Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  January 13, 2012

The Friday Forum goes a little off its regular programming today. Normally, I’d devote this to the upcoming Cavs game which will see Coach Brown facing off against his former charges. And, it’s a terrific topic to explore. However, there’s been a much larger topic of discussion lately, Kobe Bryant’s rather astonishing explosion of play in the face of some very real structural damage. Here’s some chunks of text on the subject matter:

From Zach Harper at HoopSpeak: Some players would quietly accept their fate. They would put in enough work to remain relevant, collect their giant checks, put up nice stats and be resigned to bowing out early in the playoffs until it was time to retire. But Kobe doesn’t get down like that. In fact, he doesn’t get down like really anybody. Bryant is constantly focused on one singular goal and one singular goal only. Get the job done or die by your own sword. There isn’t any other way. It’s not that Kobe is necessarily selfish; it’s just that he has to do it himself or he’s not going to be satisfied. Kobe’s never going to be unable to open a jar of applesauce, hand it to you and then make the excuse of I loosened it for you when you pop that sucker open. If he can’t wist the top of, he’s going to break the jar over his head and enjoy a heaping helping of apple puree and broken glass in complete and utter satisfaction. Instead of putting in the same off-season work he always does, Kobe knew he had to change something in order to compete with this new NBA. The status quo wasn’t good enough the last time, so why would it work this time? Kobe had to reverse the aging process. And, there was only one way to do this… Kobe Bryant became a vampire.

From Adrian Wojinarowski at Yahoo Sports: With those torn ligaments in his right wrist – an injury that should’ve required surgery and three months of rehabilitation – Bryant is forever one collision from serious seasonal consequences. When he fails to keep the wrist moving during the game, it will swell significantly. That’s why he’s always making that shooting motion with his wrist on the sidelines in down moments. His personal trainer, Tim Grover, says simply “I’ver never seen what Kobe’s doing right now.” It’s near impossible to play with torn ligaments in your shooting wrist, never mind play well. Bryant is the ultimate creature of routine, and it never changes. From Grover to the video technological whiz he calls his “Jack Bauer,” Mike Procopio in Chicago, Bryant’s circle is small, his preparation unchanged, and perhaps unrivaled. He has shown he can make easy and tough shots, with the wrist. His baseline fades, his jumpers, still come with his classic form, the proper arc and angles, and they drop. There are good shots and bad shots, and history tells you Bryant’s self-examination distills the difference over the long run. “I shoot, I shoot,” Bryant said. “You’ve known that for 16 years. I’m not changing my game. If the defense is not doubling, I’m going to score, If I’ve got a good look, I’m going to score. My teammates know that. But I also give them the ball, and set them up. But, at the end of the day, I’m a scorer first.” There’s forever defiance in his words, because without it, there’s no greatness.

Emile Avanessian writes in his Hardwood Hype: It’s no secret that Kobe Bryant’s white whale is the ghost of Michael Jordan. Since before he entered the NBA, Kobe’s monomaniacal obsession has been with the maximization of his immense talent, in pursuit of the title of “greatest ever.” Given his winaholic tendencies, I have no doubt whatsoever that Kobe aches to surpass Jordan’s ring tally, and am equally certain that should he ever do so, regardless of age, will immediately set his sights on Bill Russell’s mark. But Kobe is a smart guy. While I doubt he’d ever admit it aloud, he’s got to know that simply matching the measurables with a carbon copy skill set will only narrow the perception gap between himself and Jordan, but never flip the script. This is owed to the fact that Michael Jordan (whom I believe earned his place in history, but has nothing on Kobe in terms of pure basketball aptitude) was defined not only by sublime skill as a basketball player and an unimpeachable resume, but by a veneer of perfection- both on and off (this has receded slightly) the floor- that continues to this day to protect his enduring legacy. It was only a matter of time before Kobe- recognizing that he’s facing a stacked deck, that rationality has no place in this debate- gave up the ghost in favor of carving out an insurmountable legacy of his own. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that more than any others, these are the defining seasons of Kobe Bryant’s career.

***

I have gotten to the point, of not knowing quite what to say about Kobe. A couple years ago, I felt grateful to still be watching him at his peak. I have written at various times, about what his declining years might look like. He doesn’t appear at all ready to cede any points to the reality if time. I have no idea how he’s still doing what he’s doing. While I fully understand and agree with Emile’s “white whale” point, I no longer invest as much in Michael Jordan comparisons. I think instead of athletes in other sports, who will their bodies to absorb undue punishment, and find treacherous paths to greatness. The thread’s open to any topic of course, but I’d especially enjoy thoughts and reflections about Kobe, his season, his legacy, and how he manages to do just what he does. The forum is open.

Dave Murphy

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