The End Of An Era In Basketball
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The End Of An Era In Basketball

How the retirement of Kobe Bryant affected a boy from Los Angeles

The End Of An Era In Basketball
Boston Globe

Los Angeles is a big place with a lot of people. You can find people of every kind: rich, poor, white, black, brown, yellow, legal, illegal, conservative, liberal. Think of any type of person, and chances are you can find them in LA. Transgendered second-generation immigrants from a small rural village in Uzbekistan? Of course, they live right off Sunset. While this diversity has led to tensions within the city and its surrounding area that have often exploded in violence (i.e. Watts Riots, targeting of Latinos), there is one thing—no, one person—who unites all of us: Kobe Bryant.

As of today, Kobe is 37 years old, playing in his 18th NBA season for the Los Angeles Lakers. He has achieved every possible basketball milestone: slam dunk champion, all-star, all-pro, NBA champion, Olympic Gold medalist, Most Valuable Player—you name it and he’s done it. Despite these numerous accolades, there is still one thing Kobe has yet to do: retire. And yet, that is where we find Kobe Bryant today, playing in his final season, a shadow of his former self. The once great scorer who electrified arenas with his powerful dunks, seemingly-impossible fade-aways, and ultimate “fuck-you” attitude is now a shell of the superstar he once was.

Kobe Bryant has been playing in the NBA longer than I’ve been alive; to a young James, he represented everything wonderful and unknown about the world. A muscular, charismatic superstar from the far-off city of Philadelphia who conquered Grizzlies in the dark forests of Memphis and tamed Mavericks in the deserts of Dallas. But now, time has caught up with my childhood hero: no longer able to float through the air, slither his way into the paint, and outpace his opponents, the formerly invincible has become mortal. Perhaps this is what growing up is: we learn to see the flaws in our heroes, and slowly they begin to fall. It is only now that the full implications of the accusations of sexual assault dawn on me. It is only now that I realize that as great as he is, Kobe Bryant was an abrasive and selfish teammate. It is only now that I see that, like all of us, Kobe Bryant is flawed.

Despite his character flaws, I still respect and admire Kobe. People have often chastised me for sympathizing with him over his retirement. “He’s made hundreds of million dollars, James, don’t be stupid, he’ll be fine” seems to be the common argument. While he certainly has made more money than I could make in 50 lifetimes, he has loved the game of basketball above all else. I firmly believe that I—and most people for that matter—will never find an activity, idea, place, or even a person that I will love more than Kobe Bryant loves basketball. The past 30 years of his life have been dedicated to a single purpose. Looking solely at game time, Kobe Bryant has played over 60,000 minutes of basketball—that’s 1,000 hours or nearly 6 weeks spent in a regulated, recorded, official basketball game. Taking into account the time dedicated to preparation, training, and practice, I would not be surprised if Kobe has spent more time physically preparing and playing basketball than I have spent breathing. Furthermore, think of the sacrifices Bryant made to become the best. Bryant has been married for 14 years and has two children, yet he still dedicates nearly every waking moment to improving as a basketball player. Say what you will about his priorities; dedication of that level shows a true and powerful love for the game of basketball. Yet now, as his body betrays him, Kobe must come to grips with the fact that he will never be able play the game he has lived for at the same level again.

Kobe Bryant has been a constant force in my life, instrumental in my development into who I am today. He captivated my boyhood attention by taking on the world and coming out victorious. He taught me the importance of picking yourself up when you end up on your ass. Kobe Bryant did more than embody my hopes and fears—he transcended the game of basketball. To me and a whole generation of basketball fans, Kobe Bryant was more than a basketball player. He was basketball.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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