3, 2, 1….. bang! It’s good, Kobe Bryant has hit another game winner…..
If you grew up in the 2000’s you know this all too well. Kobe would steal a win away from your favorite team. Legendary was what he was becoming at the time in front of our eyes. For me though he was enemy #1 (besides the whole Spurs team). As a Dallas Mavericks fan it was tough to see my team be humiliated by this man. Coming back from 30 down. Putting up 62 in 3 quarters while the Mavericks as a team put up 61….Plus many, many more memorable games and moments. Kobe did his work on every opponent imaginable on the court and if you weren’t with him you were against him.
HATED: Since he was drafted in 1996 I didn’t like the guy. He was too cocky and came off as arrogant. With Shaq on the team Kobe thought that Kobe himself was the man. How could you have such an ego and that type of confidence to where you won’t pass the rock to a generational player like Shaq? Bryant put up air balls against Utah. Didn’t look interesting in passing, and was dabbling in music. I thought, well, this guy either is sabotaging Shaq, wanting to be like Shaq, or is just some kid whose going to mess it all up.
For me, Kobe was too similar to Michael (there are some great YouTube videos on this). I couldn’t root for a guy who ripped off the G.O.A.T. This dude was so into himself he pushed Shaq out of town right? He was so full of himself that several teammates (vocal or not) had issues with the man. I mean, Colorado (that’s all I will say about that). Kobe got so frustrated he asked for a trade out of L.A. He handicapped the Lakers later on financially with his final NBA contract. Kobe was selfish.
Every time he failed or ran into a road block it was beautiful to me because that meant that my Mavericks had an opportunity. I had my reasons lined up. Kobe’s got 5 rings. Well, he had Shaq for the first 3. But what about putting up 81 on the Raptors? Easy, he never passes the ball. Or what about being the oldest player in NBA history with consecutive 30 point+ games? Have you seen the guys on that roster, do YOU trust Dwight (sorry Dwight)?
RESPECTED: When the Mavericks won the 2011 NBA Finals I was able to let go of some of that hate. I was at game 4 when we swept them and ended the run of that squad. It was Phil Jackson’s last game as a Lakers coach, Kobe went for 17 points and +/- of -29. Dirk also had 17 but because he didn’t need to play (if at all) in the 4th quarter. It was pure bliss. We took down LA….We BEAT LA….. The Mavericks went on to win the Championship that year and both teams became mediocre at best for the rest of the decade. This level of mediocrity helped ease the hate, but when Kobe put it on his shoulders, again, at the age of 34, it was admirable. He was crushing it on an individual level and bringing the Lakers to life.
Then boom, the Achilles went out. At that moment I wasn’t necessarily happy. He walked up to the free throw line and did it, he made 2 shots. He WAS the reason that train-wreck of a team made it to the playoffs. All of a sudden though he wasn’t the guy he once was. The Kobe I grew up hating was now aging. A man that looked unstoppable was slowing down. His final 3 NBA seasons were mostly forgettable. Everyone wondered when it would be it, when it would be over. Was he going to be one of those greats who couldn’t let go, or did he know?
April 13, 2016 is a date that signaled the end of a legendary career. Hate him or love him, you tuned in to watch Kobe’s last game. It was a moment built for LA and an icon. Nicholson, West, Jay-Z, David Beckham, Kendrick Lamar, and Shaq to name a few were all witness in the building that night. I watched from home as a basketball fan. He wasn’t a threat to my equally abysmal Mavericks squad and I now respected what he had accomplished. The fact that he willed the Lakers to win over the Jazz AND put up 60 in his last game!? Damn…..
FOLLOWED: This was it, Kobe played his last NBA game and retired. It was an end of an era followed by Dirk, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Dwyane Wade, and other legends. Although, while those men were on the hardwood, Kobe was still working and winning. He won a 2018 Academy Award for his short film, Dear Basketball. Kobe welcomed home two more daughters with his wife Vanessa. He was doing interviews and allowing himself to be more accessible than ever before. This hater over here followed. I was on YouTube for every interview I could find. Anything he released I followed from afar. Why? Why was I so intrigued by this guy I despised so much when he was in the NBA?
The answer to this question is/was simple but complicated. I grew as a person. The once highly competitive kid was now rounding out into a husband and father. I could throw some other cliche’s in here but I won’t. There was so much good footage to listen to him talk and discuss his time as an NBA player, and the way he approached life and family. The way he approached his career after basketball gave me something to relate to in a way. But the basketball talk was just as helpful.
His mentality towards anything he did was admirable. Who does that? Who can do that? I wondered and thought then wondered some more. Crazy people, that’s who. You have to be crazy and for some reason I wanted to follow more of that crazy he provided. From sit downs with business leaders to former NBA players, Kobe opened up and shared to us more in his time after basketball than during it.
LOVED: I can still say this honestly, I hated Kobe Bryant the NBA player. Personally for me this won’t change. That time and era is locked into history for me. There is a sense of appreciation now, and I respected him towards the end of his career. But the Kobe that meant something to me was the man after basketball. Listen to the sit downs and interviews if you haven’t.
We are fortunate to have the material on him. His trials and tribulations that we saw were only a piece of the whole story. His big brother (MJ) used to keep in touch with him often. Bill Russell would stay in touch with him. He went to Hakeem to learn a few post moves. These things on a basketball level are things I loved. You never heard much negativity except for when he played. Yes, the whole legal case was a big cause for controversy, but we are all imperfect. The beef with Shaq was something from a movie. Kobe cursed and I’m sure lied, but he was human. He gave and he taught, because he was human. He smiled and cherished moments, because he again, was human. And this is what I loved about Kobe. He had a true smile when happy. He had real anger when upset. You could feel the emotions emit off of him, hundreds if not thousands of miles away.
I also feel that Kobe became more relate-able to even non-basketball fans. Sharing his family life with us, the general public was special. His daughters and wife were his world. Children were his world. Being a good person was his world. He reminded us that regardless of the mistakes we make, we can still be good. We, as people can be help each other and grow through competition, education, mentor-ship, hard work, dedication, support, being kind and compassionate, and finally being human.