For once, I can take a break from anger-fueled ranting now that it looks like the Lakers may be turning a corner in this crazy season. As the team is about to embark on the 7-game Grammy road trip that will largely decide their playoff fate, it will be nice to change the tone away from the normal negativity and psychosis that has come to define Purple & Gold and Silver.
Instead of continuing to tell my story of the roller coaster 2012-2013 Laker season, I’m going to pay homage to my favorite Laker of all-time–Kobe Bean Bryant. (Random fact: my middle name is Bryant and my sisters both called me Bean growing up. Totally a coincidence. Kobe wasn’t even a known entity when this was going down. In fact, I was embarrassed by my middle name until Kobe came along. I wish he knew this random fact/connection between us).
Kobe, as I have written before, is “The Reason Why I Play The Game.” Side note for new readers: “The Reason Why I Play the Game” is a phrase my brother and I use to typify why we do certain things. For example, you usually pick an Asian restaurant because you want the appetizers or you play a video game strictly for offense and statistics. So, in other words, Asian appetizers, stats/offense on video games and Kobe Bryant are “The Reason Why You Play the Game.” Translation; Kobe is the human Asian Appetizer. I hope that made sense.
To say someone is my favorite Laker is a pretty big honor considering that list contains the likes of Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Nick Van Exel, Anthony Peeler, Cedric Ceballos, Shaq, Robert Horry, Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom. Kobe, however, is the run away winner. While playing in eras that span the primes of MJ, Iverson and Lebron, Kobe’s lengthy and successful resume speaks for itself: championship rings, gold medals, Finals MVPs, regular season MVP, All-NBA teams, 1st Team All Defense teams, dunk contest winner (shouldn’t even include that), 81-point game, 50 points in 4 consecutive games, 40 points in 9 consecutive games, 30 points in 10 consecutive games during his 17th season, 12 3pters in a game, scoring titles, countless all-star games, 4 all-star MVPs, 30,000+ points, game winning shots…the list of accolades can literally go on for pages and pages.
The scary thing about Kobe is that this is his 17th season and I feel like his game is still evolving and he is still somehow getting better 1426 games into his career. Nobody–not even Kareem who won NBA Finals MVP in his 16th season and not even Jordan who is the greatest player ever–can claim something like that. Kobe has gone from high-wire act (1996-1999) to Mr. Clutch/Mr. Defense (2000-2004) to Teen Wolf (2005-2007) to The Player We All Wanted Him to Be (2008-2011) to Teen Wolf Two (2012) to suddenly a Hall of Fame assist man (2013). The guy is a modern marvel! As the third best player in a young man’s league already playing out of his mind, he is reinventing his game yet AGAIN to be EVEN BETTER……IN HIS 17TH SEASON!!! That is just insane if you ask me.
As one loyal Purple & Gold and Silver reader once put it: “Kobe literally went from being the best at attacking the basket while being very good away from the basket to being the best away from the basket and very good at attacking the basket…all while never missing a beat and winning titles.” (Reread that….it makes logical sense, I swear.) To paraphrase: the dude pretty much remodeled his game seamlessly while continuing to win at the highest level during the process. Well, guess what? It maybe happening yet again…and this version may be able to last another 3-5 years. Gosh…I’m having one of those “I can’t believe how ridiculous Kobe’s career has been day in and day out” moments. I have them all the time. And he keeps impressing me every game…STILL!
(Note: The only other people to reinvent their games in year 17 are fat big guys like Kurt Thomas, Sam Perkins, Derrick Coleman and Rasheed Wallace who transformed from dynamic/athletic post-players to face-up, overweight jump shooters. Not exactly Kobe’s transformation.)
Kobe is unbelievable. The guy hardly sleeps. He lands in cities during road trips at 3AM and immediately goes to the gym to get up jump shots. He has been the focus of opponents and the prey of supremely athletic NBA double teams for more than half of his life. He plays every night. He hit 3s in an NBA game lefty when he separated his right shoulder. He won championships with a mangled index finger. And, most recently, he pretty much won a scoring title with a broken shooting hand in his 16th NBA season. His passion and dedication towards his craft is what EVERY SINGLE fan would want from their best player.
He may not be the greatest player of all time but he holds some superlative. Toughest? Most durable? Best transformer? Most absurd career? I don’t know what to label it other than he is the human Asian Appetizer. I am just so psyched he is on my team and has been since the great Nick Van Exel left. Now, I just need my unborn children to see him play.