It’s In Good Hands, Kobe

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It’s In Good Hands, Kobe

 

This is it. He’s gone. Kobe Bryant has officially retired from the game we all love. No more No. 8 with the afro, no more No. 24 hitting game-winners. As strange as it may sound, we will not have Kobe “Bean” Bryant in the NBA ever again.

Do we even remember the times without Kobe Bryant in the NBA? We’ve seen all of it. We’ve seen his blood, sweat, tears, and dedication to his craft. He asked us to hate him, but he played like he wanted us to worship him. Remember when he took over in Game 4 of the 1999-2000 NBA Finals after Shaquille O’Neal fouled out of the game against the Indiana Pacers? Those three, clutch three-pointers leading Los Angeles to victory at just 21 years old! Remember the 81 point massacre against the Toronto Raptors? Of course you do; that game was Wilt Chamberlain-esque. Do you remember all of those clutch shots? The game-winners? The one against the Phoenix Suns in the 2006 Playoffs? Do you? What about that dunk on Todd MacCulloch in Game 1 of the 2002 NBA Finals? The one on Dwight Howard? Yao Ming?

He’s leaving us and we somehow get the feeling the league is in good hands. There’s mixed feelings towards that debate. It’s like feeling nostalgic altogether with sense of achievement. Kobe Bryant is leaving the league after a season where his Los Angeles Lakers are a horrific team, and the Golden State Warriors are now, statistically, the greatest team in NBA history. It happened to all of the greats before him, and it’s happening today.

This astringent taste in our mouths shows we want a bit more, but concomitantly we are aware the game has changed and so the game isn’t Kobe;s anymore. Not so long ago the league was in the hands of Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Oscar Robertson, but as they were going for retirement, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was already dominating the league. Even around that time, the game was changing. As a matter of fact, by the time Chamberlain announced his retirement, Abdul-Jabbar was already on his way to become a three-time MVP. By the time Abdul-Jabbar announced his retirement, the 1970’s flew by. In the 1970’s the MVP award was crowned to a big-man each and every season. But in the 1980’s the game was way different once again and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a last standing dinosaur. So, now, there’s Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Julius Erving dominating the court winning championships left-and-right. Every NBA fan is now thinking basketball has reached the pinnacle; the best it’s ever been.

Little did they know, the greatest basketball player to ever walk the court was gaining ground beneath the shadows in the mid-to-late 1980’s. It all happened so fast. When the high-flying Michael “Air” Jordan was finished executing Gongfu Tea Cup
competition in the 1990’s/2000’s, he had nothing left to prove. He had done it all; three-peated twice, five-time MVP, ten-time Scoring Champion.

Just like in the past, there had to be a new breed of NBA superstars. One of them, was Kobe Bryant. Kobe was the NBA wonder boy winning Slam Dunk contests and sharing alley-oops with Kevin Garnett in the 1998 All-Star Game. Just like everyone in American, Kobe Bryant wanted to be “Like Mike.” Instead, he became Kobe. He became the “Black Mamba.” He became a five-time NBA champion; one of the greatest players to ever play. Similarly to Michael Jordan, he torched his opponents with no sympathy every single night, he was relentless. He wanted it more than everybody. He wanted it more than his teammates. He wanted it more than his coach, who wrote a whole book dissing him. Throughout two decades, Kobe Bryant played in a league where fans enjoyed the cult of individuality. For a decade or so there was “I” in “Team”.

Nowadays, there’s the cult of extra-pass and three-pointers all game long (instead of for the last resort). There’s no such thing anymore as a player like Kobe Bryant putting up 20-30 shots a night, carrying his team on his back. Kobe Bryant is leaving his throne. LeBron James is still great, and has had his reign, but now it’s Stephen Curry’s league.

Just like the decades before, the league is evolving; it’s like life. The league is good hands.

You may rest now Kobe. We are fine. Really. The league is better than ever.

Thank you. What a great ride.

#MambaOut

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