Kobe Bryant Is Still “Kobe,” Even After All These Years

With the 12th pick in the 1996 NBA draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Vitaly Potapenko.

That was the pick before Kobe Bryant.

I love to look back at little things like that because no one had any clue back then what Kobe would turn out to be.  And just check out some of the names in that draft.  Allen Iverson,  Antoine Walker, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Stephon Marbury, Jermaine O’Neal, and Ray Allen.  When you think of Kobe Bryant, do you think of him in that class of eldery and former ballers?

Probably not.

Kobe, amazingly, still has that “Kobe” aura about him.  And honestly, he’s not THAT far off from where he was.  His 25.3 points per game average this year is his EXACT career average.  And this is his 15th season. In fact, today will be his 199th career playoff game. That’s almost an extra two and a half full NBA seasons in just playoff games alone.

It’s been a long road for him.  And that road is going to come to an end… sooner rather than later.  Just look at the lengths its taken to keep Kobe at this level

Bryant this season had two options that ran contrary to the very crux of who he is … and he actually picked them both. Bryant almost completely stopped taking part in Lakers practice. And he played five minutes fewer per Lakers game than last season.

Just to get him through 82 games… and however many more in what will probably be ANOTHER long playoff run… he had to completely dial it back in practice and cut his regular season playing time. Kobe has a bothersome right knee, a sore left ankle, and fingers that point in more different directions than the signpost in M*A*S*H.  There won’t be much more that he can take before he says enough is enough.

I, for one, will be sad to see Kobe go.  I, as a Celtics fan, have quite enjoyed hating Kobe.  And let’s be clear, I really hate Kobe.  I think the slur he yelled at the ref was reprehensible and a sign that his temper can get the best of him.  I think he is selfish, brooding and, to sum it up, a jerk.

But the league needs its villains to keep the storylines interesting.  It needs the “oh, I hate that guy” player to keep people interested in games they might not otherwise watch.  LeBron James did a fine job of lining himself up as the successor, but it won’t be the same.

So I look at Kobe, despite the ire he draws in me when he juts his jaw, and acknowledge that any player that can keep doing what he’s done for this long is impressive.  Any player that can maintain that level of play with that many miles on his legs has to work hard at it.  So I can’t rightfully admire the dedication, hard work, and high level of play of a guy like Ray Allen while ignoring Kobe just because Ray’s a class act and the sight of Kobe makes me taste bile.

Strip all that extraneous crap away for a moment and you’ll see that Kobe Bryant is, simply, one of the all-time greats.  And soon enough, he’ll be gone just like all the others.  Part of me will say good riddance to a human being I just can’t stand, but part me will miss the player who put on a mind-boggling show.