By: Mike Kyle II
A wheel gets pushed down a hill. Rolling and rolling, picking up speed. Twisting and wobbling trying to maintain its balance. No one knows when the wheel will stop, when all the speed will be lost, when the ride will be over. Kobe Bryant is the wheel that keeps on rolling. Nineteen years of basketball dominance. A five-time NBA champion, two-time scoring champion, countless scowls and even more countless, ridiculous single-game performances. He played his first NBA game as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, and he’ll retire as one as well. He’s one of the best scorers the game has ever seen. Bryant is able to erupt for 30-plus points on any given night. He’s the third-fastest player in history to achieve 32,000 points, to go along with 6,000 assists, and the all-time leader in missed shots.
Instead of knocking him for the misses, why not congratulate him? He’s been in the league long enough to reach that record. The past 14 seasons, you didn’t go to Lakers games just because they were the Lakers. Fans attended games because there was an opportunity to see a spectacle of greatness: a 40-point performance on any given night, or a game winner, or a triple-double. One thing is for certain, when the game is on the line and Kobe Bryant has the ball in his hands against your favorite team, it’s a slow killing. It’s coming and you feel it; the only thing you can do is hold your breath and pray that the ball rattles out of the basket. He has 28 game winners to his name and he’s looking to add to that total. Bryant plays like a warrior, battling through adversity from injuries throughout his career, and playing through most of them. However, he suffered his two most devastating injuries in back-to-back seasons, forcing him to miss two whole years. A torn Achilles in 2012 forced him to miss the 2012-2013 season. Then six games after his return he hurt his knee, forcing him to miss all of the 2013-2014 season. Simply put, Bryant on the bench in street clothes didn’t feel right. The league didn’t feel right. There was an emptiness like an intricate part of the league was missing. In a few years, that emptiness will be a black hole, holding a spot that will never be re-taken.
The opinion of Kobe Bryant’s ego is a fun topic to talk about. Some people dislike his arrogance. Other people enjoy it. No matter what your take is, here are the facts. Bryant has always had the “Top Dog” mentality where he needs to be THE guy. The first time he met Michael Jordan he said, “You know I can kick you’re a** one on one.” He had public conflicts with teammate Shaquille O’Neal over who held the top spot on the team. He even told his teammate Smush Parker during practice, “You can’t talk to me. You need more accolades under your belt before you come talk to me.” Yes, it’s evident that Bryant is cocky, but that’s the fun part. It adds and solidifies a layer to his game that no one else has, the “I can and will beat anybody, and I don’t care how I do it” style of play.
The current state of the Lakers is abysmal, horrific, and ugly. At age 36, after missing two seasons with devastating injuries, Kobe Bryant is leading not only the team in scoring but the LEAGUE as well, averaging 26.6 PPG. The Lakers don’t have another player in the same solar system as Bryant. One of the most competitive players in the league, ending his career at the bottom, the complete opposite of where he was for what appears to be the last time in 2010. A champion. How can a player who only knows winning become subjected to THIS abomination of a team. Yet, even while at the bottom he’s still playing at the top. Many stars have a lapse at the end of their career. A tragic downfall. Bryant didn’t have that, his team did. He continues to dominate. On November 30th, he recorded his 20th career triple-double. Basketball fans are watching one of the greatest ever fight for his basketball life. It is a fight which he appears to be blowing through. However, this fight will not be easy. With not much talent surrounding him, Bryant has no issue with hoisting up shots like he did in 2005-2006, where he averaged 35 PPG on 27 shots a game. Even this season he has shown the ability to become unconscious in games, hitting every shot he attempts, sending social media into a frenzy of chaos. His nickname “Vino” still holds true today as he gets better with age.
Bryant’s is a career with a few failures, conflicts with teammates, and more importantly, a plethora of success. Basketball fans will never forget the devastating Finals losses, the public beef between Bryant and teammate Shaquille O’Neal, and the miraculous shots in the extra-terrestrial performances. The end of Kobe Bryant’s career is a tragic one, but instead of being sad that the ride is over, be happy that the wheel rolled for this long.