has a torn Achilles tendon and is out for the season”, my heart dropped and a cold chill ran down my spine. Even though the Lakers season had failed to deliver on the promise that had been borne during the off-season, the Kobe Bryant injury was a bridge too far. Nothing went according to plan for a myriad of reasons, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Kobe Bryant killed himself to get the star-studded Lakers into the playoffs and in the 80th game of the season, his body finally gave out, succumbing to the physical strain and mental burden that comes with a 34 year old shooting guard in his 17th season, trying to will his grossly underachieving team into the playoffs.

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            Kobe Bryant. Steve Nash. Dwight Howard. Pau Gasol. Wow, that’s a stellar collection of talent, a great haul for Lakers management, but “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. Those four superstars are great players for a reason, they’re driven, intelligent, gifted and most importantly perfectionists. Studies show of the effect of intention upon task completion by professors Peter Gollwitzer, Paschal Sheeran and Sheina Orbell indicate that there is some truth in the proverb. Perfectionists are especially prone to have their intentions backfire in this way. Because, when judging intentions, people are more likely to interpret good intentions as their own actions, rather than they are for those of others.(Justin Kruger) Meaning, no one was willing to sacrifice, especially the two principals, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. When things got tough for the Lakers it seemed that everyone retreated to their own corners and wanted to do what had worked best for them over the course of their careers, instead of coming together as a unit. Howard felt he knew the right path to success, even though he had never won a championship. Bryant felt he knew what it was going to take for the 2013 Lakers to win a title because he had charted the course to a championship 5 times in the past, even though at his advanced age he no longer possessed the ability to be the Alpha-dog on a championship team. Steve Nash seemed lost all year playing next to Kobe, and breaking his leg in the 2nd game of the season didn’t allow him to assimilate to playing with his new team. Pau Gasol, everyone’s favorite whipping boy, was mistreated and disrespected all season long by everyone from pundits, to fans, and all the way down to his head coach Mike D’Antoni. It was as if everyone forgot where the Lakers were as a franchise before Gasol arrived from the Memphis Grizzlies in 2008? Or didn’t remember how he dominated Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics in game 7 of the 2010 NBA finals to the tune of 19 points and 18 rebounds. The Lakers were a collection of talent, never a team.

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It never felt right. Dwight Howard never really wanted to be a Laker and Kobe Bryant never really wanted him there. Then there was the 0-8 pre-season, followed by an opening night loss to an undermanned Dallas Mavericks skeleton crew that raised a lot of red flags. Then there was the Princeton offense, which was accompanied by a 1-4 start, which led to the “death stare”, which in turn led to coach Mike Brown receiving the pink slip. There was the flirtation with Phil Jackson, the 11-time world champion coach, which somehow led to Jim Buss hiring Mike D’Antoni? Because anytime you can hire a coach that flamed out with Knicks instead of the coach that brought your organization 5 championships you have to pull the trigger right? Then there was rock bottom, or so we thought, at 17 and 25. There was Kobe the facilitator, that didn’t last long. Then there was Dwight’s constant bellyaching about his surgically repaired back and then he tore his Labrum. Then there was progress, then Gasol got hurt, so did Steve Blake, which meant that Chris Duhon was playing actual NBA minutes instead of in the 30 and over Rec. League he belonged in. There was “offensive genius” Mike D’Antoni playing his 34 year old shooting guard 48 minutes a game, which led to some offensive explosions, before Kobe’s Achilles eventually exploded. Then there was nothing. Oh wait there was something else. The “future of the franchise” getting ejected in the 3rd quarter of Game 4 of a 1st round series that the Lakers were getting obliterated in. What a sendoff. With Kobe on crutches, Nash in a suit, Gasol hobbled, Dwight Howard showed his true colors by getting thrown out of a game where he was his team’s only hope of being somewhat competitive. The biggest, strongest, and most talented player on the court showed the greatest amount of cowardice. “Everything you need to know about someone’s mental toughness comes out when the pressure is on, there’s nowhere else to turn and the focus is solely on them.”- Tim Grover

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Where do the Lakers go from here? Resign Dwight to a $117 million dollar contract? Let him walk in free agency to Houston or Dallas? Trade Gasol and his bloated $19 million dollar and expiring contract for younger pieces? Amnesty the ball stopping and aging Metta World Peace? Fire Coach Mike D’Antoni and bring back Uncle Phil? Amnesty the great Kobe Bryant and his $30 million dollar salary, which would save the team $85 million dollars once the luxury and repeater taxes are factored in? These questions hang over this proud franchise like an anvil. History shows that the Los Angeles Lakers will bounce back and relatively quickly. The Lakers have always had and attracted top talent. From Mikan, Baylor, West, Wilt, Goodrich, Wilkes, Kareem, Magic, Worthy, Shaq and Kobe the history is there. The only question that looms for the Lakers is who’s next?

Kobe Bryant: The Last of the Mohican’s By @ProfessorCorria

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“Perseverance..See the fake hustler rapper..to them..it hurts to hear this. Oh you went platinum?.. yea that’s nice..now let me see you do the same thing twice. Three times, four times..then a couple of mo’ times…please you’re Amateur Night…this is SHOWTIME.” – Nasir Jones.

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Why are we always in a rush? Why is there always such haste to see who’s “next”? We love to wax poetically about the potential of certain stars or athletes instead of enjoying what is taking place in front of us in the present time. Why can’t we wait for things to play out instead of jumping to conclusions? The proof is in the pudding, are we judging on potential or on production? The most important aspects about a basketball player are immeasurable. Do they have that indomitable will to compete, the desire to improve, and aspirations to push the game to its threshold? All of these characteristics are what separate Kobe from the pack. He’s mean, he doesn’t care if you like him or not, and most importantly he’s unafraid. If he misses the last shot, so be it. If his teammates and other players around the league don’t like him, who cares? It’s a mentality, it’s a sickness, it’s an affliction to be as driven to win as Kobe Bryant is. There have been so many great talents to play the game, but five championships aren’t for everybody. It’s a mindset; it’s an approach that affects you to the point where nothing else matters but being the ultimate winner. Have you ever looked at Kobe Bryant and thought to yourself, “Man Kobe didn’t get the most he could out of himself.” Yea, didn’t think so.

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Kobe Bryant has truly persevered through all of the eras. He came into the league as a high flying 17 year old, and 17 years, 1,448 games and 53,558 minutes played later he is a cold blooded, mid-range assassin. Kobe Bryant, from the beginning, has been ensnared in one comparison after another. Will he better than Michael Jordan? Is he a greater Laker then Jerry West or Magic Johnson? Is he better then Iverson? Vince Carter? T-Mac? And sure enough the LeBron James comparisons soon followed. If the worst thing you can say is, “Well he’s not as good as Jordan”, what are you really saying? If they can only compare you to a ghost, that means that you have no current peer. What LeBron James is doing is incredible, and should be admired, but he and Kobe are not peers. There are so many great players in today’s game, and the NBA is in great hands, but there is something distinct about watching Kobe Bryant compete.

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The Best way to describe Kobe Bryant is different. He is dissimilar from most NBA players in every possible way. There’s something regal about his approach to the game, a stately presence that shows that he knows his place in history and how important it is for him to perform at an optimum level every time he takes the court. There never has been or will be a time where he looks out of shape or unprepared, and he’s arguably the most fundamentally sound player in the history of the NBA. He relishes in the fact that everyone who paid for a ticket to get into the arena will have their eyes trained on him, and for better or worse he will go to great lengths to put on a show. Kobe delights in the fact that every player in the NBA is geared up to challenge him every game that he plays in, because he wants to attack them even harder. It’s what he lives for, he carries that predatory instinct that Michael Jordan had before him. He wants to see you at your peak level, bring you to your knees, and then watch you crumble as you succumb to his will. If Kobe could have an 82 game season where every game down to the final 30 seconds he could die and go to heaven. Fans would love to see him trust his teammates more, but when you’ve spent summers in the gym working out from 4 AM to 4 PM, sometimes your belief in yourself trumps the normal protocol of working within the traditional team structure. Why find the open man when you have been taking a thousand shots a day in the summer and your teammate spent all of season partying?

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Kobe Bryant AKA the Black Mamba AKA Zero Dark Thirty AKA Vino AKA Mr. 81 points AKA Lord Of The Rings has done it all and then some. He lives for the moment that your favorite player cowers in, and it’s not because he’s super clutch, it’s because he doesn’t care if he misses. He can deal with the glory or the anguish that comes from missing late minute baskets. That’s why the criticism cascades off of him and affects his fans more than it does the man himself. Kobe outscored a LOADED Dallas Maverick team 62-61 after three quarters by his lonesome, removed himself from the game for the 4th quarter, and was roundly criticized for not trying to score more. So what did he do? Three weeks later he shelled the Toronto Raptors for 81 points, but was critiqued for only having two assists. In 2013, in his 17th year in the NBA you can still turn on embarrassingly vapid shows like “First Take” and hear two idiots debating about if a game in mid-January is going to test Kobe’s “clutch gene”, or on a scale of 1 to 10 how disappointed they are that Kobe took 23 shots in a loss. This kind of talk is senseless, his spot is solidified, his legacy already cemented in stone along with players like Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. For better or worse Kobe Bryant remains the NBA’s most interesting player, who’s Swiss-Army Knife like skill set is still wreaking havoc throughout the league. One thing is for sure, Kobe Bryant is officially the last of the Mohicans, a great white shark from a different era and a different NBA landscape, who will be sorely missed once he no longer exists. It’s amazing to watch the current group of young NBA stars flourish, but there is only one Kobe Bryant. He knows that there may be some ten year old kid watching him in the nosebleed seats that might be seeing him play in person for the first and only time, and his play reflects that. He might not have as great a career as Jordan when it’s all said and done, and he might not be as good as LeBron is right now, but it won’t ever be for a lack of effort or preparedness.

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