You've heard of these lyrics before sung by hit rap artist Eminem:
"....it just might be the next best thing, but not quite me."
— lyrics from hit song "The Real Slim Shady" by Eminem
NBA futurists (there are people under that classification) need to stop: there will never be
another Kobe Bryant. The Black Mamba
has made his staple into proving he can hold his own against, and within, the likes of Michael Jordan
and other basketball legends, and Kobe is no exception. When it comes to talks like this, people and fans easily bring in numbers into the discussion which, of course, is fine. However, we're tackling the subject over Kobe as a whole.
And while it's likely that there may exist an NBA player who may surpass Kobe's high score of 81 points, but unlikely surpassing the late, great Wilt Chamberlain's 100 points
, Kobe has forged his own path to success. With the Charlotte Hornets trading him to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Vlade Divac
, Laker fans can only imagine how bleak a future may have been had that trade not happen (considering the reaction one gets during Draft day). Then again, Kobe likely would've demanded a sign-in or a trade to a bigger market team. While team owners like Mark Cuban
can continually yap all day how he could've convinced Kobe that one time into signing with the Dallas Mavericks
, it just adds to the value of this vicious snake's basketball performance on the court.
While those who've disliked him for years, especially his incident in 2004 convicted of assault, you can't argue: Kobe has bypassed any, and every, debbie-downers and haters just to get a shot of going back on the court to play basketball. Speaking of bypassing, he has done the same to most of the injuries he has suffered (except his Achilles injury). Today's basketball players sit out over a common cold or a sore finger, but to Kobe's surmise, that means very little. NBA legends like Larry Bird has done the same.
Kobe has also sported a reputation in his love for the game, so much so that he wrote a farewell poem declaring his official retirement from the game he has loved in the 2015-2016 NBA season
. During contract expirations, there have been times when Kobe takes a bit of a pay cut just so he could go back and continue playing basketball. While winning is often the goal of competing, it seems that as long as Kobe is playing basketball, the world is at peace (hello, Ron Artest aka "Metta World Peace").
The underlying message? Since it's easy for an aspiring basketball athlete to express how much he loves the game, and even crying over it why it's his escape, it will not be as genuine as Kobe Bryant.
Two things: inflated egos and higher contracts. Oh, yeah, despite that Tim Duncan should be given some credit for his passive yet okay path to basketball success, it's the blood, sweat and tears shed by the venomous purple & gold snake. On the business side, no athlete has ever stayed with the same team for a highly respectable 20 years in his career
—something millennials should learn from as they've made quitting their jobs a trend in the corporate world
. Like the quote from the lyrics I posted above, there are prospects that may have the "NBA Legend's Blood" in (re)creating the beauty and excitement in the sport of basketball, but not quite like Kobe. LeBron James? He's done some. Stephen Curry? Looking good so far but there's still more that meets the eye. Kevin Durant? Slowly but surely. If I were to be convinced that an athlete has the blood, the loyalty and the dedication in placing half their lives in playing basketball like Kobe has, I may give some respect. However, don't get too hyped about it because the quality lacking among most of these NBA players is loyalty (ask any fan who went from being a Cavs "fan" to a Heat "fan," after LeBron announced his decision in signing with Miami during his free agency madness back in 2010
What does it take to be like Kobe? Easy: make your own path and create your own legendary story, while taking some hits and misses with stride. Nobody is born a winner (except being born in it of itself), and we all have to start somewhere. Don't forget, Kobe was
a bench warmer, before becoming team captain years later. Where it leads, how long its path to success is and how rough the road is are challenges that test your wits and decision making. Apply those variables into the equation back when Kobe publicly spoke his distaste playing alongside Shaquille O'Neal when the Lakers lost an appalling 4-1 in the 2004 NBA Finals series against the Detroit Pistons
It's easy to mock and slander Kobe for all he's done in the NBA, even though he has silenced critics with his jaw-dropping plays and stayed with an organization known for having the toughest fans in the pro basketball world, but one thing is something to consider: after MJ's departure, Kobe made basketball fun again.
To college, NBA and other pro basketball recruitment teams reading this: don't pressure yourself in the search of finding another grand superstar. On the upside, see your paychecks quadruple when you one day discover that one athlete who can spark immediate interests among sports fans all over the world, becomes a household name, revolutionize the sport and even get us to pick up a basketball to play outside because he has made basketball an exciting pastime.
Mad props, Kobe, and a HUGE thank you from myself personally, and all of us here at SPORTSSOTROS! and SHOWSOTROS! Productions. Whether you become head coach, basketball commentator/analyst or an NBA writer, enjoy the future and relish at the amazing career you've pursued and all the fans you've entertained throughout the years. True respect.
Also, Kobe, I still have your cards; Show off yours too by joining Beckett Marketplace! Subscribe to Beckett's price guides which includes free shipping:
1. ESPN Dallas: Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki on the same team?
2. The Player's Tribune: "Dear Basketball"
3. NPR: Kobe Bryant Announces Retirement (In The Form of a Poem)
4. FOX Sports: Kobe says best decision he made in his 20-year career came very early
5. Bloomberg Business: Have Millennials Made Quitting More Common?
6. NBA.com: LeBron James makes his pick: He's going to Miami
7. ESPN SportsNation: Today marks five years since LeBron James' "Decision," which got us thinking about other NBA breakups
8. Lakers Nation: Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal Discuss 2004 Off-Season Breakup
9. Images: Kobe Bryant (2014) above picture by Wikipedia.org