Reflections on Kobe Bryant

Reflections on Kobe Bryant

Apr 13
Reflections on Kobe Bryant

My heart is broken.  On what was a perfectly routine and unassuming attempt to drive past Harrison Barnes in a critical game as the playoffs rapidly approach, we’ve come to the end of an era in Lakers basketball.

It hurts, it makes me feel sick to my stomach, and I almost can’t believe it.  I remember this feeling, and I was hoping I would never ever have to feel this way ever again.  I vividly remember listening to the radio on my way to a cross country invitational in high school as Magic Johnson announced he was retiring from basketball after contracting HIV.  I, like so many others, felt robbed.  Something great was being taken away from us. And worse still, we were slapped in the face with the absolute humanity of the situation:  legends do fall.  This is how I’m feeling once again.

Love him or hate him, Kobe Bryant is one of the most polarizing figures the sports world has ever seen.   He’s been a staple in my adult life and I’ve had the privilege to watch him play year in and year out since I was 22 years old.  I’ve been a Lakers season ticket holder for over half of his career, and in a lot of ways, I don’t know how to be an adult without him.  He’s always been there, and we’ve always been able to #countonkobe.

His legendary work ethic has been an inspiration to me and so many others.  Despite being a master of his craft, Kobe has always found a way to improve by learning from his peers and has set the standard for dedication and passion.  Year in and year out he would surprise us with new tricks up his sleeve.   When San Antonio won their first title, KB showed up the next season with a Tim Duncan-like bank shot at his disposal.  When Dallas won the title, he unveiled the Dirk Nowitzki leg-kick fadeaway, adding to an already lethal arsenal of moves/shots.  He showed us that no matter how good you are, there’s always more to learn and that the bar can always be set higher. He showed us that fundamentals are the foundation on which creativity is built, something that has applied to me in both my career as a music composer and in my age group athletic aspirations.  And he showed us that no matter how many people doubt you, if you listen to your heart and commit yourself to the task that lies ahead that truly great things are possible.

He’s a player that people love, and a player that people love to hate.  I’m fully aware that he has as many detractors as he has fans, I can understand it.  There are those who were turned off by the cockiness of his early years.  There are those that blame him for the collapse of the Shaq/Kobe dynasty (I have always sided with Kobe on this one).  There are those that could never get past Colorado.  There are those that to this day accuse him of being a bad teammate and selfish player (You don’t win 5 titles by being selfish, plain and simple). And there are those that could just never accept the idea of an educated, well-spoken, and intelligent basketball player, one whose passion for the game tended to alienate him from his peers.   I totally get it.  But I’m hoping that these same people will some day come to realize what a special and unique players we’ve been witness to all of these years.  He is a once in a generation talent.  While the NBA is in good hands with the likes of Lebron and Kevin Durant among others, the Black Mamba was/is one of a kind.

You might be thinking that I’m writing him off by saying that we are at the end of an era.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  I believe in my heart that Kobe will do everything and more to come back from this injury to give it one last go.  And he WILL be back. But Lakers fans are faced with a reality that we have to come to terms with.  The time to pass the torch is now.  This just became Dwight Howard’s team, should he choose to accept that torch.  With the Lakers looking at an entire season without KB, the time is now to build the team for the future.  And when Kobe returns, he will adapt his game to fit that future because that what Kobe does.  Like a fine wine, his game evolves with age, adding complexity and character along the way.  Whether he becomes a spot-up shooter, master facilitator, player-coach, or is even somehow able to come back and be the player he has always been, he will find a way.  But the era of the Lakers being Kobe’s team is coming to a close.  And like I said earlier, it breaks my heart.

If what we assume to be the case is true (that his achilles is indeed torn), the road back is going to be a long and arduous process.  This blog is just as much about injury as it is training/nutrition, so I will be watching his progress not only as a fan, but as someone who is fascinated by the human body and its ability to repair itself.  The previous 2 Lakers that suffered ruptured tendons, Rick Fox (not entirely sure his was an achilles injury) and Laron Profit, had their NBA careers end.  Across the hall, however, there is a shining example of hope in Chauncey Billups, who suffered the same injury and has returned to action, despite being 2 years older than Kobe at the time of his injury.  This is going to be a study in human will, perseverance, and the advancement of medical treatment for injuries that have traditionally been career ending.  Its going to be fascinating to see how this plays out.

Its my hope that this injury somehow brings clarity to a a franchise that has been in disarray over the past 2 seasons.  The team now knows that is has to begin its post-Kobe existence immediately.   Its earlier than everyone anticipated and is what no Lakers fan wants, but such is life.  And as we enter into this new era, we will wait patiently for the Mamba’s return so he can give it one last go.  I don’t want it to end this way, Kobe doesn’t want it to end this way, and for the sake of the NBA and basketball world we can only hope that he is able to nurse himself back to health.  I would love for my kids to get to watch Kobe get that coveted 6th title, as they’re finally at an age where they can not only appreciate it but also have it be a memory that stays with them for the rest of their lives in the same way that Showtime stuck with me.  Get healthy Kobe-Wan, we’ll be here with open arms when its time for you to make your return.