Kobe Bryant's Miami Workout: Is the Black Mamba Too Dedicated for His Own Good?

Buckus ToothnailContributor IIIMarch 12, 2011

As commendable as it might be, did Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant open himself up to fatigue and potential injury through overexertion with his Miami post-game workout?

Tough losses.

It's these losses that define players.

Not even necessarily professional athletes that get paid millions to play.

It could be a high school football league championship on the line, or a Little League game just for bragging rights.

It could be your brother's figure skating meet or your sister in the state wrestling tournament.

The worst loss I ever experienced was when I ran in for the winning touchdown of our state championship game and then it hit me that this was the last game I would be playing with my team...ever.

We all deal with our losses in different ways.

Some boys cry, some boys have even attempted suicide and died.

Most of us just sweep that loss under the rug and get ready for the next game.

But as if to prove to us that professional athletes are as sensitive as those of us that play just for the love of the sport and not for millions in salary and endorsement deals, there were two incidents in the NBA this past week that raised eyebrows.

After coming off a second loss to conference rivals the Chicago Bulls in just a matter of days, at least a couple of Miami Heat players dealt with their frustration by openly crying in the locker room after the game.

This incident was reported by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to the media in the post-game press conference.

While the reaction in the sports world was mostly ridicule and condemnation, there were a few soft hearts in the media that expressed that the Heat crying showed that they cared about winning.

Never mind that caring about winning is a prerequisite to being a professional athlete; after all, they're paid millions to bring victory and glory to their city, with salaries in the end being paid by fans that support the team.

Caring about winning should be the most basic trait of any professional athlete, not something that should be put on a pedestal and be defined as something heroic.

The second incident happened after the Los Angeles Lakers were defeated in a heart-crushing loss to the Miami Heat at the American Airlines Arena.

This was the Lakers' second loss to the Heat this season, giving Miami a clean sweep of their regular season series.

Perhaps most damaging was that it ended the Lakers' eight-game winning streak, as well stopped the Heat's five game losing streak.

The Heat had failed to beat another team with a winning record since the first week of February, well over a month prior to the game.

They were a team on the verge of breaking, their confidence seemingly shattered for the rest of the season, with apparent signs pointing toward a break-up of the team in the post-season.

It could have been the coach being replaced or one of the "Heatles" being traded, with most believing that of Miami's "Big Three," Chris Bosh would be the one likely dealt.

The frustration, angst and misery on the Heat were so great that it created conditions that lead to the Heat players bawling their eyes out after their loss to Chicago.

It could well be that the Heat had been crying after other games as well, after meltdowns such as blowing a 24-point lead in the second half to the Orlando Magic, or being blown out by 30 points by the San Antonio Spurs.

So the Lakers losing to the Heat had the implications of not only stopping their own winning momentum to finish out the rest of the regular season, but it breathed new life and hope for Miami that their team could still challenge for the NBA Championship. 

After all, the Heat beat the hottest team in the league besides the Lakers being the defending world champions, a team that had easily dismantled the Spurs in San Antonio and other Western Conference rivals such as the Portland Trail Blazers and the Oklahoma City Thunder during their win streak.

Even Jesus needed three days to be resurrected by God.  The Miami Heat needed only three hours to be resurrected by Kobe Bryant, from dysfunctional has-been losers to legitimate championship-contending winners.

With the league now infested with exceptional talent on nearly every team, it's widely agreed upon that mental fortitude is what wins championships, not physical skills alone. 

Though he was the surely one of the most physically talented basketball players ever, the advantage that Michael Jordan had over his contemporaries is that he was the most mentally talented player ever to play the game.

The man was wired to win.  The man won because he believed he was going to win.  If grandeur and self-delusion ever paid off for anyone and his team, it was for Jordan and the Bulls

They won simply because they believed they would as so did everyone else.

Bryant, as Jordan's most faithful student in the game, understands this better than anyone playing in the NBA today.

He realizes the mental battles played amongst his rivals are just as important as the physical ones.

Which is why he simply could not get over his team's loss to the Heat.

He fully understood how important this game was, even if none of his bandwagon, front-running fans that currently call themselves "Lakers Nation" had any clue and viewed it simply as a "regular season game".

He knew that believing is everything, and he knew how important it was to make the Heat believe that they could not beat the Lakers anymore.

And so after the game in which his team lost to the Heat by six points, Bryant stepped back onto the court at American Airlines Arena.

Yes, the same court that an hour earlier was filled with tens of thousands of fans, many of them cheering for the Lakers.

The same court where Bryant had exploded in the fourth quarter, making two three-pointers within three possessions for the lead and a tie to keep the Lakers in the game.

The same court where later in the fourth he gets the ball stolen by Dwyane Wade who passes to LeBron James for an emphatic dunk and a two point lead.

The same court where coming out of a timeout with the Lakers down by just two points and 1:08 to play, he puts up a three-point attempt from the wing immediately after receiving the inbounds pass with "24" literally still showing on the shot clock, and misses.

The same court where Bryant receives a pass right under the basket and promptly losses it out of bounds with the Heat leading by four points with forty seconds left to play.

The same court where he takes a three-point attempt with 20 seconds left to play and the Lakers down by four, and misses.

The same court where after James extends the Heat lead to six with free throws Bryant receives the inbounds pass and dribbles the ball the length of the court, launching a two-point attempt with 14 seconds to play, and misses.

The same court where Bryant failed to convert on five straight Lakers possessions, two of them being turnovers and three of them missed shots.

The same court where at no instance on any of these plays did Bryant get his teammates involved, either by driving the lane to attract a double-team and kicking it out to an open man, or simply rotating the ball around the court.

Yes, this very same court where he was directly responsible for his team's loss was where he began a post-game workout.

With Heat ball boys feeding him passes and snagging loose balls, Bryant worked out on the Heat's home floor for over 75 minutes, in front of a group of reporters.

After the workout he held a mini-press conference, stating that he was frustrated with his play against the Heat and wanted to improve his game.

Now there are those among the front-running, bandwagon crowd of Lakers pseudo-"fans" that see Bryant's workout as some sort of testament to his work ethic and desire to win.

Certainly that is what Bryant is trying to impose on the media and the public.

However, to many true Lakers and NBA fans that have been around the block, that have seen dynasties come and go, and understand what it means to be a real NBA champion, Bryant's workout was less a statement about improving his game and more of a naked publicity stunt.

Bryant was so unnerved with his team's loss to the Heat, and particularly with his own sub-par play which lead to the loss, that he couldn't deal with it in a rational way.

He needed to act out on it, and in the only way he knows how which is to self-aggrandize himself, he did it by conducting his workout session in front of a gathering of reporters.

What's telling is the American Airlines Arena also has a full-sized practice court that is restricted to the media in which Bryant could have held his workout session.

Instead, he chose to hold his workout in front of the reporters precisely because he wanted it to be reported.

Perhaps he felt he could change the story of the night from losing to Miami to his personal dedication to the game.

While it might have worked for some people, particularly those aforementioned front-running bandwagon "Lakerz" fans that are still in denial that the Lakers lost or that the Miami Heat have proven to be a better team, most informed insiders saw the publicity stunt as what it was.

Particularly damaging to the Lakers team is that Bryant has signaled to the Heat something that should have stayed quiet and in-house:

The Lakers are worried about the Miami Heat in the playoffs.

It's no longer a secret that coach Phil Jackson and the Lakers' brass believe that the Heat are currently the front-runner to win the Eastern Conference Championship.

While earlier in the season, it was debated whether the favorites were indeed the defending conference champions Boston Celtics, their recent moves and play have convinced the Lakers organization that they are no longer the front-runner in the East.

The biggest development was their shock trade of former starting center, Kendrick Perkins, to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

This trade was rooted in the fact that Perkins refused a contract extension offered by Boston and the organization was worried that they would lose him for nothing over the off-season, like how the Cleveland Cavaliers had lost James the previous summer.

Despite this being possibly a good move for the long term, what it did was weaken the Celtics' title hopes in the short-term, not only because Perkins is one of the best defensive centers in the league, but because of the brother-like chemistry he had developed with Boston's four other starters.

The Celtics were also relying heavily on their other center, Shaquille O'Neal, to be healthy and ready to step in for Perkins, particularly during the long post-season.

However, O'Neal has been injured for long stretches of this season, and his date for returning to the team from an Achilles tendon injury has been delayed again, casting doubts on whether he can be fully ready and healthy for the duration of the playoffs. 

Not surprisingly, the Celtics have been slumping recently, losing two straight games to the Los Angeles Clippers and the Philadelphia Sixers.

No, the Lakers instead expect the Heat to be victorious in the East and to meet them in the NBA Finals.

Despite this belief, the Lakers organization did not want to expose this fact for fear of giving the Heat additional confidence that they can harness for a stronger playoffs run.

Bryant's impromptu practice session on the Heat's home floor did not help.

For besides appearing as taking responsibility for the loss, Bryant's motivation for the unusual shoot-around was transparent to the Heat brass and the media:

Bryant wanted to not only improve his shot, but to improve his shot at the American Airlines Arena, home of the Miami Heat, where he knew he would be back for the NBA Finals in June.

After all, why be so concerned with a regular season loss to a team in the other conference that you won't see again, that is, unless you believed you would be seeing them again, and the only way that is possible is in the Finals playing for the NBA Championship.

This isn't unlike when contending Western Conference teams would pencil in their regular season games against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, whether they were the Lakers, the Portland Trail Blazers, the Phoenix Suns, the Seattle SuperSonics or the Utah Jazz.

Teams that believe they could win the title always look out for their potential Finals rivals from the other conference.

Like the members of the Heat that cried uncontrollably after their loss to the Bulls, Bryant also lost self-control after the Lakers were beaten by Miami.

Instead of crying, however, he did something even worse

He made himself look weak and foolish by conducting his impromptu practice session after the game, instead of before it.

If Kobe cared so much about beating the Heat, then he should have worked on his shot when it mattered.

Perhaps then he wouldn't have missed all those shots in final minutes of the fourth quarter that could prevented the Lakers from losing, letting down his teammates, his coach, and the Lakers faithful.

If Bryant's shooting practice meant anything, it was an admission that he wasn't fully prepared for the game.

As the captain of the Lakers, how is the team expected to win when its leader isn't even ready?

Can you imagine Jordan ever being not ready?
For as many shots that Kobe made in the practice session, they meant nothing as no amount of made three-pointers after hours would count when the game is already over.

Rather than just accept the Lakers' loss and his large role contributing to it, Bryant rather retreats to his fantasy world of denial as if somehow he can change the past if he begs for a second chance.

It's no wonder that even coach Jackson was embarrassed and angry about Bryant's session.

This is because Jackson knows how weak it makes Bryant look.

In addition to that, the "look-at-me" session with the media prevented Bryant from being rested and fully participating in a real practice session with his teammates at the American Airlines Center in Dallas the next day.

Rather, he sat on a trainer's table playing with his phone and yawning while the rest of his teammates worked out under coach Jackson's direction.

By attempting to drum up media attention and sympathy toward himself, Bryant hurt his team by not being available to practice, and perhaps put himself at risk to serious injury late in the season by overexerting himself.

Worst, his publicity stunt of trying to convince the world of his work ethic threw his teammates under the bus.

It's as if Bryant was saying, "it's not my fault we lost, I'm the one that's dedicated, working on my shot after the game while the rest of my teammates are partying in Miami."

And now in addition he let a potential Finals opponent know that he is scared of them, that a loss to them is enough for him to throw the rest of his team under the bus and make them look bad.

He let them know that their regular season victory over his team got into his head, so much so that he had to break out into a full song-and-dance for theirs and the media's benefit. 

Perhaps Kobe should take cue from the playbook of his idol, Jordan.

It's easy to surmise that the greatest of all time would have never sung and danced for his opponents or the media, and that he never had to prove to anybody how dedicated he was to the game of basketball.

For Bryant to feel like he needed to dance the jig like it was St. Patrick's Day, he was like BOTH one of the Miami Heat players that cried their eyes out in the locker room after losing AND coach Spoelstra telling the whole world about it.

Perhaps the only way the Heat could have matched Bryant's unique combination of self-pity and self-aggrandizement is to have invited the media into their locker room while their players were crying.

*     *     *

As for what prompted Kobe's post-game workout, "Charlie Sheen: Kobe Bryant Needs Tiger Blood After Miami Heat Crushes LA Lakers".

Though the Lakers-Heat outcome was a huge shock to front-running bandwagon Lakers pseudo-"fans", NBA insiders in-the-know and true Lakers faithful predicted, "The Los Angeles Lakers Will Lose To the Miami Heat on March 10".


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