To Kobe "Black Mamba" Bryant, The Boston Celtics Is "Bill"
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Kill Bill. Through the span of two movies, Terantino showed the evolution of a female assassin through her origin story, epiphany, tragedy, revival, revenge, and solace.
We could say that the movies showed the progression of life of competitive individuals. I personally have gone through such cycle in the past 15 years or so. It's not too much of a stretch to say Beatrix Kiddo's life portrayed by the brilliant Uma Thurman closely reflects the incredible basketball life of Kobe Bryant.
If you don't agree with me, at least we got to learn the existence of a snake called Black Mamba which most of us probably did not know about before the movie came out. I only knew about King Cobra or Anaconda but not Black Mamba.
[Spoiler Alert ]
In the movie, The Bride (another code name for Thurman's character) writes down a hit list on a notebook appropriately with a red pen. It is a rather simple scene but quite demanding to the actor to fulfill its symbolic message.
The great thing about the scene is how Thurman delivered the with such subtle yet exuberant hatred towards five names she was writing down. She had five names to cross off prior to starting her vendetta.
She wrote down with strong pressure on the pen and the names increased in size as it went from No.1 to No. 5. Her hands were slightly shaking, her lips are clenched, and her eyes fixed on seeing blood as red as the pen's ink. Reminds you of anyone we see on TV all the time?
Among the many greatnesses of Kobe Bryant, one aspect that stands out is his desire to silence his critics. His whole career has been plagued with plethora of critics far more than most great NBA legends had to endure.
As fans, we are living in the golden age because he has neutralized most of the weapons that the haters and critics used to punish him for many years. Why? Bryant never lets go of his losses on and off the court.
He is not an assassin just because he nails shots on crunch time. He is obsessed with proving himself to those who curse him. He doesn't want to settled with the millions of West Coast American fans and the billions who buy his jerseys in China. He wants to shut up all the haters in the East Coast United States (the majority of his haters live there).
Here is the hit list of NBA's Black Mamba and its results so far.
1. Shaq - The on-going question about how Bryant couldn't win without him is a folk tale now. Although Shaq contributed greatly to Bryant's first three rings, it is pretty much a proven fact that Bryant grew very frustrated with his chronic and unforgivable laziness. Kobe grew to dislike him even further when the Big Fat continued to deliver his propaganda through the media including the tasteful comment about his hole.
Bryant is very much a capable, and an even better leader to the current Lakers squad with far less drama and animosity within his team. Shaq has quite pathetically fallen out of grace with diminishing skills and never ending yap. All Bryant had to do was stay silent and win a ring even try to win more.
2. Endorsers - After the Colorado fiasco, his off-court commercial value tremendously diminished. In a way, this might have helped Bryant focus purely on basketball as he accumulated ridiculous numbers during `04-`07 span.
Fortunately, his talents and accumulating accomplishments have been too great to ignore. He has his own shoe line with Nike, a watch with Omega, and a singing stint with Guitar Hero just to name a few.
If there was any doubt that Bryant would ever recover from enticing his endorsers, I would say this is a pretty good come back to add a few more bucks to Bryant's pockets. Remember the puppets? Bryant's puppet got to celebrate along with his real self in 2009.
Nevertheless, one would have to agree that the center photo for banners are now more focused on Lebron James. NBA.com certainly tries to give more attention to James during playoff commercials. Nike shifts its major basketball spotlight to James over Bryant.
In the end, Bryant gets his revenge on the endorsers for not faltering into the darkness but with more victories and out-performing their more favored poster child.
3. San Antonio Spurs - During Bryant's time with the Lakers, the Lakers won most of the playoff matches. However in 2002-2003, compounded with the foreboding team problems that started to set in motion, the Lakers lost to the Spurs in the semi-finals.
As we all know Bryant never forgets a bitter loss, he got his revenge in 2008 during his MVP year when the Gasol-equipped Lakers surged through the west and knocked down the Spurs in the conference finals.
4. Phoenix Suns - The Suns presented Bryant with very harsh memories during his dark days. He had horrific teammates far worse than LeBron James or Dwayne Wade's supporting cast.
His 81 points game, 62 in three quarters game, and consecutive 40-50 point games were ignored during MVP discussions. However, Bryant put all the regular season stress behind him and tried to advance in the playoffs but was denied by the Suns.
He remembered the past quite well before the start of the series this season in 2010. "What do you think?" He coldly replied when asked how he felt against facing the Suns.
This Suns team was not the same. Shaun Marion was gone. So was Raja Bell, who was by far the most outrageous defender guarding Bryant and did not hesitate to knock him down the floor and exchange bitter words over the news.
Bryant can calm down his demons from `06-`07 playoffs memories after eclipsing them with his Jordanesque plays.
5. Lebron James Fans - The battle of the opinions emerged and grew hotter during the past few years. BR alone is the bloody Colosseum for this debate: Kobe vs LeBron.
From Bryant's perspective, he has no reason to point out to James's fans since people are indeed allowed to root for whoever they like. However, when these fans, most notably the journalists and I mean John Hollinger of ESPN, decides to directly undermine Bryant's place as the best on the planet to promote James, it would intrigue his competitive drive to prove them wrong.
Bryant said it himself, "I want to be the best, plain and simple." He idolized Magic over everyone. He copied and competed against Jordan. He exceeded all of the other potential air-apparent candidates from the past decade. Jerry West, truthfully or not, used Bryant's fire to do better by announcing James as the better player.
With the Cleveland Cavaliers performing better in `08-`09, the puppet commercials started alluding the fans that a potential finals show down could settle the debate. LeBron James won his first MVP trophy and sweet songs were all over the sports media turning the torch to James.
Then the Cavaliers lost to the Magic. Up to this point, everyone thought it was because his supporting cast was still weak. This past season, the Cavaliers upgraded the roster and they spectacularly finished the regular season with another MVP for James.
The silver platter was set: home court advantage all the way, stronger team (supposedly), and the promise of a good future with the impending free-agency summer.
Forgive him for not shaking hands with the Orlando Magic, he was pissed. Forgive him for confiscating the cameras, he was irritated or embarrassed. Forgive him for flirting with the Browns or showing New York interest all the time, he's just more outgoing and likes to socialize. Calling quits on the hard wood with the whole world watching? His fans can't forgive or defend him on this one.
They could say, "Once LeBron gets a better team and actually do face Kobe in the finals, LeBron will kick a**." Greatness in sports happens in the present not in some future simulation.
All Bryant had to do to show he's the best, win. He's not done yet with the season. If he can finish this thing against the Celtics? Another rock to the James fans.
6. The Haters - He'll never win this battle. All Bryant can do is reduce the weapons the haters have in their arsenal.
Selfish? The triangle is working very well with his highlight playoff assists. He did not care about scoring in the Olympics but wanted to lock down the opposing leading scorer.
Bad leader? Regular season MVP, Finals MVP, and a ring in the past three years.
Old and past his prime? He's still All NBA first team, Defensive first team as of 2010. He's reaching Michael Jordan in playoff statistics. Just re-watch 2010 game six against the Suns.
People just outright hate him? No.1 jersey sales across the globe. I did mention the Chinese right? They love him more than Yao Ming.
Unfortunately Bryant just simply cannot win this one. Every great players had haters. Bryant, however, has haters that are beyond reason or logic.
Most of the major sports news headquarters are based in the east coast. Other than ESPN Los Angeles, most of the journalists wil continue to find blemishes in Kobe Bryant.
Sadly, these journalists are the historians who will leave tangible records of what is happening. They will despise and tarnish Bryant until his death.
7. Boston Celtics - Ah here we go. The crown jewel of all preys for the mamba. It's ironic that the same year when the big 3 for the Celtics were established, the Lakers also rose with Bynum's growth, Pau Gasol's trade, and Bryant's embrace for the facilitator role.
Bryant could have gone through his career without either team ever becoming championship worthy to renew their rivalry. As the basketball gods deemed necessary, both teams reignited the tradition.
Of all the playoff eliminations he endured, none can be more heartbreaking than what happened in Boston two years ago. He already won against the Suns and the Spurs. The Pistons team from 2004 is already long gone.
The 2008 Celtics team was not just victors with the expense of Lakers' demise. They were thugs with brute defense and domineering attitude fueled by Kevin Garnett's insanity. Boston, with its preceding reputation, was as hostile as a modern American city could be without murdering anyone.
The 2010 Celtics is pretty much the same in roster but better in skills and team work with Rajon Rondo picking up after the aging big 3. Another irony and drama awaits.
Kobe Bryant is not an angry person, but he does get angry with losses and shortcomings. One of his greatness is that he can channel the anger into performance and results when most other players will crash and burn with their own emotions.
He has fought off his critics and opponents for over a decade and payed them back his heart's desire of anger. My guess is he has never been more angry and hateful of any opponent in his entire career, and even his whole life than the current Celtics.
His past four championships were churned out against the likes of Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, and Orlando Magic. All of those teams had legendary players leading them, and won the eastern conference with hard work but none of them could be compared to the magnitude of challenge that these Celtics would bring to the Lakers this year.
Michael Jordan won six championships, but none of his opposing teams in the NBA finals had any specific rivalry with the Chicago Bulls. He also never had any individual rivalry with anyone since he was no. 1,2, and 3 in the league.
Bryant claims that he just wants to increase the number of rings in the name of achieving greatness. This time, it's more than ring five. His identity as a Laker legend is at stake. His personal pain from two years ago is a plutonium rod to his reactor.
This time his team is ready. Bynum, albeit hurt, is ready. Gasol, similar to Bryant, is enraged to shake off his stigmata as a soft player. Artest is here to make good on his promise to never let such a loss happen in his watch.
Kobe Bryant wants blood. The Black Mamba wants blood. He wants green splattered all over his face.
Just for you to imagine the determination and conviction that Bryant may want to portray, let me quote what the Black Mamba said in Kill Bill vol.2 with blazing eyes and satanic voice.
"Looked dead didn't I? Well I wasn't. But it wasn't from lack of trying I could tell you that. Actually Bill's last bullet put me in a coma. A coma I was to lie in for 4 years. When I woke up, I went on what the movie advertisements refer to as a roaring rampage for revenge. I roared and I rampaged and I got bloody satisfaction. I've killed a hell of a lot of people to get to this point. But I have only one more. The last one. The one I'm driving to right now. The only one left. And when I arrive at my destination, I AM GONNA KILL BILL."
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