HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — This is a direct message to the anti-Kobe Bryant crowd out there.
Give it up! Give up the fight.
And give it up for Kobe Bean Bryant.
Seriously, stop hating on the man and surrender. There’s a good chance KB Bryant is going to leave this game with his face on the NBA’s version of Mt. Rushmore, alongside those idols from his childhood, specifically Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.
You can’t win this argument. Despite all of your theories to the contrary and reasons for why he should not, could not and will not go down as one of the game’s top five all-time greats, it’s going to happen. There’s no stopping him now. He’s already got the championship rings (five of them, to be exact) and career longevity that has eluded so many other seekers of basketball’s holy grail (fame, fortune, rings and legendary status).
And now he’s hunting down scoring legends, one by one, as he climbs up the career chart every time he and the Lakers hit the floor. With 13 points tonight against the Sacramento Kings, Bryant will pass Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon and move into eighth place on the NBA’s career scoring list. He began the year in 13th place. He’ll be knocking on the door of the top five by season’s end.
Love him or hate him, you can’t deny the man his due.
You’ve doubted him at every turn, from the moment he stood at that podium as a high school senior with those shades sitting atop of his shaved head and told the world he was taking his talents to the NBA next year (it was “The Decision” long before we’d ever heard of LeBron James).
There was no way this brash kid was going to take over the league the way he tried to in his first couple of years in the league, butting heads with grown men (on his team and around the league) on a nightly basis. But he did.
There was absolutely no way he was going to be able to co-exist with another all-time great, Shaquille O’Neal, and win titles with the Lakers while they tussled for alpha dog status in the same locker room. But he did. He won three titles and would have probably won several more had they stayed together.
Surely there was no way he’d win it all without Shaq, not after blowing up that dynasty. He’d have to settle for being known forever as Robin to the big fella’s Batman, a shame worse than anything he could stand. But he did. He finally won without Shaq, back-to-back titles even, and now he’s chasing his third straight.
But KB Bryant isn’t just playing for his own legacy these days. He’s doing it for his coach now, too. He’s trying to make sure Phil Jackson exits Laker land properly, with another ring.
It’s yet another improbable twist in Bryant’s true Hollywood story.
The same coach that trashed him in that book after the Shaq-Kobe dynasty ended is the one that inspires him now. Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times explains:
Kobe Bryant doesn’t need any added motivation, but he acknowledges the importance of winning one more championship under Jackson.
“Yeah, for me especially because we’ve been together for so long,” Bryant said. “I’m going to make sure I do everything in my power to send him off in the right way.”
Jackson, 65, reiterated Thursday that he would be done coaching after this season. He said that last season was a “maybe” as far as retirement, but “this year, there’s no ‘maybe.’ ”
He then joked he would find a way to stay in the spotlight: “I’m actually going to have a press conference once every two months just to kind of feel right. Maybe like Jerry [West], just getting it out.”
West recently made headlines by saying at an Orange County auto show that the Lakers’ defense looked slow and old.
Bryant didn’t want to peer too far into Jackson’s departure after 11 seasons with the Lakers, five of which have ended in championships.
“It’ll be a sad day, but I’m sure I’ll get together with him and go fly-fishing at some point,” Bryant said.
You won’t catch us doubting Bryant when he says he and Phil might go fly-fishing together one day. In fact, we’re expecting as much. Look at the man’s history. He doesn’t just chase his dreams, he snatches them up.
Are we convinced that his sole motivating factor is making sure the Zen Master receives a proper send off? Well, of course, not. We all know he wants to climb more than just the scoring charts.
Jordan has that sixth ring.
You know KB Bryant won’t rest until he has seven … or eight, or even nine.
At this point, we’d be fools to doubt him.