Yesterday Kobe announced he had returned to the court to shoot for the first time since having surgery to repair his torn rotator cuff. Today, Kobe celebrates his 37th birthday. I have a feeling before he finds his way to a slice of cake and some gifts to unwrap, he’ll also find his way to a gym to get up more shots. This, more than anything, would seem like be the Kobe thing to do.
When training camp opens in the next month or so, it will be the beginning of his 20th season in the league. Twenty. Years. I get tired just thinking of this number, knowing the day-in, day-out work that’s gone into making him the player he’s been over that period.
Kobe’s greatest legacy, for me at least, isn’t the championship rings. It’s not his status as one the game’s all-time best players. For me, Kobe’s legacy is, despite his wonderful physical gifts and his bloodlines tying him to the league, how he maximized all that talent to reach his ceiling as a player. One can argue if he could have done things differently or played a different way, but one cannot argue he got the most out of his ability to become the most skilled version of himself he could become.
For a player of his considerable gifts, this is the achievement from which all others originate. And it begins with the work he’s put in. That work, of course, continues. And thank goodness for that. Because, one day, he will no longer want to put in that work and, when that happens, he will call it a career. I’ve a feeling that day will come as soon as at the end of this season, but at least we’ll get one more run.
That’s looking too far ahead for me, though. For now, I just want to enjoy Kobe for the player he is, the player he’s been, and for the last fantastic moments he’ll surely provide this year. On that note, here’s a clip of Kobe plays from his career I’ve always appreciated. Happy Birthday, Kobe. Don’t work too hard today.