"Not bad for seventh-best player in the league"
Why so serious? Why the hate? Why the doubt. Continually fans and critics alike write off Kobe Bryant, but it's clear he still has the beans to make it to the final shuffle. Despite LeBron, the city of Dallas, the whole critical landscape and a recent loss standing in his way, Kobe still fast breaks forward.
Too old? He's 33 for basketball God's sake. That may be old in dog years, but the Dobermans still have plenty of seasons to come before he starts emulating 'Floor Jordan'. ESPN's seventh best player in the league? Pleeeease!
"Just making adjustments, you've got to figure out a way to get it done"
In the face of the twilight years of his career, Kobe remains in the zone, where lesser players would fold. He remains doubled and tripled, when other former stars are singled out and ignored in this game. A few years back, the fabulous, inventive 'Freedarko' book The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac: Styles, Stats, and Stars in Today's Game said that if Shaquille O'Neal was Superman with a "S" on his chest, then that made Kobe Bryant "The Dark Knight."
We've known for years that he was far from a Robin-esque sidekick, but the book described the Lakers Batman as being a "stormy mortal" and "vulnerable but all the stronger for it". Kobe may not be as "cute and cuddly" as Chris Rock and everyone else, but his dark, killer instinct to the game helps him make the chess moves that takes down the other NBA pawns.
All the Jokers and the Riddlers of the league better watch out. This "Dark Knight" is about to rise.
"Everybody cries for a change, cries for you know the fact I'm too old, it's just a bad game and a bad wrist."
Like the boy that cried wolf, we don't believe the lies. We've heard it all before. Sure Kobe is getting slower, but that just means he's seeing the game even slower—like Magic, like "The Matrix." He's in control, breaking it down piece by piece like Sherlock Holmes, breaking it down play by play and detecting breaks and smoking the opposition.
Age ain't nothing but a number—legends like Aaliyah and Kobe know this. One bad game is just a box score, a lasting legacy is forever more.
Imagine if Kobe's wrist wasn't hurt and strapped for all those 40-plus games, even the critics had to jokingly admit, he could have gone as cold as Toronto or Drake again and hit 81. That would have made headlines for sure. They know...they know.
Still, 'can he sustain it?' Of course they ask, and of course as short and sweet as ever Bryant responds.
"What do you think."
As the journalist laughs off a struggle for a reply.
"Go ahead say no...go ahead,"
"Nobody cares what I think", the journalist replies.
Exactly, its all on Kobe, and Kobe knows this. Sure, more critics and opponents are coming his way. Some work for magazines, some are called Durant, but Bryant answers them all, keeps it short, simple, elegant and executing. Bryant's murder game is killing fields. We know the man, but we don't know his methods.
From the play to the compliments paid, Bryant's earning his way back into the top consideration. A mindset that should have never left him. Sure people can touch this basketball God these days, but beware of the wrath of this Titan in each and every clash.
The Black Mamba may let you get close enough, but that's only to trap you, bite you and sink in his teeth and venom. Thinking you have one over a silent warrior and a Dark Knight is poisonous, it's deadly.
"It's a weapon."
Kobe scores big when his team needs him, but he also knows when to deflect to the Lakers last-second king when the clutch calls for it. They say Kobe can't do it on his own and they are right.
That's why the Lake Show reels off guys like Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol and the Dwight Howard-forgetting Andrew Bynum. Still, when they are backed down, Kobe steps up. Some may blame him, but they forget he does this when they need him. People forget the MVP award Kobe won when he became more of a team player. Oh, and those championships too.
His career is classic, his play cinematic. Sure LeBron and Voltron may have a hold over the once ESPN magazine heralded Iron Man of the league, but Kobe and his Avengers look to bring box-office success to Hollywood this year, no matter how many celebrities or detractors show up.
It doesn't matter to bean—Bryant will still flash that Jordanesque smile and play.
Kobe's having fun in the second half of his career, and is really seeing the game for what it is—beautiful. It's about time those who hate really recognized the one that makes this game the thing we love. The one that makes it all look so good.
"That's what makes it fun, you know for me its always about the beauty of the game."
The trilogy isn't complete...yet.
(All quotes from Kobe following a postgame presser after his 48 points against the Phoenix Suns).