I met Kobe Bryant’s last game with a mixture of anticipation and sports sadness. Anticipation because I was curious about how Kobe would perform in his swan song; the sports sadness stems, selfishly, from the basketball fan in me not wanting to see an all-time great hang them up. It is also in knowing that his retirement marked the end of era, as Kobe brought an old school mentality and competitiveness that will be sorely missed in today’s NBA.
When he missed his first five shots’, I started thinking we were in for a clunker of a final showing, however Kobe then . proceeded to knock down his next s shots, the crowd and Lakers bench getting into more of a fervor with each made shot that went through the net. Over the course of dropping 60 in his swan song ,(the force feeding aside, you still have to knock the shots down) there were plenty of times he looked like the Kobe of old rather than old Kobe. In addition to the scoring, he was blocking shots and making steals. After knocking down the go ahead basket, to put the Lakers up 97-96, Kobe’s last points via two free throws. Then just like the game, and Kobe’s career was over, and I wished neither were. I intentionally waited to pen (err, type) this piece because I didn’t want to be prisoners of the moment as was obvious by some of the takes I have heard. I’m not easily impressed but I’ll say what I, and the rest of the basketball world save those watching the Warriors game, witnessed was astonishing. Granted he it took him 50 FGAs, however taking into account his age, and the numerous games where hoisting a quarter of those shots looked draining and the percentages left a lot to be desired, it was extremely impressive.
Now this legend rides of into the basketball sunset, unquestionably leaving an indelible mark on the game. There is no doubt as I type this, there are some young ball players studying Kobe’s game, they are looking at his footwork, mechanics on his jump shot, his turnaround fadeaway, just as Kobe did with Micheal Jordan. My advice is to also look to emulate his work ethic, mentality, his competitive nature. Kobe brought that old school mentality to the modern NBA and that, in addition to his immense talent, made the league a better place. It is that aspect of Mr. Bryant that I will miss nearly just as much as his play on the court.
Kobe, congratulations on a legendary career, you’ve given the game and it’s fans two decades of basketball excellence. The greats, ( Micheal, Kareem, Magic, Larry, Wilt, Hakeem,Bill, etc) can’t be duplicated and certainly the same can certainly be said for you. Thank you for your mighty contributions to the game and good luck with your future endeavors.