I Will Never Love Like This Again

 In Featured, Stuff

Many factors need to align for the truly great relationships in life to occur. Timing is everything. Some combination of age, values, career, family, location, history, lifestyle, among other things, need to intersect with another individual at exactly the right moment.

Kobe Bryant entered my life at the perfect time. I was 19, in college, a lifelong Laker die-hard, a hoops fanatic, and someone that appreciated greatness.

He was 17. An incredibly confident basketball savant drafted by the Hornets and traded to my Lakers that night. Jerry West, widely thought of as one of the greatest minds in league history, said of Kobe’s pre-draft workout that it was the “Best workout I’ve ever seen. He’s better than anyone we have on the team right now. Let’s go”. You had me at ‘Best’, Jerry.

This was meant to be.

I fell in love with Magic Johnson at a very young age and never looked back. Being caught up in the Showtime era, with Magic and his Hollywood smile leading the charge, it was easy for a young kid to get swept up in the hype of Lakerland. They were cool. They were fun. They won. I was hooked.

I wanted to be Magic Johnson. The way he carried himself and impacted the people around him was the way I hoped to be, both on and off the court. He was my sport father figure.

It went the other way with Kobe. We were almost the same age; yet I was protective of him from the get go. I recall early in Kobe’s career after one of my numerous “Dude, you don’t even know” rants about how incredible this kid was, my friend Matt saying that I sounded like a proud father.

All basketball fans have their opinion of Kobe. My goal is not to try and change your mind. We can all agree he is one of the best to ever play the game.

In general I am not a fan of ‘best ever’ conversations and comparisons. Sure they are fun to have, but there is no real answer. Players have different teammates and coaches and training facilities. The rules of the game change. The athletes evolve. The 1-to-1 comparisons don’t really work.

Who’s the better detective? Vic Mackey or Lester Freamon?

Who’s the better writer? Emily Dickinson or Joseph Heller 😉 ?

Who’s better looking? Raquel Welch or Halle Berry?

I don’t know, and neither do you. However, if you DO want to ever engage in a conversation about the best in basketball, I will happily and forcefully bring Kobe Bryant’s name up early and often.

When you talk about the most fundamentally sound player and start with Duncan, I will quote Bill Walton and say (paraphrasing) “Anything that has ever been done on a basketball court, Kobe Bryant can do”.

When you ask who has the best jump shot and throw Ray Allen or fill-in-the-blank white guy in my face, I will gladly say that ‘jump’ shot involves the ability to create said shot. Kobe raising up off the dribble, squaring his shoulders, and releasing the ball with picturesque rotation is an image that should be shown at basketball clinics as long as this great sport is played and taught. It belongs in the Smithsonian.

When you bring up who you would want to have the ball with a last second shot to win a game and proceed to present some analytics that say Kobe wasn’t great in those spots, I will look you dead in the eye and say, “Seriously, you KNOW you want Kobe with that ball”.

When you say something to the effect of “yeah, but passing”, I will argue that Kobe is the most underrated great passer this league has ever seen.

When you mention work ethic, preparedness, and student of the game, I will tell you to visit a site called Google, type in ‘Kobe’ along with any of these words and get back to me.

I would also note, with an unblemished record of staunch heterosexuality (s/o Costanza), that Kobe is the best-looking player of all-time.

And I may be wrong saying all these things, but I also may be right.

To me, basketball is a craft, a form of art, and no one has perfected that craft the way Kobe Bryant has.

Basketball is my favorite sport. The Lakers are my favorite team. Kobe is my favorite player. I can genuinely say over the past 20 years, few things have given me the consistent joy that watching this kid play basketball has. It has been such a pleasure.

Why won’t I ever love like this again? I hope to, but I realize it is a long shot. There will be MAYBE 5 players for the rest of my life that come along who we can universally say MIGHT be better than Kobe Bryant. One of those 5 would need to be drafted by the Lakers, spend their entire career there, and win…a lot. And even if this special someone presents himself, will I ever be at a point in my life where I have that love to give again? While I would like to be pleasantly surprised, I just don’t see it happening.

I don’t have much of a desire to meet Kobe, or any famous person for that matter. I mean, if he wanted to hang out and watch Pulp Fiction or build a fort, that would be cool, but that sounds pretty cool to do with most of you. My relationship is with Kobe the baller, not the man, and that is now over.

It was special. I hope it meant as much to him as it did to me.

Thanks, Kobe.

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