2007 MVP, 4-time All-Star MVP, 2-time Finals MVP, 18-time All-Star, and 5-time NBA champion aren’t the first things that come to mind when I think of Kobe Bryant. When I think of Kobe, I don’t think of his 81-point game and his many other scoring feats. Instead I think about his 12-time All-Defensive Team selection and his record 20 seasons with the Lakers. I think of how he once dislocated his finger mid-game, put it back in place on the bench, and then subbed himself back in. I think about all of the time that he spent in the gym working on his shot. His work ethic and loyalty was unparalleled by any other player in NBA history.
Kobe Bryant was the son of Joe Bryant, a professional basketball player, and he was born in Philadelphia. As a kid, his favorite team was the Los Angeles Lakers. He first gained national attention as a gifted basketball player during his career at Lower Marion High School. He played all five positions, and in his senior year, he led his school to their first state championship in 53 years. When he was 17 he declared for the NBA draft, and would become the first guard to ever be drafted out of high school.
Kobe’s style of play throughout his career would constantly be compared to that of Michael Jordan, his high school idol. He studied his moves, his footwork and his form. This translated into the development of Kobe as a player, gaining similar traits and strengths that Jordan had in his prime. He attacked the rim with elegance and finesse, had impeccable footwork in the post, and boasted arguably the greatest fadeaway jumpshot in NBA history.
On his last NBA game nobody expected much of him. In almost all of his games this season he had consistently shot poorly and had far past his former greatness. In fact, most of his last season consisted of him sitting on the bench wrapped up in ice packs over his countless injuries and his old age. A few people jokingly asked him to drop 50 points in his last game, and even Kobe himself laughed it off. However when the time arrived, he turned back the clock for the greatest career ending game in NBA history. It was expected that he would just score maybe 15 points, and that the Jazz would easily roll over the Lakers. Instead, Kobe dropped 60 points shooting 44% for his sixth career game with at least 60 points. His clutch play down the stretch actually led the Lakers to win the game, and more importantly, it made Kanye smile.
I loved and hated Kobe for almost his entire career. I wanted him to lose the finals against Boston in ’07 and ’08, yet I wear his number. I hated how he yelled at his own teammates consistently and nobody liked playing with him, even though I have a huge poster of him in my room. I shake my head at his inefficiency, but I’ve made his fadeaway baseline jumpshot my signature move. There are numerous reasons to love and hate Kobe, and oddly enough, this is what has made him my favorite player ever. Curry is amazing in every aspect but I can never say that he was always my favorite player, especially early in his career. LeBron is great, but he travels on the court and to different teams more than a United Airlines flight attendant. His Airness, Michael Jordan, is truly the greatest player to have ever played, but to me he just seemed too perfect, and too unattainable, and I had never actually seen him play. Kobe was a human and less perfect version of MJ. He was the Michael Jordan of my generation, and he still inspires with his tremendous work ethic. This entire NBA season has been about the Warriors and Kobe’s farewell from the league. Fans from every team, including even the Celtics fans, which, with the Lakers, share possibly the greatest and longest standing NBA rivalry, have applauded Kobe on his final games in their home courts. You can hate Kobe all you want, but it’s clear that he embodied greatness every time he stepped on the court.