By: Mike Carlson
How do you sum up the career of a player who was more polarizing to watch than the “Batman v. Superman” movie? A player who each time he stepped on the court, shot to kill. A player who had the power to sway the tide on an entire basketball game just by suiting up. A player who had a profound impact on sports both inside and outside the borders of the United States.
How do you sum up the career of Kobe Bryant?
Is it in the dominating performances?
The times when he would completely take over the game and never let go until he had to be called off. Like in 2006 when he hung an astonishing 81 points on the Toronto Raptors – a moment which is still regarded today as one of the most notable points in the history of the Toronto-based franchise. Maybe it was the time he made it rain on the Rainy City by hitting a then record 12 three-point shots against the Seattle Supersonics. No wait, it has to be the time he averaged 40.6 points in February of 2003 or actually the time he dropped 62 points on the Dallas Mavericks in just three quarters of hoops. Who knows what Bryant’s point total would have ballooned to had Phil Jackson elected to unleash him on the Mavericks in the final quarter of play.
Is it in the moments?
The performances that would just make you sit back in your seat and wonder how any human could be capable of such pure will. In 1997, just one night after putting up a stellar 31 points in the rookie showcase, Bryant came out and won the Slam Dunk Contest. Did I mention he was 19 years old at the time? How about the time he led the 2008 Redeem Team to a gold medal in Beijing in 2008 by, in regular Kobe-style, putting up 13 of his 20 points in the final quarter of play against a very good Spain team. I’d be surprised if it wasn’t ice coursing through Bryant’s veins, but rather red, white, and blue.
Is it in the grit?
When he tore his achilles and, staying true to his scoring form, remained in the game to shoot the two free throws he was owed on his ailing achilles. Or maybe 13 years earlier where he sunk the Indiana Pacers on an ankle he sprained two games before. It could even be in the little moments like his permanently mangled index finger which he would likely cut off if it meant he would see time on the court.
If not those, then it has to be in the trophies.
The five NBA Championships, the two NBA Finals MVP’s, the 18 selections to the NBA’s All-Star team (and subsequent four NBA All-Star Game MVP awards), the 11 All-NBA First Team nods, and his lone NBA MVP to name a few. He’s also the the Lakers all-time leading scorer as well as a two-time gold medalist. What’s more astonishing is that the latter two didn’t even make the first list of accolades.
Or maybe, it is in all of those moments.
I mean it’s only fitting that the most athletic and multidimensional player since His Airness Michael Jordan is not be defined by just a lone highlight reel, right?
So, thank you Kobe Bryant for being the inspiration behind every one of my askew jump shots, for changing the face of sports as we know it, and for setting the bar insurmountably high for anyone who has ever laced it up and hit the hardwood.