The guy I grew up immortalizing. The guy I shaped the way I do things to this very day. The guy I’ve spent countless hours in that backyard on 2nd Avenue on 92nd street imitating his exact moves. The guy I’ve been spent more thought regarding than perhaps anything else in life period. That Kobe Bryant guy, the childhood hero who I truly thought was invincible, was put on the shelf with a single pop. Complete torn achilles. Our leader, our captain, our general, our everything is down. 17 years, 31,583 points, 54,754 minutes played all together (including playoffs and Team USA obligations), and a million broken hearts shattered into a kajillion pieces across the world. Kobe’s season ended, and maybe the Lakers’ season ended with his as he hobbled towards the locker room in the Lakers’ 118-116 victory over the Warriors Friday night. You forget, they won the game. Why, because it surly doesn’t feel like it. Feels like your heart and soul was forcefully ripped from your body simultaneously.
The tears. Literally asked myself five hours prior when was the last time I cried at something sports related upon listening to Colin Cowherd ask Sports Guy Simmons when was the last time he cried due to something sports related. Me? Had to be when I was 12 when the Lakers’ three-peat run ended at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs in May of 2003. Almost ten full years, huh? Didn’t think I’d be shedding tears Friday night unless it was at the hands of Happy Endings, and joyful ones at that. The legit tears of seeing your childhood hero, eyes red as cherries along with weary and distraught covering all of his face with the knowledge of the truth we all can’t deny no matter how much we fight it. Kobe is down. A sight we’re not at all use to. But he’s certainly not out for good.
Like someone said last night, it was a punch to the gut. I was thinking more of a knife to the chest or to the kidney. You never thought this could happen to him, the mighty Kobe Bean, the cyborg. Yeah, Father Time is undefeated, and we all know he was coming for Kobe like the killer in a Scream movie and he was going to get to him, it was just a matter of time; but given the way Kobe has ducked and dodged him these last couple of seasons, I foolishly started to think Kobe could be the one to out-smart him long enough to leave on his terms. That’s how amazing Kobe has been with injuries, pain tolerance and etc.; the guy isn’t human, and I actually thought he wasn’t, until April 12th, 2013.
Those three plays of him getting hurt on perhaps three different injuries — the knee, the ankle and then the achilles — they were, in retrospective, him breaking down right before our very eyes. That image will be singed into my brain for at least the entire duration of his rehab, however long that will be, 6-9 months, whatever. It gives me goosebumps simply thinking about it, let alone me being able to watch replays of them. He kept fighting. A freak play it was, and he always, always thanked his incredible luck whenever he obtained yet another milestone of never having a true terrible injury to deal with. I’d think about that from time to time. How you see guys go down with ACL tears (seemingly every couple weeks these days), serious back injuries and many more, and we see this guy hurt and play through everything every single night; just a several sprained ankles, mangled index finger, torn ligament in his wrist, ripped up shoulder, bone spurs and a plethora more. But I guess it’s his turn to come back from something so devastating as this.
And I don’t care about anything else: what Mike D’Antoni should’ve done and what Phil Jackson would’ve and today’s stupid argument; whether they should amnesty him this summer to save money; anything Jim Buss related given so many people have such a strong opinion on someone you’d hear from once every other few months; don’t care about whether they can win these last two games to clinch “We’re no. 8″ or even if they get in what can they do, none of it. I only care about the guy who literally left it all on the court simply to get our bad luck ridden team to a more-than-likely four or five-game dismantling at the hands of the Thunder in the postseason. Honestly, I simply wanted them in the playoffs just to avoid the “biggest disappointment in team sports history” title. They’ve shouldered that moniker all throughout this dreadful season with their unbelievable luck and he wasn’t going to let them down, unless something took him down and took him out, which something/someone did. Father Time. He finally caught up with him after all this time. But knowing what it costed us—our heart and soul, our everything. Knowing that, I’ll gladly go around Los Angeles, walk Wilshire Blvd or Crenshaw with a shirt the reads, “I’m a Proud Fan of the All-Time Most Disappointing Team in Sports History” if it meant knowing I’d see 24 jot back on defense while chewing on his jersey after hitting another one of his patented turnaround fadeaway jumpers.
All of this is truly unbelievable, I, like others who’ve watched him all these years, still can’t fully wrap our minds around this whole thing less than 24 hours later. Woke up Saturday morning thinking all of this was a terrible nightmare where you’re in some REM world frighten, uneasy, looking for help to turn to, but there isn’t anyone there. You’re attempting to scream but there isn’t anything coming out. So heartbreaking. I don’t even have the heart go read his 3AM Facebook post. He gave us everything he had during this nightmare in itself season from hell, and back, and in hell once again. This season was doomed from the start, and he tried his damndest to carry this team, this city, on his shoulders under all the expectations and it was simply too much. Just like that, a single pop did him in; a single pop derailed inhuman Kobe. Our fallen solider, our proven leader, our grand general, my childhood hero. We all know he’ll be back, whether it’s six months, or nine, or a full year—he’ll be back. And we’ll be waiting for you, Kob. You’ve done so much for all of us these last 17 years. The least we can do is stand by you every step of the way in your toughest challenge to date.