This Is It, Kobe

Kobe Face

Kobe Face

33,000 points later, 5 rings, an MVP and a legacy as one of the game’s most brilliant villains, Kobe Bryant is hanging them up. April 13th (thanks to Nike) is being dubbed “Mamba Day” as Kobe and the shell of a team he’s leaving take on the Utah Jazz at Staples Center. Ticket prices are in another universe, celebrities will be scattered around the arena and the KOBE chants will be deafening.

While the victory lap has come to an end for Kobe, the page will turn on his playing days and we will be left with that lasting image of him. What exactly will that be?

On one hand, you have the incredibly skilled, relentless worker so dedicated to his craft no amount of shots or time of day was out of reason. He delivered championships — both with Shaq and without — to Los Angeles, put on tremendous scoring displays and acts of remarkable toughness.

On the other hand, you have a selfish, self-centered player whose arrogance alienated him from teammates. He cracked the Zen Master himself, as Phil Jackson wrote in his book, he’d “had it” with the kid and could not coach him (they have since mended fences). And of course there was the rape charges from 2003 in Colorado.

D34B4R epa03570040 Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant walks up court during a break against the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, USA, 05 February 2013. EPA/ANDREW GOMBERT CORBIS OUT

Brilliant? Yes. Bold? Definitely. Flawed? That too.

Still, love him or hate him, Kobe has supplied us with memories that are lasting to be sure. For all that he put into his individual career, his work and dedication must be saluted. His entry to the league raised eyebrows as he set expectations for himself sky high. His early struggles (see Utah air balls) were quickly settled by advanced skill. Then, came success with the likes of Shaq and Phil Jackson, including a three-peat.

Storm clouds moved in and extinguished the torch that was to be passed.  A rape trial sullied his image, and nearly killed his marketability.  His ego could not co-exist with Shaq in LA.  He evened explored playing for another team.  It was seemingly the end of the line for Kobe in the purple and gold.

Out of this, came the Black Mamba.  Kobe embraced the boos opposing fans and the dislike of his peers.  His skills were more polished — making difficult shots, flawless footwork and an assassain’s killer instinct.  His game was at an all-time high and the Lakers hung two more banners as a result.

It’s now come to an end.  Bryant’s career was truly remarkable.  He played with a hunger to be at the table among the all-time best, and he has earned that seat.  He won’t be remembered with the reverence of Michael or as beloved as Magic, but he will be not forgotten.  The one and only, Kobe.

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