As we all know the NBA is by far my favorite sport. While I flirt with MMA, and cheat with Football 20 something weeks a year, The NBA will always be where my Heart is.
Soo... With all the Knicks and Lebron talk going on today, it made me realize something.
Long time blog readers brace yourself.
Kobe Bryant may not be that bad...
I know, I thought I was going to be struck by lightning when I typed that last sentence as well.
But honestly, Kobe has been steadily wearing down my hatred since 2008. That was the year that he eschewed surgery on a fractured pinkie, took his game to another level during game 5 of The Spurs series when he single handily and coldy destroyed the Spurs season by himself. And yeah, he played like shit(for a top 10 alltime player) in the Finals against the Celtics but then immediately turned around and became the unselfish(never though those words would be associated with the Mamba) defense stopper and crunch time scorer for The Redeem Team where he again put on his Superman cape and rescued the US with a huge 4 point play in the Gold Medal Game against Spain.
But Kobe wasn't done.
Rather than get healthy during the summer, he worked out with Hakeem Olajuwon adding a ridiculous array of spin moves and up and unders from the post to preserve his body and keep him from having to drive to the basket to score.
Oh yeah, then he won his first championship without Shaq, played another grueling 110 game season. Did he have surgery in the offseason, maybe chill out on a beach? Nope Kobe stayed in the gym, Another 110 games, 7 game winning shots, shoulder and knee injuries, and another championship.
There's no way to compare those numbers to any other guard EVER unless we start to tread on holy ground by comparing him to # 23 from Chicago.
From 2008-2010(and counting) Kobe has been Superman, John Mcclane and Michael Myers all rolled into one. He takes the opponents best shot and keeps moving forward. The bullets bounce off, they throw their guns at him and he still keeps coming. He works harder than everyone else, he NEVER gets hurt, he always shows up, and he remains the most intimidating layer in the league regardless of size. Plus he's still the one player you don't want with the ball in his hand down 1 with 6 seconds to go.
And then there's this whole Lebron debacle.
At the time I wrote something like " Say what you want about Kobe Bryant but he would NEVER do this."
In the era of the instant gratification superstar, where Nike sponsored Superteams pop up in South Florida and guys like Carmelo tell their front office that they'll only sign an extension if they're traded somewhere they can team up with another Superstar, Kobe stands almost alone as a true franchise player who welcomes the pressure of being The Man every night.
On a recent podcast, Bill Simmons said the best part of the decision(purposeful lowercase) was imagining Kobe watching it, shaking his head, calling those guys pussies and heading out for a late workout. I totally agree. Unlike Lebron who fled the first chance he got to play on Dwayne Wade's Miami Heat, Kobe basically forced a top 12 player of all time out of town so he could be the Man.
Kobe's even won me over a little with his personality. He's given up trying to be nice, polite or fake. He's not even holding his kids during press conference anymore.
I started to turn around on Kobe, when Shaq tried to disingenuously pretend that his feud with Kobe was all marketing at the 2008 All Star game. Shaq playing out his days on a bad Phoenix team was desperately trying to get back in Phil Jackson's and Kobe's good graces in hopes of a Lakers reunion. Kobe spit venom in interviews speaking on reunions and blew Shaq's "marketing" story out of the water. Then when he won his 5th title last year, the first thing he said was " I got one more than Shaq now". Recently he had a mini tirade when asked about his knee where he dropped the f bomb about 50 times. I honestly think watching Tiger Woods' fake image come crashing down, showed Kobe that if he wants to be remembered long term for his game, he should just be himself. A hired killer.
And then there was my favorite Kobe quote, a quote that I could NEVER see Lebron making in 10 years when his career is where Kobe's is now. Kobe had heaped praise on Derrick Rose( Not for nothing as the kid's playing at an MVP level and making the Bulls must see TV) the reporters then asked if he was ready to symbollicly pass the torch to which Kobe winced and said " I'm not ready to pass shit."
I can't believe I'm saying this, but for the sake of the NBA, Thank God.