It wasn’t suppose to end like this, not in Los Angeles where happy endings are scripted out of thin air and certainly not with Kobe Bryant involved, who had defied the laws of physics and biology way too many times during this tumultuous season to come crashing down in this manner.
In a game that will go down in history as the end of an era, Kobe Bryant came down twice with injuries before a third finally took him out for good, with the infamous Achilles injury leaving another legend in its wake. If this is the last we see of him, it was a heroic way to go out, with Kobe Bryant fighting to the bitter end and contributing to the cause until the last ounce of blood had been shed.
In all honesty, this whole monstrosity of a season should have been put down way before any signs of life ceased to exist. All the experts had already written off the team’s chances and not even the most loyal of believers could see this discombobulated squad survive 2 months of grueling must-win games.
But there was one among the ranks that held faith. For Kobe Bryant, the season had transformed from one with championship hopes to something grander in significance. This was no longer just about additional glory for him, first and foremost, his tribute to the deceased Dr. Buss hung in the balance, his guarantee to his fan base was also on the line, and his legacy was at at risk of taking an insurmountable blow.
Stuck in a team that had no chance of working out, Kobe didn’t yield for one moment. Even through inexplicable coaching changes, frustrating teammates, an ever ending list of injuries, and a poorly put together team that logically made no sense – Kobe kept at it like a stubborn kid refusing to admit that he was wrong. Except, he wasn’t wrong, one way or another Kobe Bryant had put the team on his back and was well on his way to taking them where he said he would.
It was by no means pretty, or even convincing for that matter – but with each passing game, with each miracle stacked on top of the other – Kobe gained support and belief that perhaps the impossible could be achieved. Whether he needed to be the crafty play maker, the bad guy in the locker room publicly asking more from team mates, the cold-blooded assassin taking over games in the fourth, the defensive stopper shutting down opposing team’s point guards, or simply taking the form of a machine with minutes cranked to the maximum – Kobe did it all and redefined what it meant to be a ‘man on a mission’.
Unfortunately, the miracles ran out on Saturday, just on the brink of reaching the basketball holy land known as the Playoffs. Finally breaking down on a routine move that he had “done a thousand times”, it almost was if the basketball gods were watching and took action to stop this mere mortal that was threatening to blur the line between human and supernatural. The postmortem reaction from the Black Mamba himself was one you would expect, hell hath no fury like Kobe scorned:
This is such BS! All the training and sacrifice just flew out the window with one step that I’ve done millions of times! The frustration is unbearable. The anger is rage. Why the hell did this happen ?!? Makes no damn sense. Now I’m supposed to come back from this and be the same player Or better at 35?!? How in the world am I supposed to do that?? I have NO CLUE.
Yet after all the accomplishments, the milestones, the obstacles overcome, and the talks of retirement that had begun to surface, perhaps this is what was necessary to provide Kobe one final challenge. Maybe, just maybe, Kobe has one miracle left in him, one miracle that would surpass all those before it – coming back from the insurmountable, and essentially, defying death.
“One day, the beginning of a new career journey will commence. Today is NOT that day.” – Kobe Bryant