Kobe Bryant Essay Research Paper Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant Essay, Research Paper Kobe Bryant: A player. You have to be very careful what you ask for in life-you just might get it. Just ask Kobe Bryant. May 12th, ‘97. The Delta Center, Salt Lake City, UT. Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Utah Jazz. Game Five.

Kobe Bryant Essay, Research Paper

Kobe Bryant: A player.

You have to be very careful what you ask for in life-you just might get it. Just ask Kobe Bryant.

May 12th, ‘97. The Delta Center, Salt Lake City, UT. Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Utah Jazz. Game Five.

There’s 11.3 seconds left in regulation and the score is tied, 87-87. In the words of De La Soul, stakes is high. Not only because the Jazz are leading the Lakers 3-1 in the Western Conference Semifinals, but because things have gotten personal. It’s the little things: a sneaky elbow here, a trip there, the hard stares, the merciless picks.

But for now, all that is secondary. The Lakers are in big trouble. A minute earlier, the big guy, Shaquille O’Neal, fouled out with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Harsh words were exchanged between him and Karl Malone after a flagrant foul committed by O’Neal early in the third quarter led to Malone receiving a technical. Robert Horry, meanwhile, gave Jazz guard Jeff Hornacek a rough forearm, earning himself an ejection. But this is nothing compared to the tension between Laker coach Del Harris and his point guard, Nick Van Exel. In Game Four, Van Exel had been pulled by Harris for waving off the coach’s instructions, screaming vulgarities as Harris waved an admonishing finger in his face. Tonight, however, Van Exel is having a hell of a game, hitting key jumpers from all over the floor. His hot hand has saved them in clutch situations before, but now the ball is about to go to someone else for the game-winning shot.

The 18-year-old rookie, Kobe Bryant. The Golden Child.

A lanky, charismatic, 6-6, 200-pound prodigy, Kobe had led little-known Lower Merion High School to the Pennsylvania state title the year before. This year, he was being asked to carry an NBA team to the Finals. No problem.

“Give me the ball, coach,” Bryant says. “I’ll drain it.”

The clock ticks, and Bryant takes the ball down the court, two players to his left, two on the right. With a scant few seconds left, he stops-14 feet out-and takes what will henceforth be referred to as The Other Shot.

The ball sails through the air with a high arc and…never makes the rim. Airball.

Utah fans go crazy. Overtime. In OT, Bryant throws up three more long bombs-all airballs. The Lakers lose, 98-93. As the Lakers leave the court, Shaq, who has taken a liking to the rookie, talks to the kid who hates to lose-especially with the eyes of the world on him.

“I don’t want to see you hanging your head-you had a great season,” he says. “Go home, work hard, and we’ll come back next year.”

But as Bryant walks off the court, the thoughts race through his mind, especially as he takes one more look at that elusive rim. “Am I really ready for all of this?”

Q: What’s the most important lesson you learned last year?

Kobe Bryant: Patience.

What a difference half a year makes. Kobe Bryant is growing up before our eyes. It’s more than the full head of hair, the extra inch, the added musculature and the goatee-he’s becoming a man in this game.

He’s lithe and tall, with long, sculpted arms like Michelange-lo’s David. His face is aerodynamic, like that of a bird of prey. His crossover dribble is low to the ground and agile-he moves and twists, a challenge to guard. He can score from the perimeter but is becoming strong enough to power himself through the paint.

He’s not forcing shots as much as he used to. He’s learned to draw the double team-and dish the ball off to an open teammate. He won’t automatically drive the lane, falling into traps that contain his game in ways that weren’t possible when he was a high-school player. You still see that look of giddiness, the gee-whiz flair that has many people comparing him to Magic Johnson, but there’s also cold determination, an undying competitive streak that’s very reminiscent of Michael Jordan. Sure, Kobe Bryant still makes mistakes, but his overwhelming prowess makes them forgivable.

“It’s amazing how smart this kid is-he’s got a great personality and is very intelligent,” says Horry. “He’s got the whole world in his hands with this game, he can do everything-and he’s still learning-which is bad news for his opponents. He’s gonna be one of the greats, probably the [NBA's] all-time leading scorer.”

Because of his age entering the League?

“Sheeeet!,” Horry says with a laugh. “Because of how talented he is.”

The talent was never a question. Kobe broke Wilt Chamber-lain’s 40-year-old, Southeastern PA high-school scoring record of 2,359 points (with 2,883), and earned a No. 13 spot in the NBA draft without ever stepping on a college campus. He was USA Today’s High School Player of the Year in ‘96, and the NBA Slam Dunk Champion and Rookie All-Star MVP in ‘97. Orlando Magic general manager John Gabriel called him “borderline sensational,” and a scout suggested that he was “Grant Hill with a jump shot.”

Then again, a lot of people saw his limited playing time as a rookie and his seven points per game, and figured that it was way too early to call this kid the next Jordan or Magic. It seemed easy to dismiss him as shoe company hype-more a clever marketing scheme than an effective player. But you can’t judge a player by numbers alone. Michael Jordan only averaged 13.5 points as a freshman at North Carolina. David Robinson averaged 7.6 his freshman year at Navy. And they didn’t have to play against mature versions of themselves night after night, as Kobe does.

The more minutes he plays, the more Kobe improves. He’s a player who usually equals or surpasses the players who surround him. During the course of 15 games, from October 31st to December 7th of ‘97, Bryant doubled his scoring average to 16 points a game-making him the highest-scoring sixth man in the league at press time. More importantly, he changes the flow of games. The Lakers play faster, more fluid basketball when Bryant’s in the mix-he moves up the court with blinding quickness, getting himself open for a fadeaway jumper or a spectacular dunk.

“The hardest thing to adjust to coming to the pros was the size of the players,” Bryant says. “When I penetrated, I felt like I was going to the hole against a whole bunch of trees. In high school, I could see the whole court-like I was on top of a building, overlooking a field. Now I’m smarter. I move around things. I spot the holes. I read the defenses. That’s what basketball is all about: having fun, but keeping focused on the game, rising to that other level when the stage rises. Some-times your shot is gonna fall; sometimes it might not-you got to keep shooting.”

So what the kid’s 19? He’s young, but Miles Davis was the same age when he left Julliard to play his horn with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. The Hughes brothers were already directing music videos and episodes of America’s Most Wanted. It’s all relative.

And the things that you see Kobe do, on instinct alone, prove amazing. There’s the preseason dunk he had against the Washington Wizards, when he came straight down the lane (against 6-9 Ben Wallace), went airborne and slammed the ball down with rim-shattering intensity. There was the no-look pass he made to Corie Blount-in traffic, over the shoulder-for an effortless 360 lay-up in a 119-102 rout of the Clippers.

“That just came natural,” Kobe says, almost blushing. “That was the best way to get the ball to him.” All natural, without preservatives, are the steals, twisting lay-ups and ridiculous dunks that make Bryant the player most worthy of “The Human Highlight Film” moniker since Dominique Wilkins.

“I studied videotapes when I was growing up,” he says. “Magic Johnson’s backdoor moves, Hakeem’s post-up, Michael Jordan’s quickness. I just try to take bits and pieces of everybody and add it to my game.”

On a sunny Saturday afternoon in November, Kobe’s sitting on a trainer’s table at Southwest College, the Lakers’ practice facility, getting his right ankle treated by Gary Vitti, the long-time Lakers faith healer and the person-besides God-that AC Green should credit for helping him never miss a game. Kobe twisted the ankle a week before, playing against the Golden State Warriors, notching 24 points before landing hard after a fourth-quarter lay-up. (”If I’m gonna have to get injured, that’s how it’s gonna be. You can’t play being scared. You have to go in there and score.”) As a result, he missed the November road trip where the Lakers twisted through Dallas, San Antonio and Houston, undefeated. Kobe watched the games from his couch-a fate worse than death.

“You missed a good trip, man!” Vitti says, giving Kobe a warm hug.

“I know, I never want to do that again, man,” Kobe says, perturbed. “That Houston game was off the hook. Nick hit those shots in double OT-ridiculous!! That’s Nick, though.”

“Let’s see what you got, kid,” Vitti says, unwrapping the gauze on Kobe’s ankle. “See what I told you? Keep that wrap on the first night, you come back fast.”

“Yeah, I’m ready. We got Vancouver tomorrow.”

“They shouldn’t be tough competition,” I offer.

“Yeah,” Kobe says, “but that’s the type of team that can sneak up and bite you on the ass.”

“You heard about the fines that KG and Stephon and the rest of the ‘Wolves got for their shorts being too long, right?,” Vitti asks. “$7,500 apiece. You’re next, brother.”

“They ain’t gonna get me, dog. My shorts ain’t nearly that long,” he laughs. “Who else is coming to practice today?”

“Just you. Shea Seals, too. Del gave everybody the day off today. I could be with my kids right now…”

“Hey, Vitti, you telling me like I really give a fuck!” Kobe cackles.

The two exchange pounds. Nothing but love. Vitti is jazz, Kobe is hip-hop. The one’s Italian, the other speaks fluent Italian. Somehow it all makes sense. Synergy. An important concept in Kobe Bryant’s psyche.

To hang around Kobe Bryant is to talk about his three greatest passions-basketball, family and hip-hop. That’s it. You’re not gonna get stories about how much expensive stuff he’s bought with the help of his three year, $3.5 million contract and his multi-million dollar deals with Sprite and adidas-he just lets the money pile up in the bank. His only visible indulgences are his Lincoln Navigator and the black Range Rover he bought for his older sister, Shaya.

No stories of groupies and older girlfriends on the road-his mother screens his calls. He spends most of his time ordering room service and writing rhymes. He’s one of the rare young brothers who can flash his million-dollar smile at will without ever seeming like an Uncle Tom. Imagine Grant Hill with flavor-the new-style NBA player who can represent for the hardwood, the boardroom and the video game screen. Everyone loves him, and he doesn’t even know why.

“All you do is dribble the ball and put it in the hole. It’s a very simple game. Why is there so much attention, and it’s so loved, cherished and embraced? I don’t know,” he says with a mischievous smile. “If I figured that out, I’d be a billionaire.”

Give him some time. He just got here.

Kobe Bryant was born on August 23rd, ‘78, in Philadelphia, PA, the third child of NBA player Joe “Jelly Bean” Bryant and his college sweetheart, the former Pam Cox. Philadelphia natives through-and-through, they moved wherever Joe’s teams took the family-including San Diego with the Clippers and Houston with the Rockets-but vowed to return. Joe retired from the NBA in ‘83 and moved the family overseas while he played in Italian pro leagues. Kobe was five years old.

“The first thing I remember was not being able to speak the language, and everywhere I went, I went with my sisters. That’s the reason our whole family is so tight now-we had each other’s back.”

Kobe attended first grade at a local Italian school, learning the language like a native. He played soccer for a while, but it wasn’t long before he discovered the game it seems he was born to play. His grandfather, John Cox, remembers little Kobe bouncing a basketball around as early as three years old.

“From day one, I was dribbling,” Kobe says. “I just found basketball to be the most fun. It wasn’t just watching my father play. It was the fact that you could just dribble the ball around everywhere. You could play the game by yourself and envision certain situations.”

Shaya Bryant, 20, Kobe’s older sister, stands 6-2 and is Kobe’s constant running partner. She’s the middle child-their sister Sharia is a senior at Temple, a volleyball player with a 30-inch vertical. As Shaya watches her brother run shooting drills up and down Southwest’s hardwood floors, she remarks that basketball hasn’t changed him a bit.

“He loves being under pressure, being the one called on to make those kinds of shots,” she says. “When he first came home, he was a little sad, like, ‘Damn I should have made them,’ [referring to the Utah airballs] but then my father talked to him. It could have happened to anybody. I tell you this much-he’s been practicing that shot like crazy.”

Kobe takes a break, wiping sweat from his brow. “The important thing is that you continue to grow,” he says. “You always have to have a long-term goal in mind. For me? I wanted to play in the NBA after my senior year in high school. That was it. People want to hang out with you all day, and you have girls trying to call you at all times of the night, and you can’t concentrate on your homework. I tried to keep that stuff at arm’s length. I just wanted to play the game at it’s highest level-and there’s nothing like learning from the best players in the world.”

Why do you love it so much?

He pauses. Then he smiles, full wattage. “I don’t know, it just is. I love basketball so much. I have so much fire. Sometimes I get so angry, and sometimes I get so happy. It’s an emotional rollercoaster. It’s a part of me, man. It’s like heaven to go out there and compete against a guy, and try and think about picking his game apart in a slick, calm way.

“I just go out and play.”

Later, Kobe is tooling around Culver City at the wheel of his brand-new Navigator, on his way to the Fox Hills mall. He just had a $6,800 stereo installed at a place Shaq recommended. He’s wearing his own line of adidas clothes, and his own sneaker, the fast-selling KB8. The system is blasting a song by CHEIZAW, the rap crew that Kobe formed with Philly friends Anthony Banister, Russell Howard (a.k.a. The Golden One), Kevin Sanchez, Akia Stone and others…and the song sounds dope. A Jimi Hendrix “All Along The Watchtower” sample loops into oblivion, and Kobe has rap skills, coming off like a deep-voiced version of the Wu-Tang Clan’s Rebel INS a.k.a. Rollie Fingers-Inspectah Dek.

He’s living the American dream. And he knows it.

“As easy as God gives it to you, he can take it away from you,” he says. “What I’m doing right now is cool, but you have to touch people in a positive way. The Lord has blessed me with the ability to play basketball. It’s bigger than putting a ball in a hoop. You’re not just out there to showcase your skills in front of millions of people. That’s just the icing on the cake. That’s how I see it.”

November 18th, ‘97. Salt Lake City, Utah. Doesn’t matter where Kobe Bryant is-the fans love him. Even with the animosity that the fans have towards Shaq for bitch-slapping Greg Ostertag, and the overall jealousy they have of anyone wearing a Lakers’ uniform, the young star is mobbed-especially in the lobby of his hotel.

“Can I get an autograph?,” one young woman asks. Soon there’s a whole group, clamoring, holding up basketballs, snippets of paper and t-shirts. Doesn’t matter that the kid has payback on his mind. He signs them all with a smile.

He plops down in a chair for a moment, the weight of the world on his shoulders. He’s wearing a black adidas flop hat, a black leather jacket and a pair of horn-rimmed glasses, cool as a muthafucka. There’s no stress on his face-even if it’s in his brain.

“It’s hard to put it into words,” he says, adjusting his glasses. “When I walked onto the court this morning for shootaround and saw the basket, that’s when it all came back. Up until that point, I hadn’t thought about it at all. Somebody had to take those shots, and I was going to take them-I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I made them, I would have been the hero. If I missed them, I would have been the dog.

“All the other games I played in up until tonight don’t mean a thing.” He shakes my hand and walks for the door, cap slumped low, headphones on. He’s got a Goliath to take out with his slingshot. It’s on.

And suddenly it’s the fourth quarter. Stakes is high. Again.

The Jazz have led for most of the game, but the Lakers are catching up. Eddie Jones is on fire, with nine of his 15 points coming from behind the three-point line. Nick Van Exel is dishing the ball left and right.

And the kid is back in the game, Kobe Bryant. Hitting shots. Pulling down defensive rebounds. He doesn’t make any three pointers-but they do hit the rim this time around. There’s a poise, a confidence that wasn’t there last year. He’s really ready.

With 1:35 left on the clock, Van Exel hits a running 13-footer, tying the game at 92. Jazz swingman Bryon Russell gets the ball and launches a 17-footer… clank! A few seconds later Kobe gets the ball, and as he drives to the hoop, he’s fouled by Russell. He goes to the line. The game is in the kid’s hands again.

He stands at the line, sweat pouring down his face. His afro is uncombed, ruffled. His eyes are determined, as if he’s saying to himself, ‘Come on, man, this is your chance. You got to do this.’

Kobe lofts the ball, his long right arm outstretched to the sky, his hand flopping out at a 90 degree angle.

Swish.

Silence. He does it again.

Swish.

He smiles to himself, but doesn’t have time to enjoy the moment. The score is 94-92 Lakers, and there’s still a full minute on the clock.

Laker forward Rick Fox steals a bad pass from Greg Foster and is almost immediately fouled by Hornacek. He goes to the line, hits one of two. Karl Malone gets the rebound, and the Jazz are still within three.

Three seconds on the clock, the ball goes out to Russell, who’s guarded by Kobe. Russell puts up a three that is…blocked by Bryant. Kobe controls the ball, runs the entire length of the court, leaps through the air, stretches his body like a bird in flight and slams it home.

97-92 Lakers. Game over.

Stoic Del Harris, a man whose demeanor is normally as nondescript as his gray Donna Karan suits, is the first to lose his mind. “HOW ABOUT KOBE BRYANT TAKING THE LAST SHOT OF THE GAME TONIGHT!!!” he screams, nearly losing his glasses, pounding the scorer’s table with such fury you feel the force of the blows from three rows up.

Kobe leaps into Shaq’s open arms like a little kid.

Payback’s a bitch, ain’t it?

Harris is still flushed when he relives the moment in front of a throng of reporters outside of the locker room. “I told him I hoped that he got the last shot tonight-but that we were up by 15,” Del says with a laugh. “I felt so bad for him last year. He told me today, ‘If you give it to me again, I’ll drain it this time.’”

What about the block? If Russell was fouled, he would have gone to the line for three free throws.

“In the NBA, just like the game of life, you just have to roll the dice,” Kobe Bryant says, sitting in his locker, surrounded by a horde of media. “You’re never gonna win a championship unless you roll the dice. I’m willing to do that.”

The Lakers win the next two games, extending their record to 11-0. The second, a rout of the crosstown Clippers, was Harris’ 500th win. At 9:20 p.m., the cameras that normally wait for Shaq or Eddie Jones are now waiting for Kobe. A few weeks ago it was a handful of people, asking the same questions: (What is it like being so young playing in the NBA? Are you dating Brandy? How did it feel to lose in Utah? Do you think you would have benefited from going to college?) Now he’s the hot man off the bench. The equalizer. A viable source.

“Tonight, when Eddie went down [with a nasty eye gash courtesy of Lorenzen Wright's elbow], I felt like I had to step up my game a bit,” Kobe says, explaining a sensational game which included no-look passes, a reverse dunk from under the rim and shaking and baking two and three defenders at a time with a flashy crossover dribble.

“The championship is what we’re thinking about. If we can’t get motivated for that, we shouldn’t even be playing. That’s what basketball is all about. Competition. Pressure. Living for the moment. I’m looking forward to this road trip.”

Life on the road with the Lakers is not everything you would think it would be. Of course there are the charter flights-every seat is a first-class seat, you get snacks and drinks before you even take off and every flight includes a meal and a movie (team favorites are a bootleg copy of Devil’s Advocate and Jerry Springer’s Too Hot For Television). But after the novelty wears off, it’s a pretty exhausting existence. You fly in with just enough time to get to your hotel, maybe sleep, then shoot around, play the game and, win or lose, hit the airport that night for a flight to the next city.

You go to the hotel. Watch cable. Order room service. Take long showers. That’s about it. You’re more likely to see 20 kids with pens waiting for autographs than you are groupies in the lobby with their titties hanging out, hungry for multi-million-dollar black dick.

The Lakers hit Miami, exhausted from the flight, the sun already going down. Most of the team is in the lobby, on their cell phones, ready to hit the beach. No Kobe. I figure he’s up in his room, studying game tape, playing video games, writing rhymes. He’s got a game tomorrow, why bother him, right? Bad guess.

“You should have gone out last night, man,” says one Laker source. “We were out at South Beach, watching Gypsies, listening to flamenco music. I bet you thought Mr. Bryant was gonna be in the hotel, watching TV, but we saw him out with friends, living it up. We didn’t get in till almost three a.m.”

And Pat Riley and his well-rested team made the Lakers pay the price. Miami-the home of big booties, bodegas, blow and now basketball, since the former Laker coach has turned the Heat from slowpokes to no-jokes. Loud arena. Sound system blaring a Latin dance beat remix of Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart.” Sly Stallone and Don Shula have courtside seats. Just like the Forum, with fewer celebrities.

Except the Lakers lose big, 103-86 to a supercharged Heat squad.

“Losing is always a painful process,” Harris says afterwards. “The higher you fall from, the more it hurts.”

Kobe had a dynamic game, showing many why he’s considered the future. There were quick steals of bad passes; a juke and a fading, fall-away jumper against Dan Majerle who just couldn’t keep up, and a key reverse slam in traffic to tie the game in the third quarter.

But then there were the things that got him last year. Fourteen missed shots, and too much one-on-one ball, attempting to take over the game and not quite being able to pull it off. Missing crucial free throws.

“He was probably overly aggressive tonight,” Harris says. “He’s so competitive, it’s sometimes hard to rein him in.”

Kobe Bryant hates to lose, and you can see the disappointment on his face. But at the same time, he bounces back quickly-and never hides from the press. Besides, there’s another game coming up.

“You don’t want to lose two in a row, hell no,” he says. “We got to go to Boston tomorrow and kick some butt.”

True to his words, Kobe puts up 14, hits a three pointer and steals the ball as the Lakers crush the Celtics in the Fleet Center, 118-103. The momentum is back, and the Lakeshow heads for Philly, where the lowly Sixers were sure not to spoil Kobe’s homecoming. Right?

Wrong.

A roughneck named Iverson shows up and shoots up the party. He shakes Derek Fisher with a head fake so nasty that Fisher falls to the floor. Dishes a pass to Eric Montross underneath the basket in heavy coverage-he actually maneuvers the ball around his head and over his shoulder for the easy assist. Steals an inbounds pass with unbelievable speed and takes it coast-to-coast for the slam. It’s his world.

Kobe has his moments, though. Getting a nice pass from Van Exel after Elden Campbell steals the ball from Iverson, he runs down court alone and does a jaw-dropping 360-degree slam dunk, looking like a character out of a Wu-Tang Clan song, flashing the smile.

I have so many styles. Forgive me.

Doesn’t last. The Lakers lose. Kobe ends up with 19 points in 23 minutes, but by the end, he is sitting on the bench with a towel on his head, completely depressed at his performance, as well as that of his team.

“Kobe feels bad when his team loses a scrimmage in practice,” Harris says. “It’s OK to feel bad. I let him do that. I like it if he hurts a little bit-so he doesn’t get used to it. I just touch his shoulder, and I move on.

“He’s way ahead of other 19-year-olds, except for maybe Magic at that age, but the test for him over the next five years for him will be to focus.”

Kobe sits in his locker, focused. Ten reporters crowd around, throwing questions, which Kobe fields with poise and grace. A distinguished looking older man, wearing a Lakers hat and a white adidas sweatsuit, stands a few feet apart, his familiar eyes beaming with pride. It’s John Cox, Kobe’s grandfather.

“He’s such a fine young man, and this hasn’t affected his personality at all,” Cox says, flattered that someone is even asking him about his ‘Little Kob’.’ “No way are you gonna win all the time and never lose. It’s a part of the game.”

Kobe stands up, dressed in a suit, looking older than he normally does. It’s a glimpse at a future when he’ll be the one everyone jocks for quotes, the last to leave the locker room, the first they look to give the ball to.

But he still isn’t too old to be little Kob’ around the right people. “Let me fix your collar, son,” his grandfather says, adjusting the collar of his grandson’s dress shirt. He gives him a hug and moves with Lakers’ PR director John Black for the bus. It’s time to go home and face the music.

Joe “Jelly Bean” Bryant is a gentle giant, and its easy to see where his son gets his magnetic, easy-going personality. The elder Bryant sits with his wife, daughter Shaya and one of her friends as they watch the Lakers manhandle the Toronto Raptors. Unlike many sports parents, Jelly is very low-key about his involvement in his son’s career.

“I’m a good listener,” he says. “I keep my eyes and ears open to what he’s really saying, and you gotta look at whether or not it’s emotion, or if he’s thinking about what’s really going on. So that was difficult for me, being an athlete and knowing what it’s like to lose on the line like that in Utah last year, but I wanted to wait for him to describe what he was feeling. He didn’t really say anything. He just got up the next morning, took his basketball and worked out.”

The Lakers won 105-99 in a game that was closer than it should have been. Kobe played 19 minutes, had three assists and two turnovers and scored six points. By 9:30, back in the Lakers’ locker room, the scene is quiet; most of the media is gone. Kobe, unlike normal, isn’t bouncing out to meet the press.

“The only problem I think is that Kobe has is he takes things too seriously sometimes,” Horry says as he dries himself off. “He has to realize, you play 82 games, you got to let it go. It’s amazing that a kid his age wants to win so bad. It affects him that he’ll come out the next day and take it out against the next team. People talk about his age, but never his work ethic-that’s why, on the team, we don’t pay much attention to his age. He works so damn hard.”

Kobe is stretched out on the trainer’s table, a white towel around his waist and another around his head, making him look like Black Moses from an Isaac Hayes album that came out before he was born. He looks depressed. Doesn’t have much to say, other than “hello.”

He stares forward, thinking about the last few games, the things he should have done, the criticism from the coach, the points he should have scored, the passes he shouldn’t have made. Doesn’t matter that he has oh, maybe 1,230 games to play before he turns 34, Michael Jordan’s age. The young want everything now; and they’ll get it. What else would give a kid who could have been one of the best college players of all time-and with a 1080 SAT score he could have gone anywhere, academically-the balls to skip to the majors?

Kobe Bryant lives and dies with every single game.

That’s just the nature of legends in the making.

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