USA Today Sports
One of the reasons people love the NBA because they can attach life’s greatest lessons to them. Patience is needed once you realize your team won’t win a championship every year. Loyalty can be used to stick it out with a particular team that’s not doing well. And at some point you learn to be a good loser. Basketball make you feel alive, and for that our society will always love them.
“Nothing lasts forever” is another one of those lessons. Humanity learns through many walks of life that everything goes away eventually. Such is the way of mortal life. The closest thing that gets their is some form of communication of man, whether it is story, song, or art.
In the NBA, people get a form of this lesson as well. They want legendary players to waltz around a specific league for selfish reasons, but that is far from the case. Professional careers last just shy of 20 years at best, and many of the favorites start slowing down by year 15. This is about a fourth of an average human lifespan, so many player’s careers will pass in one individual’s lifetime.
For me, however, it doesn’t get more chilling than witnessing Kobe Bryant’s body breakdown in this manner. Sure, he isn’t retiring anytime soon — I wouldn’t expect such a thing for Kobe Bean Bryant — but to see him suffer another injury is telling. Michael Jordan got me into basketball, but I only was only alive for his last five seasons with the Bulls. I’ve been through it all with Kobe, and I can’t say that about any other player in league at this point.
Rushed into the public’s view swiftly with the Los Angeles Lakers, it wasn’t hard for the afro-adorned budding star to find his way onto my TV. And while things were innocent at first, it wasn’t too long before Bryant found his way into my heart as an antagonist. He just beat the Pacers in the only finals series they’ve taken part in since my birth, of course it still stings. I rooted against Kobe whether it has been against the Kings, Nets, Pistons, Spurs, Suns and any other big matchup he was in. He was there, and he was always the bad guy.
As the years wore on, the way I saw Kobe Bryant progressively changed. He was still the villain, but there was something more endearing about him. He was always there. Eventually his competitive-to-a-fault behavior became humorous to me, and there was some enjoyment in being able to root against him. When the Lakers came on, I’ve always known that the jersey with “Bryant” embroidered on the back would be out there on the hardwood. Sure his teammates ranged from Shaq to Chris Mihm, or Derek Fisher to Smush Parker to Derek Fisher again, but he was still out there on the same team every single year. Tim Duncan and him were the NBA’s constants, but no one star has consistently shined the last 17 years as bright as Bryant’s has
So to see him shaken again with injury, it’s sobering. It makes me long for the moments where he would infuriate me to no end with his spectacular play for the bad guys. He will still have his moments, but now the clock really seems to be ticking away. If the achilles injury was what started the sail-ship’s trip to retirement, this feels like a big gust bursting out of nowhere to give the boat an extra push. The injury isn’t serious — that we know of — but it already takes away from the number of games we have left with Kobe, and that is sad. Until then, I’m going to make the most out of every moment Kobe Bryant has left.
Because nothing lasts forever, not even Kobe Bryant.