06 Dec Kobe Bryant, Leaving Legend
12 teams passed before the Charlotte Hornets picked 18 year old Kobe Bryant in the 1996 NBA draft. Today, only two players have scored more points than Kobe in the history of the NBA:
That’s how far this journey has gone.
Drafted straight out of Lower Merion High School, the young Kobe quickly rose to fame and captured the imagination of basketball fans with his trademark smile and highlight reel basketball moves. But the transition from high school phenom to NBA legend wasn’t easy. Remember those airballs against the Utah Jazz in his first ever playoff appearance?
We thought those would break the high school kid in Bryant, but we were wrong. It made him grow up to become the Black Mamba we fell in love with.
Kobe came back stronger the following season and has made 36 game winning baskets for the Lakers since then:
Not only did Bryant hit 36 game winners, he won not one…not two….not three, but five NBA titles and countless individual awards and citations:
But after 20 seasons, the wear and tear of a long career has taken its toll on Bryant, just as it did with the other great players of the past. The last two season have ended unceremoniously with serious injuries.:
And while Bryant’s sheer determination has brought him back to playing full throttle once again, the prolific scorer we once knew is gone. Kobe’s current scoring average is the lowest since his rookie season while his FG% is the worst in his career. But those aren’t the stats we’ll remember him for because 32,748 career points ( as of 12.4.15) and counting defines Kobe Bryant’s legacy as one of the most lethal offensive weapons the game has ever seen.
His Lakers have opened the season 3-16 and have the worst record in the Western Conference and second worst overall in the entire league. But we’ll remember Kobe’s Lakers as the most dominant team when this millennium began. Remember the 4th quarter comeback against the Blazers in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals?
That alley-oop started a dynasty that would win three consecutive NBA titles from 2000-2002. But just when we though we’d see the next Chicago Bulls blossom, Shaquille O’Neal left for Miami and Kobe was left on his own. Critics doubted if he’s ever win a title without the Big Aristotle, but Kobe has won two and Shaw just one since the break-up, which made us wonder who was really the hero and the sidekick. But that is not important because each was an equal part of one of the greatest Lakers team of All-time. And yes, because Kobe Bryant isn’t just a hero:
As Kobe said his ode to the sport in “Dear Basketball“ , we were of course saddened. But if there was any consolation to the announcement, it was that Bryant knew when to call it quits and did so on his own terms. That was true greatness. Because no matter how great he was (and still is), nobody is invincible against the invisible opponent called father time. Even the greatest of the greats, legend of legends bowed to father time.
Kobe Bryant is no different.
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