By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published February 2, 2015
In recent weeks, the words on numerous basketball fans lips are if the Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant will retire at the end of this season. He initially sparked this debate when he said it crossed his mind. Now, with him likely out for the rest of the season due to injury and season-ending surgery, the discussions are approaching a crescendo.
Kobe has been a polarizing figure for fans and non-fans of the game alike for almost 20 years. Whether it’s his arrogance, the team he plays for, the constant comparisons to basketball god Michael Jordan, the rape scandal, or his icy relationships with past teammates, you will find a reason to hate him.
On the other hand, if it’s his desire to win, his amazing footwork, his clutch shots, his repertoire of moves, his commitment to both defense and offense, his work ethic, or his drive for excellence, you’ll love him. Or maybe still hate him but you will respect him still.
Kobe Bryant’s play on the court embodies the Eminem song “Lose Yourself (In the Moment).” He owns that moment each time he steps out on the court. He never shies away or lets it go by. Whether a pickup game, a preseason, regular season or playoff game; whether the first quarter, fourth quarter, game 7 or in the clutch; Kobe is all about seizing the moment.
No player reminds us or mirrors his game off Michael Jordan and other past greats more. Michael would give us the wagging tongue, his ‘airness’ and a fierce competitiveness. Nicknamed and similar to the Black Mamba, Kobe is ‘death incarnate’ or the ‘kiss of death’ with his clutch shooting. No player in the last 20 years wanted the ball more and delivered more in those clutch moments. Like Mike, Kobe possesses that fierce competitiveness.
His accomplishments are there for all to see. 7 NBA Finals, 5 NBA championships, 2 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, 1 NBA MVP, 16 All-Star appearances, 4 All-Star Game MVP, 2-time NBA scoring champion and 2-time Olympic Gold Medalist, among others. It’s been a stellar career.
In recent weeks, he has passed his idol Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list for third. There is not much more left for him to accomplish other than the elusive 6th NBA Championship to match his idol. Deep down, I hope his body can give us a year or two more of spectacular plays and Championship runs, but I would be fooling myself. That’s looking more like a Hail Mary and a prayer.
When he eventually walks away, what I will miss most is his ballet-esque footwork, those jaw-dropping dunks, the ‘Matrix-like’ fade away jumper and his ‘rip your heart out’ mentality. The guys in the NBA, today are too friendly both on and off the court. Kobe is a blend of the old school way and the new school way. You guys may talk off the court but on it, he strikes with a venomous bite. He’s going to school you and take your lunch money. That’s Kobe Bryant. That’s the Black Mamba.
You may want to see him retire at the end of this season or play a little more. You may either love him or hate him or both. However, what’s indisputable, he’s been one of the best to play the game, and he did it with an extreme fierceness. Cris Jami once said, “If ever you feel like an animal among men, be a lion.” However, I contend be a black mamba.
Until next time…
© Zaheer Clarke
From the “Lies & Statistics” Column in the Western Mirror (Published Monday, February 9, 2015)