The Decline and Fall of Kobe Bryant

Very cogent analysis of the dying fall of Kobe’s career arc by Grantland’s Brian Phillips (@runofplay) — Phillips discusses the absurdity of the path which Bryant has chosen to take for his swansong, rather than that of say a Ray Allen (accepting a diminished role for a chance to win more titles — he will play for a contender this season eventually; maybe the Clips, where he could spell Chris Paul?) but also its pathos and almost Aeschylus-ian plot.

I’ve never liked Kobe. I’m a Bulls fan and grew up idolizing Michael and Scottie — and any threat to their legacy wasn’t one to be tolerated.* That’s not to say I don’t recognize his greatness; he’s unquestionably a first-ballot Hall of Famer and arguably top-ten all-time. What’s always impressed me about Kobe is what Phillips points out — his unparalleled will. Will to score. Will to be an all-time great. Will to win. Will to dominate. Will to humiliate.

It’s the latter that struck me while reading Phillips’s piece, because it’s a trait I recognize in myself. Kobe doesn’t just want to beat you; he wants to make you look silly while doing so. It’s not enough to win; it has to be a blowout. On the road, it’s not about hitting a game-winning shot; it has to be the last shots taken in front of an empty arena. I get that. I look at Kobe and see myself in many ways, none of them flattering, yet not all bad. I get that will to be best at all costs, that reticence to open up to teammates or friends, that need to humble your opponent. A win is expected; only domination is acceptable, and nothing will ever be good enough. I read this piece fearing I would look into the abyss and find a mirror, and I did.

Kobe — I empathize with you, if only the manner that the self-isolated and obsessed can. Your ship is sinking, already lost and destined for the shoals; you can jump ship, find another crew, start over, mate. And me? We shall see.

*—There are a number of reasons why I’m not a Peyton Manning fan, but the initial one was that — growing up (and remaining) a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan, I was automatically inclined to dislike any quarterback who threatened Brett Favre’s legacy (at that time, yet-uncheckered). I’ve come to see Manning in a softer light, but the impulse is the same. Were I writing this even two years ago, I probably would have painted Kobe and Manning with a more combustible gesso.

~ by Benji on January 9, 2015.

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