Barry Bonds’ timing mechanism. Reggie Jackson’s swagger. Tiger Woods’ precision. Michael Jordan’s desire. Tim Duncan’s consistency. Derek Jeter’s professionalism.
After last night, now we can add Kobe Bryant’s level of commitment.
Kobe Bryant is without question the best player we have in the game today and proved it the way it should have been done…he earned it.
He hates losing. He hates losing so much people hate him greatly for his will to win.
Don’t doubt him because he will competitively kill you.
Just ask the world after he hit big shot after big shot during the Olympics. Do you remember? You should.
There is a distinction in professional commitment between who wants to be good and and who wants to be great.
Damn right he’s great, but it hasn’t always been this way despite his prodigal roots.
Three air balls in Utah. Colorado and the adulterous aftermath. Phil Jackson’s book. Shaq’s indifference. USA basketball pressure. Diminished respect in light of new NBA talent. Haters out the ass.
How many of us would close up shop and say the hell with it? How many of us would still be married? How many of us would have totally snapped after all the scrutiny and just settled into a good but not great career?
Not Kobe. Every failure became an inspiration to become the best in whatever next moment there is.
Like Lamar said, “Champagne on my shirt.” Sums it all up huh?
Something I asked him before USA Basketball headed to Vegas:
Michael Tillery: Kobe in terms of your development as an NBA player…obviously you are going to be one of the legendary players who has played the game. Do you look at these moments as something you focus on just a little bit more to try and challenge what already is a superior talent?
Kobe Bryant: “The way I approach it is I just stay in the moment. I look at the here and now.”
Simple, but complicated answer grounded in 2008-2009 critical NBA mass.
The critical moment in my opinion was his inability to hit free throws late in the Magic’s lone Finals victory for whatever reason.
His Larry Bird moment.
After Kobe missed 5 of 10 free throws in a Magic Game 2 win, Kobe went 16-16 the rest of the way.
He did what he had to do. He didn’t make excuses. He stepped his game up by getting out early before Game 3 and shooting from the line until he knew he wouldn’t miss again and let his team down.
He never smiled. He scowled, frowned, pushed, smacked, banged and didn’t crack.
“It feels like a big ole’ monkey was off my back!” Kobe said with comedic validation while fielding questions in the post game presser.
He finally could smile. Yeah it was personal. He cares less what any of you think of him that is seen as negative. That specifically means the media. A media who has tried to bring him down any chance it collectively gets. You should have heard some of the questions posed to him this year.
How some of these people have jobs is beyond me, but that’s besides the point.
Yeah he was tired. What is to be expected after so much time with the soul rock?
Phil Jackson cut his minutes this season. He’s played 200 plus NBA games the last year…excluding the Olympics…and it was all for this moment.
Nothing would stop him.
It’s inspiring. Kobe inspires me though his commitment. I acclimate his desire for excellence and funnel it through my need to learn how to become the best writer I can be. Right now, I’m Dwight Howard just out of high school and I know I have to put in the time to advance immaterial “potential”. Nothing is given to you. Nothing. There is no easy way. If you were in fact given something early on, there is going to be a moment where your ability will be questioned and it’s up to you to summon whatever is inside of you to see it through. No whining, crying, making excuses or any of that.
Set the bar high and achieve it.
Kobe has set the NBA bar so incredibly high it’s gonna take something really special to surpass his weathered eyes and mind of determined fury.
Not getting along with his own Mom and Pop?
Committing adultery in front of the world?
Losing all his endorsements?
Haters calling him selfish for scoring 81(second all time) points in a win where he shoots 28-46? What?
Steve Nash winning two MVP awards?
Dirk Nowitzki winning the next year? Seriously?
Dwyane Wade winning Finals MVP with his former teammate Shaq in support?
Tim Duncan shutting up and playing until the final buzzer 4 seasons past?
Olympic hatred from our own people here in America?
Boston winning by 39 on their way to a championship he thought was his?
Tell me how my ass tastes?
LeBron James winning MVP a year after Bryant took the Lakers to the Finals and was the definitive favorite this season? Huh?
Ron Ron and the Rockets attempting to take the Lakers mental and physical will?
Denver trading for Chauncey Billups just to beat his squad?
Mizzo and everyone else calling the Lakers soft defensively?
He can’t win it without Shaquille?
Kobe has dealt with a lot of BS…self induced and otherwise…but has fought through the drama to become one of the most unique champions we’ve had since Mike.
Wade had Shaq.
He too has help. He wouldn’t have won the title without the contributions of all of his mates…Pau Gasol, LO, Trevor and Derek Fisher specifically…but his leadership and drive was the strike force on a team led by arguably the greatest NBA coach of all time.
It’s not that Phil Jackson is lucky. He’s won championships with Mike and Scottie (6), Shaq and Kobe (3) and now has one with Kobe, Gasol and Lamar.
Jackson is a perfectionist so he’s not one to deal with stretched out drama. If you remember or have read stories of Phil Jackson the player, you know he didn’t take any stuff from anyone. He expected nothing but the best and when you are coaching, you want to bypass everything that prohibits a player from properly focusing on winning the championship.
In Kobe Bryant, he has an athlete who encompasses everything great. Kobe leads by example. He’s a coach and has had to learn what leadership is all about. Emulating Michael Jordan, Kobe in his mind has dissected the game in ways one could only imagine.
James Beale of the City Paper here in Philly and I were trying to simplify what Kobe sees on the floor and James mentioned that it’s quite possible Kobe sees the floor as a grid.
Kobe may drive on an angle here or bank a shot there. Pass here or bomb a three there. Implement players into that grid and his thoughts become more streamlined to navigate the obstacles before him. It’s not that he diminishes NBA talent, he just knows what to do in a moment regardless of who is guarding him from studying film like no other.
Kobe is as close to Michael Jordan at this stage in his career as we will most likely see…well at least until LeBron gets his bearings and advances his learning curve.
Maybe you do in fact have to go through something. Life slows down the game. I tell my kids there is no such thing as athletic pressure.
Pressure is a fireman in a dark hot child screaming room or a construction worker working 100 stories high on two hours sleep. Pressure is not sports.
You have to become the moment and make it yours. Two seconds left on the clock, down one and walking to the line with 20,000 screaming fans moving frantically beyond the glass with hate in their eyes? You better want it. You better not shrink up. Let ‘em hang and bang two with grown man courage.
Not many athletes see it that way. Maybe it’s the way they were raised. Maybe it’s entitlement but regardless of what the case may be, there are few players who want the entire universe on their back with it all on the line.
One of them is Kobe. The only other true champion in the NBA is Tim Duncan. Everyone else is questionable.
The crazy thing is, Kobe is still in his prime. Judge yourselves accordingly because he ain’t done yet. All that GOAT stuff is a bunch of BS but trust…he’s coming for you Mike.
How it all ends up is up to him.
|LOS ANGELES LAKERS|
|Trevor Ariza, SF||41||5-12||2-5||3-6||1||4||5||1||2||0||3||3||+12||15|
|Pau Gasol, FC||42||6-9||0-0||2-4||4||11||15||3||0||4||1||2||+15||14|
|Andrew Bynum, C||17||3-11||0-0||0-1||4||1||5||0||1||0||1||5||-6||6|
|Kobe Bryant, SG||43||10-23||2-5||8-8||0||6||6||5||2||4||1||2||+14||30|
|Derek Fisher, PG||32||4-7||1-1||4-4||0||4||4||2||0||0||1||4||+16||13|
|Lamar Odom, PF||32||5-12||3-3||4-5||3||7||10||0||1||0||3||4||+16||17|
|Luke Walton, SF||14||1-2||0-1||0-0||1||1||2||1||0||0||0||0||+1||2|
|Jordan Farmar, PG||14||1-3||0-1||0-0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||-2||2|
|Sasha Vujacic, SG||5||0-1||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||-1||0|
|Josh Powell, FC||DNP COACH’S DECISION|
|Shannon Brown, SG||DNP COACH’S DECISION|
|D.J. Mbenga, C||DNP COACH’S DECISION|
|43.8%||50.0%||75.0%||Team TO (pts off): 12 (16)|
|+/- denotes team’s net points while the player is on the court.|
|Hedo Turkoglu, SF||42||4-8||1-1||3-4||0||2||2||3||1||0||2||5||-11||12|
|Rashard Lewis, PF||45||6-19||3-12||3-5||1||9||10||4||1||0||2||3||-14||18|
|Dwight Howard, C||39||5-9||0-0||1-3||2||8||10||1||1||3||3||5||-14||11|
|Courtney Lee, SG||26||5-11||0-2||2-2||1||3||4||1||1||0||0||3||-6||12|
|Rafer Alston, PG||33||5-15||1-6||1-2||1||4||5||3||2||0||3||5||-16||12|
|Mickael Pietrus, SG||17||2-5||0-1||0-0||0||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||-13||4|
|Jameer Nelson, PG||13||2-7||1-3||0-0||0||2||2||4||0||0||1||0||+2||5|
|Tony Battie, C||3||0-1||0-0||0-0||1||1||2||1||0||0||0||1||+1||0|
|Marcin Gortat, C||9||2-4||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||+1||4|
|J.J. Redick, SG||13||3-3||2-2||0-0||0||0||0||3||0||0||1||1||+5||8|
|Adonal Foyle, C||DNP COACH’S DECISION|
|Anthony Johnson, PG||DNP COACH’S DECISION|
|41.5%||29.6%||62.5%||Team TO (pts off): 13 (17)|
|+/- denotes team’s net points while the player is on the court.|
Flagrant Fouls: None
Technical Fouls: PLAYERS: 2 ORLANDO ( H Turkoglu 1 ) LALAKERS ( T Ariza 1 ) – TEAMS (def3sec): None – COACHES: None
Officials: Ken Mauer , Dan Crawford , Joe Derosa
Time of Game: 02:31