Defiance and fortitude in the face of overwhelming odds. Achievement made all the sweeter due to a barrage of detractors and basketball savants who in the same breathe criticize Kobe Bryant for not quite measuring up to Michael Jordan, demonize him for playing in a similar fashion. This is the Bryant I grew up watching.
There are a number of games to point at and say, this is the Kobe that I want to someday pull up for my children in order to show the greatness of number 24. However, in order to get a full picture of this man, there might be no better game than his last, the game that sidelined Mr. Vino for quite possibly the final time in his career. What better way to give a microcosm of his career then to witness a game in which you were given a chance to experience his dogged determination to win at all costs. Even at times, at the cost of his own teams success. Down in the 4th quarter to New Orleans, in a game that pitted his Lakers against one of the new faces of the league, Anthony Davis, Bryant checks himself back in the game after re-injuring a shoulder that had been bothering him since training camp. This of course was nothing new, Kobe has played through a host of well documented ailments from torn ligaments in his shooting hand to worn down cartilage in his knees. Yet what seperates Bryant from possibly any other player in the league is his competitve nature, so what you had was a player shooting skyhooks and pulling down rebounds with the off hand due to an inability to raise his dominant arm above his head. Kobe detractors would tell you this was another sign of his selfishness not removing himself when it was clear he was hampered. Kobe supporters would exclaim, this is just another example of his desire to win at all costs and how tough he was. Polarizing in victory or defeat, no player in recent memory has moved the needle in the court of public opinion quite like Bryant. Bryant has employed a style of play that has caused headaches and long nights for coaches and players, both opposing and otherwise. Displaying a desire to compete and win that borders on psychopathic, all in the midst of chaotic forces that threaten his legacy. This is the Kobe I choose to remember and this past Wednesday night all this was on full display.