Tag Archives: Steve Nash

Kobe Bryant: Facing A Reality

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THE INTRO

When I first started watching basketball, Michael Jordan was no longer that guy. Gary Payton was washed up. Karl Malone was ring chasing. John Stockton was taking up space. Charles Barkley and Hakeem Olajuwon were gone. Scottie Pippen and Reggie Miller were shells of themselves. Patrick Ewing was no where to be found, and Clyde Drexler was out. The league itself was vastly different.

When my interest in the NBA peaked, Allen Iverson was dominant. Tracy McGrady and his cousin Vince Carter were stellar. Shaq and Kobe were a hell of a tandem. Kevin Garnett was elite. Dirk and Steve Nash were coming into their own. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were making noise in the East. And Tim Duncan was just extremely boring. (I know I left off guys like David Robinson and Jason Kidd off but y’all get the point.)

Out of all of those guys though, there was no one I liked more than Kobe Bean Bryant.

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MY STORY

When it came to Kobe there wasn’t anything you could tell me.

You couldn’t diss his game, talk about his personality, or belittle him in any way without me being ready to argue.

In my family and amongst my small group of friends, everyone has had atleast that one specific guy they watched faithfully and would go to war for.

My father’s guy was Magic; my uncle’s guy was Jordan; my mom’s guy was Isiah Thomas; my great grandfather’s guy was a tie between Larry Bird and Julius Irving.

They followed their guys faithfully, like I’m doing now and tried to tell me it’s not going to be a happy ending. I didn’t really believe them until that foresight became a reality.

Personally I thought they were full of s#!% and didn’t know what the hell they were talking about; until I sat down and thought about each player.

MJ’s downfall was him coming back and playing at age 40 for the Washington Wizards. Larry Bird’s career couldn’t continue because his back was out of sorts. Isiah’s career ended after he tore his Achilles. Magic on the other hand retired due to the HIV/AIDS situation. He later came back and wasn’t the same guy.

My guy is in the same boat at this point in time.

A few years back I was in denial. I’ll own up to it. I had just witnessed the Lakers lose in five games to a hungry OKC team (2012) that featured the likes of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. In response, I looked for excuses to help Kobe out.

The thing is, there weren’t any.

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THE OBVIOUS

In that specific series, Westbrook was tearing him apart, Harden was giving him buckets, and Durant was giving him fits with his length making it hard for him to score. As a matter of fact, James Harden was playing him tough defensively as well. The whole series in general wasn’t pretty. Kobe couldn’t get to his spots, he couldn’t contain anyone and he was a step slow.

That series against OKC ended a four series stretch of Kobe struggling. Against Dallas in 2011, he struggled against Shawn Marion and others from that championship team; losing 4-0. The series prior to that, he struggled against Chris Paul and his no help Hornets; winning 4-2, and in the series against Denver prior to the OKC matchup, Kobe struggled against the fast paced Nuggets. That series went the distance 4-3 and was more about Andrew Bynum.

That series against OKC ended his Postseason career.

At that point in time, the writing on the wall was very clear to everyone else outside of me, Kobe was in his decline.

That offseason he participated in the Olympics where he was out of place and out of sorts. It was as clear as day that he didn’t belong on the court with a few of those guys. It was so obvious to the point where Coach K was reluctant to play him in certain stretches.

Even with the putrid performances in the Olympics, I still believed. Especially when the Lakers landed Dwight Howard and Steve Nash that same offseason.

When the those trades first surfaced, I was as hype as anyone. I thought Kobe would be rejuvenated and eager to play (as he always is) and I started stating a lot of other things that you generally say when a player has lost it.

But again, I was over hyped and I continued to look past the new Kobe’s obvious deficiencies in skill.

REALITY SETS IN

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During that season I wrote an article (Are You Talking About Kobe Bryant) talking about how Kobe was better than ever and stating that he was beating Father Time. From a numbers perspective I was right, but from a physical standpoint he wasn’t getting the same looks or shots that I was accustomed to seeing.

After working hard, all season long, to get the Lakers into the playoffs; Kobe’s Achilles popped days before the postseason.

I couldn’t help but shed a tear when ESPN aired his injury statement. I knew his best chance at getting ring number 6 was gone. And I also knew he was never going to be the same again.

When Kobe said he was going to comeback better and defy the odds I regained a slimmer of hope. I thought that because he was determined and hungry along with the fact that he loves to prove people wrong, then he would come back elite.

I was wrong…..

In the 2013-2014 season, after playing in 6 games Kobe broke a bone in his knee. All I could do was throw my hands up and accept it for what it was….Father Times never loses and Kobe is no longer Kobe.

He was just K.Bryant from that point on. The guy who played in six games and averaged a measly  14pts, 6ast and 4reb… No longer special.

I, as I’m sure many Lakers fans did, sulked over that demoralizing season. The Lakers were bad. Kobe was gone. What do you do now..

The NBA as a whole became unfun for me. I truly wasn’t ready to face the truth and I also didn’t have anyone else to cheer or root for. I was just uninterested.

After the season concluded and free agency along with the draft went by, I finally got over my depression. I had heard that Kobe was looking better, more fit, slimmer, and healthier.

I sat and pondered about Kobe and his recent years some more and decided I’d give it one more go. He had just turned 36 and basically had a year off.

With 36 being a fairly decent age and him having a year off for rest and to get healthy; I felt he would regain his old form…. Dumb I know.

A month or so before the season started, ESPN produced their yearly NBA Players Rankings. At first glance I was furious at how wrong they did Kobe by placing him at #40 on the list.

Guys who hadn’t accomplished anything thus far in their careers (Love, Wall, Kyrie etc) were ahead of him and I didn’t understand the reasoning until the season actually started…

This year Kobe was officially washed up. He would chuck up shot after shot. Committ turnover after turnover. And he would also get beat off the dribble damn near every defensive stance….

I mean he still had the same “I’m gonna come at you” mindset as he always did, but his ability just wasn’t anywhere close to prime Kobe.

After a series of minor injuries and players, as well as pundits, speaking out about his current style of play; Kobe became more of a facilitator.

That role suited him more since he wasn’t capable of dominating the game from a physical stand point. By using his IQ and unique passing ability he was able to prolong his season and delay the inevitable injury that was soon to come…

On Thursday, January 22nd, Kobe’s season was over. He had torn his rotators cuff in a game against the Pelicans the day before…

Three straight seasons…. Three straight season ending injuries…

TODAY

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As much as I hate to say it…. Kobe is done…

He can no longer stay healthy. He can no longer dominate games for long stretches. He can’t keep up with anyone defensively..He’s no longer that guy.. And the old guy won’t ever be returning.

Kobe’s mileage finally caught up with him: All of the long seasons that resulted in Finals apperances.. All of the playoff runs that resulted in 3rd and 2nd round exits…The hardwork he put in trying to comeback from injury… Playing in the Olympics. Everything.

ESPN was accurate when they declared that 39 players were better than Kobe. I was just too blind to see it.

Now opening my eyes I see how Rose, Bledsoe, Wall, CP3, Westbrook, Lawson, Rondo, Curry, Kyrie, Lillard, Dragic, Lowry, Parker, Beal, Ellis, Butler, Klay, Harden, DeRozan, Wade, LeBron, Durant, George, Leonard, Melo, Dirk, Love, Randolph, Griffin, Bosh, Aldridge, Davis, P.Gasol, M.Gasol, Dwight, Cousins, Noah and a few more are all better players at this point…

Now that the word is in and we know Kobe is out for nine months, we have to ask ourselves: Was that his final game?

He’s under contract for one last year after this season.. The Lakers are tanking and no one seems interested in joining a rebuilding project. I mean why should he return? He’s the 3rd leading scorer in NBA history. A 5x-NBA Champ, an MVP and is universally (peers wise) regarded as the ”Best Player” of his generation and has been deemed as the second best shooting guard to ever play the game… There is nothing left for him to prove at this point that will have any significance on where he places in NBA history.

REFLECTING BACK 

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Kobe’s demeanor and personality wasn’t liked by many.

People didn’t like the arrogance and cockiness that was coming from a sidekick (to Shaq) who wanted to be like Jordan. They would often ridicule his ambitions and aspirations as he was nothing more than a lesser version of the original. And they would also belittle his game by saying he was a ball hog and that he couldn’t pass.

It was just too soon for someone to come in and be the heir to ”His Airness”.

People often cite Kobe for piggy backing onto the likes of Shaq. They’d state that Kobe wasn’t doing anything and Shaq would do all of the work; when in reality Kobe would be the one to close games and facilitating making sure everyone was contributing. Those minor details will forever be overlooked because of how Shaq dominated the Finals’ boxscores.

By tying in the attitude factors, Kobe’s quote on quote ”Piggy Backing” on Shaq, the fallout between him and Shaq, and Phil Jackson’s quote on stating how he was ”uncoachable”, you can see why people hated Kobe so much. Throw in the rape charges and loss of endorsements and you’ll begin to see why Kobe’s fan base is a bit lackluster.

Unlike Bird, Magic, LeBron, Durant, Jordan and Doc.J, Kobe’s fan base is much smaller. Allen Iverson’s fan base may be greater because of his impact on to the whole NBA landscape.

Kobe is the NBA’s version of Tom Brady, both great players, but disliked because of their personality and accomplishments.

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ACCOLADES 

Even though his career may not fully be over, (it needs to be) he accomplished everything he should have. (Outside of two more MVPs and a few more scoring titles)

2x Olypic Gold medals

25x 50pt games

5x 60pt games

Slam Dunk Champion

MVP

2x Finals MVP

2x Scoring Champ

5x NBA Champion

9x First Team All Defense

3x Second Team All Defense

11x All-NBA First Team

2x All-NBA 2nd Team

2x All-NBA Third Team

17x Allstar Selections

4x NBA All-star Game MVP

All Rook 2nd Team

2nd Most Points in a game (81pts)

3rd All-Time Points Leader

2x Best NBA Player ESPY Award

Numerous Lakers Records

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CONCLUSION

Coming back shouldn’t be an option. He’s done enough to make a claim as a Top 10 player of all-time. The only thing he should do is accept the reality for what it is…..His time is done. Y’all have accepted it, I’ve accepted it and now he needs to accept it.

No one beats Father Time

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Ryan Fort

Twitter: RyanDFort, Fortonsports Inc

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The Rivalry That Never Was. Kobe vs LeBron

       

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Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, two of the three most talked about players in NBA History, with Michael Jordan being the other, continue to dazzle our eyes with great inseason matchups that will never translate into a much anticipated NBA Finals series.

Once LeBron ascended into a top tier player fans of the game dreamed of an NBA series that involved both LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. LeBron, like Kobe, was suppose to be the second coming of Jordan. Both Kobe and LeBron acknowledged Michael Jordan as their idol and a player they wanted to be like. LeBron adopted Jordan’s number while Kobe adopted Michael’s game and body language. Once Kobe and Shaq broke up people talked about four things, Kobe, Shaq, Duncan and LeBron. LeBron was asserting himself as an elite NBA player. He led his Cavaliers to the Playoffs and had memorable series against the Wizards and Pistons early. During that tenure LeBron James was anointed the nickname King James.

On the other side of the U.S. Kobe Bryant led his teams to the Playoffs and had memorable series against the Phoenix Suns. Each player had little to no help en route to leading their teams to the playoffs. After the 2006-2007 season (which was the year LeBron lost to the Spurs in the Finals), the Kobe LeBron Finals matchup seemed more realistic.

The following year Boston got Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, L.A got Pau Gasol, Atlanta got Mike Bibby, Dallas got Jason Kidd and Phoenix got Shaq. Not only did those trades change the NBA landscape they made the Kobe and LeBron matchup a little bit more realistic. With J-Kidd and Shaq heading out West that paved the way for LeBron and his Cavs to move up into the upperechelon of the Eastern Conference. With the Lakers acquiring Pau Gasol they became the team to beat out West.

During the Playoffs that year LeBron and his Cavs took Boston to seven games and lost while Kobe and his new sidekick, Gasol, went all the way to the NBA Finals in a matchup with Boston. Eventually the Lakers lost and had a dreadful offseason.

Before the start of the 08-09 season LeBron’s team brought in Mo Williams to help propel them to another level. To help solidify their roster even more Cleveland pulled off a trade to bring in Ben Wallace and Delonte West. After bringing those guys in talks of a Kobe vs LeBron Finals matchup intensified. After having signed both LeBron and Kobe to lucrative deals Nike started making commercials about the two meeting in the Finals. Once Playoff time came around all eyes were on LeBron and Kobe. Each player led their team to the Conference Finals but only one advanced to the NBA Finals.

LeBron and Co. faced an Orlando Magic team led by Dwight Howard. In six hard fought games the Magic outlasted the Cavaliers and sent LeBron home in the process. Kobe on the other hand, led his team past a Nuggets team that featured Carmelo Anthony. After six tough games against Denver Kobe went on to the Finals where he beat the Magic and earned his fourth ring.

Weeks after the Lakers celebrated their Championship Parade, the Cavaliers did a trade with the Phoenix Suns to bring in Shaq. Days later the Lakers sign Ron Artest. Players, fans,coaches and analysts got the sense that a Kobe and LeBron series had become inevitable. Both teams started the season off strong. Even with the great start, Cleveland felt like they needed to give LeBron more help. At the trade deadline Cleveland did a trade that brought in Antwan Jamison. GMs and Experts said that move made Cleveland the best team in the league. Weeks later the Nike commercials came back campaigning for a LeBron and Kobe showdown. People around the world got hyped up and excited until the Playoffs came around. In the 2nd round of the Playoffs the Cavaliers lost to the Boston Celtics, who go on to lose to the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

While Kobe is having fun with his 5th ring, LeBron bolts Cleveland and signs with the Miami Heat to play alongside Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Now that LeBron had Wade and Bosh nothing was suppose to keep him playing in the Finals against Kobe Bryant. Once again people anticipated a Kobe and LeBron Finals matchup, until the Dallas Mavericks shocked the world. On four magical wins the Mavericks swept the defending NBA Champions in round two of the Western Conference Playoffs.

Instead of a Kobe and LeBron showdown fans got a Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade rematch. The end result being LeBron goes home ringless and Kobeless yet again. Last year LeBron led his team to victory in the Finals against the arguably the best scorer the game has ever seen in Kevin Durant, and the OKC Thunder, who happened to beat Kobe and the Lakers two rounds earlier.

During the offseason the Heat picked up Ray Allen and the Lakers traded for Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to make one last push to the NBA Finals while Kobe is still in play. Fast-Forward about six months and we’ll be where we are today. We have the Miami Heat as the top dog in the league while the Lakers are like a lost puppy finding their way, while struggling to keep pace with the nine teams ahead of them in the Playoff Race. LeBron and Kobe have been in each of the past six NBA Finals without matching up against each other. Six straight years without one heated series between the two. We may have had some scoring battles between the two from 05-06 to 07-08  (http://www.nbauniverse.com/awards/nba_scoring_leader_year.htm),  and some nice two games matchups during the course of regular seasons between the two but thats not a true rivalry. Rivalries are made thru Playoff Series. Kobe and LeBron haven’t been in one against each other and don’t play each other enough during the season to even start one.

So stop with all the Kobe and LeBron rivalry stuff. Kobe has no true rival and LeBron doesn’t either. Kobe’s career is on the downside while LeBron’s is up North. It’s time to face the fact: Their paths will never cross.

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