Last night, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers took on the Miami Heat. It was a close game with several ties and lead changes. In the end, the Heat was able to pull off a victory. Miami celebrated as if this game was in June and not in early March, but with their current challenges, I understood. It probably felt like a load was lifted and I’m sure beating the reigning champions helps boost team self esteem. However, it was what happened after the game that got my attention. Someone on Twitter posted the picture below:
This is Kobe Bryant after the game working on his shot. I suppose that’s not a big deal but when you consider it’s Miami it seems outside the norm. Most players love to come to Miami. It’s one of the hotspots of the NBA it’s a city that has plenty to offer an NBA player. You often hear of players being distracted before and after playing in Miami because it’s such a party city. But not Kobe, he was in the arena well past midnight working on his jump shot. Kobe turned a loss into an exercise in improvement. When you have 5 rings and want 6 you can give up a night in South Beach.
I don’t think many basketball fans appreciate Kobe Bryant. Sure his early years were painful to watch. I agree with the general consensus that Shaq was the biggest reason he won his first 3 rings. Of course he can be a petulant child on the court, sometimes refusing to shoot because he wants to prove a point. But one thing you cannot say is that he doesn’t care about the game. Kobe is a machine. He wants to win. He wants to do whatever it takes to win, even if that means keeping the arena open so he can work on his shot until well after midnight. People like to argue this point, but Kobe is the closest thing we’ve had to Michael Jordan. No one matches the intensity and passion for the game. LeBron has more raw talent and athleticism but it’s Kobe that has the will to win. Earlier in the week when asked what he thought about the turmoil in Miami his response, “I don’t know, I’m still trying to kill people,” that is the response of someone with a singular focus, winning.
Kobe is 32 years old, he’s been in the league for 15 years. He’s moving toward the end of his career and he’s still trying to get better. That has to scare the rest of the league, hell it has to scare the rest of his team. I’m not sure that there’s a player in the league that wants so badly to cement their legacy. Kobe wants to prove he was somebody special he wants to leave his mark long after he’s gone. I do know one thing for sure, we don’t need to like Kobe Bryant (I will admit I’ve never been much of a fan) but we should respect him. There will never be another like him.