The basketball world came to a screeching halt after news broke of Kobe Bryant’s torn Achilles. At the end of one of the toughest seasons you could imagine, Bryant’s leg gave out under him with just a few minutes remaining in a game against the Golden State Warriors.
A torn Achilles is a very serious injury, even for someone with the pain tolerance of Bryant. It’s possible that we won’t see Kobe Bryant suit up for the Los Angeles Lakers for another year, if at all. It’s tough to count someone like the Black Mamba out, but this is the type of injury that even the toughest players never fully recover from.
So, what is Kobe’s legacy?
Bryant is a lot of things. First and foremost, he is a basketball junkie in every sense of the word. His passion for the game is undeniable, similar to Peyton Manning’s love for football. Bryant lives, breathes, and eats basketball. Given how much money professional athletes earn to play a game, their passion should be a foregone conclusion. Sadly, it is not, and it is refreshing to see how much Kobe really loves what he does every day.
As much as we can use the word “warrior” for an athlete, Kobe Bryant is one on the floor. His pain threshold is unbelievable, constantly playing through gruesome injuries that would keep most basketball players on the bench for weeks. It has gotten to the point where we almost expect him to try to suit up the day after tearing his Achilles. The 34-year-old has logged a lot of NBA minutes over his career, which began a little early after deciding to skip college and enter the league right out of high school. Just by watching him, you get the sense that in some strange, twisted manner, Kobe loves the physical pain. It’s as if it fuels his fire, as if he wants to prove that he is great even when he can barely walk.
The Mamba is the best tough shot maker in our generation, and probably the second best ever at this. The degree of difficulty on some of his shots makes you wonder how long he had to practice that in the gym to be able to pull it out in a game. We consistently watch him shoot out of double teams, over bigger defenders, while spinning and twisting in the air, while getting fouled, etc. He hits shots that you probably shouldn’t even be able to make in a video game. It sometimes gets to a point where he is completely unguardable, where rising up with a hand in his face really doesn’t matter. Strictly from an entertainment perspective, it’s a lot of fun to watch.
Bryant is a true student of the game, constantly looking for ways to get better. As he aged and his freakish athleticism began to take a hit, he studied and worked his way to the phenomenal post game he now has in order to extend his career. Many players have an ego that won’t allow them to face the facts and evolve their game to maintain their play at a high level. While he certainly has an ego, Kobe Bryant has never been too proud to admit that he is aging and change his game. For someone who is one of the best in the world at what they do, this is undeniably admirable.
Like everyone else, however, Bryant is not without his flaws.
Kobe’s selfishness on the court and lack of trust in his teammates has become sickening over the years. He complains about his teammates, all while earning an enormous salary that makes it difficult for management to fill the roster with the talent he desires. Additionally, how many guys in the league would love to play with Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard? Time and time again, we see him choose to chuck every shot every time down the floor when he becomes frustrated with how the game is going. He has never fully trusted most of his teammates, who are the best in the world at what they do. I have seen accomplished, middle-aged business men give more trust to a 20-year-old intern. It is true that great players want to have control of the game, but the truly great players realize that making the right basketball play is more important than living and dying with their own pride.
Offensively, Kobe Bryant will always be overrated. His career offensive rating, which measures points per 100 possessions, is a solid 112. To put this in perspective, here are some other career offensive ratings for notable shooting guards: James Harden (121), Reggie Miller, (121), Michael Jordan (118), Clyde Drexler (114), Ray Allen (114), Dwyane Wade (111), Vince Carter (109). Bryant has never taken the most high-value shots, layups and three-pointers, noticeably dragging down his efficiency. Bryant has never had a season where his win shares have ranked better than 97th all-time. This is not to say that Kobe is the 97th best player of all-time, and he should not be compared to Vince Carter. But the fact is that his offensive efficiency has never matched the hype machine.
Off the court, he is far from a role model. Much like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant is a womanizer, cheating on his wife Vanessa over and over again. There was the incident in Colorado that is certainly sketchy to say the least. This isn’t to say that we should expect our professional athletes to be role models, but who they are as people is a part of their legacy.
However you feel about Kobe Bryant, he is one of a kind. You never hope to see an injury like this happen to anyone, and it hurts to see it happen to someone who takes his job so seriously.
Kobe Bryant has always attacked the game, and played it on his terms. Now, it’s sad to see that he may be forced out of it on someone else’s terms.
-Mark Evans, Assistant Manager/Editor of Content
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