“To NBA fans outside of LA Kobe has been an incessant thorn in the side. He’s not likeable at all which makes it that much more painful to see him rise to the occasion again and again and again”
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Loving to hate Kobe Bryant has made the NBA a lot more fun
Watching sports just wouldn’t be the same without there being villains. It would be like watching movies with only good guys. No drama, no story. Kobe Bryant has long been an ideal basketball bad guy. As a devoted fan of the Denver Nuggets I have always despised the man. But I also admire him more than I do almost any other athlete. He makes the NBA more interesting. When it comes his devotion to the craft of basketball not even Michael Jordan, the undisputed greatest of all time, rivaled Bryant. Kobe’s a basketball savant like no other and anybody who has ever played with him will tell you that he’s the hardest worker they have ever met.
I welled up a little when I heard that he had torn his left Achilles tendon. This season more than any other, Kobe has been an ultimate warrior in pushing the Lakers toward a playoff seeding. At mid-season it looked as though LA would have no shot. But, behind Kobe’s tireless effort, the team was in position to wrestle the final spot away from the Utah Jazz. Bryant scored over thirty points in over thirty games this season. Without him the “Lakers era” is undoubtedly over.
Now the question is whether or not Kobe’s days with the Lakers are over. He’s never played for any other team. Since he arrived in the NBA in 1996 at the age of 19, he has been an All-Star fifteen times, the All-Star MVP four times, the league MVP once and, most importantly, five times a champion. Now the Lakers face a very difficult decision. If the team were to use the NBA amnesty rule to rid themselves of his massive contract (Bryant is owed $30M for the coming season) the Lakers would relieve themselves of $80M of space under the luxury tax and be positioned to attract the best free agents. Kobe isn’t likely to be ready for the start of the 2013 regular season, so it would make perfect sense to let him go, but it would be a stunning move regardless. He’s this generation’s “Mr Laker”.
To NBA fans outside of LA Kobe has been an incessant thorn in the side. He’s not likeable at all which makes it that much more painful to see him rise to the occasion again and again and again. Kobe’s so arrogant that he’s given himself the nickname “Black Mamba” and sometimes even refers to himself by the moniker in the third person. He’s cheated on his wife, been accused of rape and acted like an all-around ass off the court. But on the court he’s never been anything short of beautiful to watch.
Kobe Bryant’s will is so powerful and his determination so relentless that there’s little doubt he will play again. He may never be 100% Kobe again, but he won’t have to be in order to make an impact. He’s good enough to play at 50% and still command thirty minutes a game. But it’s minutes that put him where he is now. Bryant, who’s only fully happy on the basketball court, was doubtlessly over-utilized by the Lakers this season. There’s no denying that fatigue played a role in his injury. But, without that overuse, the Lakers would not be knocking on the door for a playoff spot. And, had they made the playoffs, the Lakers would have been at least a threat to beat any team in the West – so long as Kobe Bryant was in the lineup. Without him, the Lakers are busted.
Anybody who believes that Kobe Bryant has played his last game in the NBA hasn’t been watching Kobe Bryant. He will return – if not for the Lakers for another contender – if not for long at least for one or two more seasons. He will not let this injury stop him. If anything, Bryant will work even harder. He said himself that the injury is “fueling” him only minutes after he sustained it. His recovery and subsequent return to the court will be inspiring. Still, his glory days are behind him. He will ride off into the sunset soon and leave behind him a legacy that will place him amongst the very finest players ever to don a pair of shorts. Loving to hate Kobe Bryant has made the NBA a lot more fun