I am sitting here listening to Jim Rome podcast talking to Kobe. Listening to this guy just gets me fired up. You may love him, may even hate him, but he and Michael Jordan had the drive and cut-throat mentality. There are so many moments that you can think of that set up his career on a look back at greatness. One that he goes to often is the overtime period against the Indiana pacers when Shaq fouled out and he had to take over, and did and the Lakers won the game. I think of the 15-0 run in game 7 against the Portland Trailblazers setting up the lob to Shaq to put the game away. All the playoff series they had against the Sacramento Kings and the San Antonio Spurs. He was just ridiculous in most of those. Yes, it took a team. Players like Shaq, Rick Fox, Horace Grant, and of course Robert Horry. In the beginning, Kobe came to the Lakers that had talent. He wasn’t a great talent going to a lousy team. Lakers traded Vlade Divac to get Kobe. That move went way under the radar because fans (myself included) thought that we were doing that to clear cap space for Shaq. Which was also the goal, we signed Shaq as a free agent the same year we drafted Kobe. We had Shaq at center, and Elden Campbell at Power Forward, he was good. Athletic, but could ball and was a bit soft. Cedric Ceballos, an all-star at Small forward. Eddie Jones, the defensive stopper out of Temple who was just a hard-working player, and Nick Van Exel, another all-star at point guard. This was a team with high expectations, but coach Del Harris was in over his head.
Alex and I would go to the games as often as we could. Sneak down to better seats and Kobe was as talented as he was frustrating. He would come in make a spectacular play and then he would dribble the ball off his foot out of bounds, maybe twice a game. He did have some filthy moves, no doubt about it. Going back to the memorable moments from Kobe, the 2 that stick with me the most are the 3 air balls he shot in the late minutes in an elimination game against the Utah Jazz in the playoffs. This is when if you take a step back and say hey, the kid had the guts to take that shot, those shots actually. If he has the work ethic that may be huge. Other moment that stands out to me, when he shredded his ACL, he stood up shot his free throws and then walked off the court. Whole time in his head he is trying to figure out how he could push off on his foot so he could get back in the game. All while his peers, Paul Pierce is going off the court in a wheelchair in a Finals Game just to come back a few quarters later, Lebron gets cramps and carried off the court. Are you fucking serious? Kobe dislocates his finger. Time out is called, commercial break taken finger popped back in and he doesn’t miss a play.
Yes, I am a Kobe fan. I am a Laker fan but all this love, I even still missed the greatness of someone like Kobe until it was obvious. You know who I wasn’t listening to? Current and former players would talk about it. I figured it was just what they were supposed to say and do. Then you hear some of the stories. My favorite now is the one I just heard. Lakers had signed JR Rider, they kind of had a revolving door at small forward for a while. Ceballos, Glen Rice, Mitch Richmond and now Isiah Rider. Riders playing time was going down. Phil Jackson liked the defense Rick fox brought to the lineup more so his PT was going up and Riders was fading. So in practice one day Rider starts talking shit about “what we did to you (Kobe) when I was in Portend.” Kobe wasn’t having it. He told JR he wasn’t that kid anymore and to bring it. Soon enough the court was cleared and it was just JR and Kobe playing one on one. This was Kobe’s game. At this point in his career, Rider needed screens to get an open shot and Kobe just needed the ball to get an open shot. Kobe crushed him, and was asked “Weren’t you worried that if you crushed this guy you would lose him mentally for the rest of the year?” Kobe came back with NOPE. For 2 reasons, 1 you can’t call a man out like that in front of his team and take it, and 2 also most importantly If I crush him in practice like that and he doesn’t bounce back, he won’t be in the game in the playoffs in the 4thquarter and that’s how we knew who we had and who had to go, Shaq would do the same thing to guys”
Obviously, Jordan has a laundry list of these stories, this is the killer mentality we love and admire, when you are looking for it, just listen to the teammates, you will hear it. It’s not always coach speak. Who is that player right now in the league? Anyone listening to the stories on James Harden…