“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.
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.
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.
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?
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.