Posts Tagged With: Kobe Bryant

From One Generation to the Next: Kobe and LeBron Face Off Thursday Night

From Twitter: Then (2004) and now (2015)

Last night, the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Los Angeles Lakers 109-102 in Staples Center. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise due to the Lakers’ struggling to find what works for the team (for the past couple of years). What was so special about the game, though, is the symbolism. Guard Kobe Bryant faced off against forward LeBron James for what some are saying could be the last time this ever happens.

Here’s where the symbolism comes in: Bryant is 36 years old and on the verge of retirement, while James just turned 30 in December and arguably hasn’t even reached his peak professionally yet. Though Bryant had more assists than James (17 compared to five), James dropped 36 points, 17 more than the Mamba, and came away with the win. During and after the game, James and Bryant were very complimentary of one another, showing the utmost respect for their opponent.

“We love going against one another, it brings out the best,” James said of he and the Lakers veteran. “(He’s) someone I’ve always looked up to, someone I’ve admired. It’s always great competition going against him.”

To view James’ full postgame interview with Rachel Nichols, click here.

Seeing them reminds me of how the next generation of superstars are rising up.

You always hear about people age 40 and over talk about Magic Johnson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Larry Bird and guys from that era and you think, “Wow, that was a really long time ago.” Now, for the late 80s and 90s babies, it’s our turn to reminisce:

I can remember a time when the superstars of the league were Bryant, Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Shaquille O’Neal, etc. and the Eastern Conference was filled with competitive teams, many of which were over .500 (but no shade). I can remember the Lakers’ three peat and the infamous 2001 NBA Finals where Iverson came as close as he’d ever be to getting a ring. If you ask people my age who their favorite player was growing up, most of them will choose someone from the men I listed above.

But now, you see the next generation of superstars. Jerseys of James, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Damian Lilliard, Steph Curry, etc. now are hot ticket items and have replaced the superstars of old. Bryant is one of the few players of that time to still be an active player on an NBA roster (Jermaine O’Neal may or may not be trying to become part of that list again). Most of those guys are commentators, coaches or have kids following in their footsteps playing basketball in high school or even college (like Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp).

So, congrats to James and the current generation of superstars. May you continue to build on the game for the next generation the way those before you did. Oh, and always remember: Ball is life!

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Kobe Bryant: Like Mike or Better?

Associated Press

It’s almost ironic that the last post was about the Lakers’ decline and now I’m talking about Kobe Bryant surpassing the GOAT Michael Jordan as third in all-time scoring. Last night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Bryant reached 32,293 points after making two free throws in the third quarter. The only people in front of him now are Karl Malone with 36,928 points and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with 38,387. Bryant ended the game with 26 points, six rebounds and two assists in the 100-94 win over the Timberwolves.

I think everyone can recognize Bryant as one of the best to ever do it, but some have gone as far as to say he’s better than MJ. This, mostly coming from those who were born around the time Jordan was about to retire…well, the first time. Though I do fit somewhat in this category, I can’t say I agree. Michael Jordan truly changed how basketball is played. He’s the standard when it comes to greatness. Today’s great, LeBron James, has been compared to Jordan on numerous occasions. Have there been comparisons between him and Bryant? Maybe, but most likely only when it came to who has a better chance of beating Jordan (see where this is going?).

The obvious thing to point out would be the number of rings each great has. It does have some validity to it, but it almost seems like such a basic argument at this point because it’s been used so much. Instead of pointing out Jordan has more rings, it’s better to look at the teams each had and how they impacted the sport. Both played with Hall of Famers, but Jordan was able to assemble his team more effectively than Bryant has (or likely will). As a result, he has the sixth ring, as opposed to Bryant’s five.

Jordan was also able to accomplish more in less time than Bryant, not to mention the fact that Jordan went to college. Bryant came into the league from high school, which would seem to give him a four-year advantage. But, the time Jordan spent at UNC developed him better and allowed him to be more prepared, thus making him better coming into the league. From there, Jordan was able to do things no one has ever done before. Players now, including Bryant, model their game after Jordan, but it’s doubtful anyone will surpass him as the GOAT.

This is not to take away from Bryant’s legacy as a player. After all, he is one of the top 10, if not top 5, player ever in the mind of many and certainly one of the greatest of this generation. But before saying he’s better than Jordan, take all things into account.

* Another interesting to point out was who Bryant was playing against for this milestone. Bryant has made mention of seeing huge potential in Andrew Wiggins, the Timberwolves rookie. He was taken in the first round in the 2014 NBA Draft and definitely has huge potential. The fact that Bryant said he sees himself in the young player speaks volumes to how he feels about him and his future. Only time will tell how everything will work out for Wiggins. But, mark it down now. Wiggins could very well be the greatest of the upcoming generation.

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The Rise and Fall of a Dynasty: LA Lakers

Photo Credit: Jae C. Hong, Associated Press

Growing up, I was a huge Allen Iverson fan. I wanted to play just like him, get his jersey, shoes and would spend countless hours trying to imitate his moves. The best time to be an AI fan was in 2001 when the Philadelphia 76ers were in the NBA Finals. I just knew The Answer was going to get his ring alongside Eric Snow, Dikembe Mutombo, Keith Van Horn and the rest of “the crew.” But that year, and the only year AI would get that far in the playoffs, they faced the Los Angeles Lakers.

Being born and raised in California, the Lakers were the “it” team. From Kareem to Magic to Shaq and Kobe, they were the face of California basketball (though we had other ball teams, but they didn’t count). Anyway, as history would have it, the Lakers went on to win the ‘ship with a 4-1 series. Watching the game with die hard Lakers fan family members made it even worse because the trash talking was never-ending. That was the point, despite my California roots, I began to despise the Lakers.

Over 10 years later, the hate has been transformed into concern and pity. This Lakers franchise that has more championships than several teams combined certainly isn’t what it used to be. It’s almost the polar opposite. The team is 6-16, the team vibe is tense and Kobe Bryant, the franchise player, has expressed his not-so-nice feelings on the current state of the team. Even though the season is just really getting started, being in the Western Conference, the Lakers probably won’t see the playoffs and if they do, it’s highly unlikely they make it far.

But, what happened? When did it all change? The last championship the team won was in 2010 and the chance of that changing anytime soon is far-fetched. The great Dr. Jerry Buss has passed and Phil Jackson is now part of the New York Knicks franchise. The franchise I loved to hate after that faithful 2001 finals appearance has come and gone.

Is there a chance they can get it back? Sure. Before Bryant retires? Not likely. It’s going to take a thorough rebuilding of both the Lakers and the 76ers to get back to playoff talks, let alone the championship. With many different teams trying to build their own dynasties, the ante has been upped. But who knows? Maybe some day, the team will be a force again and some little girl from California will go against her family and root against the Lakers in a potential NBA Finals playoff series.  And with something so simple, that will be the moment she discovers a passion and love for the game.

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Kobe Bryant may not play season opener

After a successful surgery and surpassing the time it takes to recovery from an Achilles injury, Lakers star Kobe Bryant is still unsure that he will be able to play in the first game of the season on Oct. 29.

On April 12, the Black Mamba sustained an injury to his Achilles’ tendon and had to undergo surgery. This procedure would take six to nine months to recover, however, Bryant did not need that much time.

“The normal timetable for recovery from an Achilles, we’ve shattered that,” Bryant said while in Shenzhen, China, according to NBA.com. “Three-and-a-half months [and] I can already walk just fine. …So we don’t know what the timetable is going to be. It’s kind of new territory for us all.”

Although he seems to want to expedite the process, both Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and Lakers executive vice president Jeanie Buss are more interested in Bryant’s recovery.

“Kobe is a big question mark,” Kupchak told Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio Thursday. “We’re very optimistic. He’s getting treatment every day. He’s in the facility right now, but he hasn’t been on a basketball court.”

Buss doesn’t mind how long it takes Bryant to heal and wants him to be a Laker for the rest of his career.

“I want Kobe to take the time that he needs to get healthy,” she said last week in an interview with ESPNLA 710. “[He] is part of the Laker family and will always be. There’s not many players who play 18-19 years with the same franchise, and it’s important to us that he has a chance to play his entire career with the Lakers.”

Only time (and Bryant’s body) will tell when he will be able to return. On Thursday night, Bryant sat with Jimmy Kimmel during an event called “Kobe Up Close,” a fundraiser for the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Foundation, which aims at reducing homelessness.

During that interview, Bryant expressed his faith in his team. He hopes that the new additions of Nick Young and Wesley Johnson will “[ease] the load” for him.

Despite his uncertain return, one thing is certain for Bryant and he made it very clear to Kimmel and all those who were listening.

“I want that jewelry,” he said. “People just don’t understand how obsessed I am with winning.”

 

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D’Antoni speaks on Dwight leaving

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles head coach Mike D’Antoni spoke with a Los Angeles-based radio station, expressing his sentiments on Dwight “D12” Howard leaving the Lakers for the Houston Rockets.

“It’s hard for me to sit here and criticize or to even understand why he left a place like LA,” D’Antoni said. “That’s kind of mind-boggling a little bit, but that’s in his DNA and what he wants to do.”

Others like Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, however, could tell what was coming.

“It wasn’t a surprise,” he said. “I had a feeling that Houston was a frontrunner, and whenever a player is an unrestricted free agent, anything can happen.”

As a fan of basketball and an avid viewer (when school and studying permits), I thought it was obvious that Howard was not only going to leave, but that he never should have come to Los Angeles in the first place.

The first problem was the presence of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant. Howard had just come from the Orlando Magic, where he was the franchise player and the star of the show. You think Orlando, you think D12. After a while, you get used to that kind of attention, which he did.

Upon coming to Los Angeles, Howard acknowledged publicly that this is still “Kobe’s team” and he would take a backseat to and learn from Bryant in hopes that the team would one day become his. However, I am not totally convinced he held to this belief. Once you’ve been a star, it is hard to relinquish that title, especially with a personality like Howard’s.

He was not used to sharing the spotlight and could not speak against it because he was the “new kid on the block.” Instead, he acted out and did not give his all during games. His father even got involved in the matter, making comments that could have added fuel to the fire.

Another problem was that D12 was not a good fit for D’Antoni’s system. If Howard would have really looked at how D’Antoni does things and seriously spoke with him about his style of play, he may not have been a “bad fit.”

More than anything, I believe that Howard was blinded by the flashing lights and celebrity status of a city like Los Angeles, not to mention their numerous championships. He truly believed that he could come in and win a championship.

Ultimately, there were too many egos involved and somebody had to go. Since Bryant is (and will be until he leaves) the star and franchise player of the Lakers, it had to be D12.

Although many people did not like Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal’s comments about Howard leaving, it is true. Houston is a safer choice than LA and there isn’t as much pressure to be a superstar. When you think Lakers, you think about people like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaq, Magic Johnson, people that are considered some of the best players to play the game; you think about legacies and championships.

The Rockets don’t have that kind of perception, although they have won two championships and had Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon on their roster.

The question now is how Howard will perform in Houston. The pressure is off and he can now be the new face of the Rockets. Will his presence be enough to win them a championship? Only time will tell.

 

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