Curly Morris

I Am ‘Not’ Legend

In Sports on June 18, 2008 at 3:11 pm

Anyone who has ever read anything that I’ve written about Kobe Bryant knows that I have been a huge fan of his…and I still am.

Kobe has treated us to some of the most memorable moments the NBA has seen in the post Jordan era.

Unfortunately he has also given his fans some disappointment to go along with his hoops greatness.

While his infidelity, smugness and often abrasive personality has given rise to quite a bit of unnecessary venom from sportswriters and NBA fans, his basketball skill has usually been unchallenged.

This season had been a sort of coronation of Bryant as he finally seemed to come from under the shadow of the baggage he had accumulated over the years; The Shaquille O’Neal trade, the Eagle Colorado sexual assault trial, the so called selfish on-court play as well as his willingness to throw his teammates and management under the bus.

He won his first NBA MVP award and he finally led his team back to the NBA Finals in a season that began with his tenure as a Laker in serious doubt.

Bryant and the Lakers’ blitzkrieg of the Western Conference in this year’s post season had many basketball pundits etching L.A.’s name on the Larry O’Brien trophy before they had even stepped on the floor for Game 1 against the Celtics, present company included.

Even after the Lakers went down two games to zero, most people thought that once Kobe went home to play in front of his Hollywood pals, the series would dramatically alter course.
It almost did.

After wining an ugly Game 3 at home, the Lakers started Game 4 playing as if the Boston Celtics didn’t even belong in the same league as them. Then came the biggest collapse in Finals history and the writing was on the wall. Surely Number 23 would never have given up a 24 point lead at home.

Like the guy in the GMC commercials that saturated the Finals coverage said;
Kids in America don’t walk around with shirts that say “I almost won.

This was supposed to be Kobe’s year. It was all laid out for him. The stars appeared to be aligned in just the correct sequence for us to witness another Jordanesqe moment of KB 24 as we all prepared for the inevitable tears and champagne that would finally solidify Bryant as being truly “like Mike”.

But alas, there will be no cheers in Tinseltown. No parades down Rodeo Drive. No I told you so from Kobe or his legion of fans.

After Game 4’s meltdown, the Lakers managed to win an even uglier Game 5 to send the series back to Boston with a chance to make history. More importantly a chance for Kobe to make his own history.

No team had ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the Finals. Surely if there was a player who could pull off the impossible, it was the guy who once scored 81 points in a single game. The guy who once outscored the Western Conference Champions by himself over three quarters. The guy who once scored over 50 points in four straight games.

The moment was there for Kobe to seize and KB24 fans waited with baited breath to say to the world we told you so. But the moment never came.

Bryant nailed three shots from the behind the arc in the early moments of the first quarter in Game 6 and I thought to myself, those shots were pure liquid.

I had flashbacks of Jordan dropping 63 on Bird and Co. in 1986.

But that was it. The highlights were over as Boston’s suffocating defense and spirited bench play eventually ran the Lakers out of the gym by halftime.

Forget the controversy surrounding the officiating. Forget the fact that the Celtics did in fact play superior defense than Lakers, (who looked like they were studying the George Karl defensive play book). Forget the fact that Doc Rivers was schooling Phil Jackson on the bench. Forget even the fact that Kobe’s supporting cast never really showed up for the Finals.

I, we, were waiting for the moment when Bryant said forget this, it’s time for me to take charge.

The moment(s) never came. The victory by sheer willpower never materialized. In these Finals, Kobe played a little too much team ball and too little ‘Black Mamba’ ball.

Kobe may very well be the most talented player to ever lace ’em up, he certainly has the statistics to argue the point.

But unless he rattles off about three titles in a row, these Finals will be the blemish that all of his detractors will point to as the moment we all had to face the fact that maybe Kobe really isn’t like Mike.

Bryant still has a lot of basketball left in his tank, but with younger players like LeBron James, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant hot on his tail, his window is closing sooner rather than later.

Maybe Kobe fans should just take the 81 point game, the scoring titles, the three rings with Shaq, the MVP award and enjoy it, because maybe we won’t get much else.

All in all a superb, Hall-of_fame career without question.

But when Kobe had a chance to become a legend, well, he just didn’t make it happen.

Not yet anyway, maybe not ever.

  1. I’m not altogether sure how even a miraculous or NBA staged Laker victory in the oh-ate finals against Boston would have given even the most dedicated Kobe fans the grounds to say “I told you so.” I mean, he did end the prior season saying he’d rather play on Jupiter. And it’s amazing how everyone keeps talking about him winning a ring without Shaq…as if the Lakers haven’t given him Lamar Odom, the return of the championship point guard & coach, and not one but TWO seven footers trying to replace Shaq. And this makes sense to you? By the way, the Shaq trade was hours? Days? Weeks? No YEARS ago. And why did the NBA approve that Gasol trade and watch a franchise commit suicide like that? This is the same league that would not approve a trade that would have sent Juwan Howard to join Zo’ and P.J. Brown down in Miami when all three of them were young players. But they watched Memphis trade away it’s only ball player for Kwame Brown!?!?!?!?! Did anyone else see that trade happen?
    No Curly, there was no unncesary venom directed at Kobe Bryant. Kobe needed to grow up. The only difference between him and Vince Carter & Tracey Mcgrady is Kobe has had the luxury of Phil Jackson and a line-up of straight ballers to take over games at different times. Trust me, I know how you feel, I was a Stephon fan for a minute. Steph’, several times, has also shown the ability to score points, but he never matured and developed a winners’ mentality. Scoring 81 points in a game just makes you another World B. Free or Lafayette Lever to me.
    The Kobe story reminds me of the Mike Tyson story. You had an immature, paranoid, social derelict running around swearing the world is against them while being followed around by a fan base full identical personalities. And they each have their own hotel room war story to compare at a bar. “Aye dog, you remember when I took that chick to room?” “Yeah dog, I took a chick to the room too!” Cracked me up when that black and white adidas commercial came out with Kobe scowling at the camera as if WE made him take that girl to his room. Sports reporters didn’t cost that boy his sprite and Mcdonald’s deals, he did.
    Kobe showed up to practice for the China games and asked to be the primary defender. He grew up. Kobe took on the responsibility of “wrestling a bear” as he called checking ‘Melo in the Western final. He grew up and became a winner. That third quarter of game six, when Kobe took over against Denver was the classic taking over of a game you talk about. He evolved. That kid he was before that is an entity that I’m amazed anyone could root for. He wouldn’t even listen to his father who TOLD him he was too young to get married. By the way, is it true that he met that girl walking outside of her high school……..? Wow.
    Oh well, now that he has his own personal Dennis Rodman, let’s see if he can really be compared to air.

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