Tuesday, April 16, 2013

For the Love of Bean

No, not Mr. Bean!  Although he is quite hilarious.

 (Even though Mrs. Coach, and all four versions of the little coach's disagree with me.  They are wrong.  Mr. Bean is genius.)

No, I'm talking about Kobe Bean Bryant.

Note:  I am not discussing Kobe's Sexual Assault case in Colorado.  All I'm looking at is his body of work as a player.  If you can't overlook that, I understand...but philandering athletes is hardly anything new.  And   no one knows exactly what went on in that Colorado hotel room but the two people involved.  But, I digress.

I'm sure that most people have heard that he tore his Achilles Tendon.  But did you know that AFTER he tore his Achilles tendon, he went to the bench, walked back out to the court...shot (and made) 2 free throws, and then walked off the court under his own power!  Watch for yourself.

In this, his 17th season, Kobe Bryant is finally becoming embraced by fans of other teams as he is by Laker fans.  It's about time.

You see, fans of other teams didn't get it, they hated Kobe.  In fact, until LeBron spurned Cleveland to go to Miami, Kobe was far and away the most hated player in the league.  I wish I would have collected a nickel for every time that I heard Kobe was "overrated"...  Or how "the refs bail him out"...  Or how he was a "bad teammate"... or how he was "a jerk".

When the Lakers decided to part ways with Shaquille O'Neal and keep Kobe, the critics howled.  They said it was a mistake.  When Shaq subsequently won a title with the Miami Heat, they howled even louder.  When the Kobe-led Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals... the critics reached a deafening level.  "Kobe never won anything without Shaq".  And the narrative continued to grow.

The fact the Lakers then won 2 straight titles following that, still did little to quiet Bryant's critics.  Sure he had finally won without Shaq, but he was still considered a jerk, and arrogant, and yes even overrated in some circles.

However, over the past two years, there has been a slight "change" in the tone of the story.  Fans of other teams are starting to understand.  They are beginning to see how Kobe brings it every night.  For 17 seasons now, he gives it everything he has.  He has played through multiple injuries, multiple head coaches, in different systems, and yet he still comes ready to rock every night.

Even noted Celtics fan and Laker Hater Bill Simmons has been converted.  In Simmons career he has made 2 things abundantly clear:  1.  He hates the Lakers (and) 2.  He hates Kobe Bryant.  Or at least he did.  You can go over the archives of his columns and his podcasts, but over the past 2 seasons there has been a remarkable shift in tone from the Editor of Grantland.com.

Maybe it's the fact that the other players of Kobe's time have come and gone.  Do you remember Tracy McGrady?  He was drafted a year after Kobe.  Maybe it's because other players near his age are struggling to stay healthy, with injuries hampering them every season. (see Kevin Garnett who has only played 70 games once in the past 5 years).  But Kobe continued to bring it night after night after night (playing all 58 games last 'strike shortened' year, all 82 games the year previous...and 78 games this year), right up until the point that literally couldn't.  The game before he tore his Achilles he played all 48 minutes.

How many guys in the league could even play 48 minutes of average basketball in their 17th season?  Much less to do it at the level that Kobe has.  He's taken over the point guard role at times this season.  Earlier this season it was announced that Kobe would just go ahead and guard the other team's best offensive perimeter player, if that was a quick little point guard, fine.  If it was a slashing, muscular 2 Guard, fine.  If it was a sweet shooting small forward, fine.  Didn't matter.  Put Kobe on him, he'll handle it.

Why do you think the Laker fans started the "MVP" chant when he went to the free throw line?  (and that started back when they had Shaq).  Why when the whole world was against them when they kept Kobe instead of Shaq...why were the Laker fans happy?  Seriously, did you know a Laker fan who said, "We kept the wrong guy".  Because I've never met one, and although I'm sure they exist...they probably don't brag about it.

Now we are finally hearing from the "haters" and the "fans" of other teams an admiration for how hard Kobe plays, and how he brings it every night.  So much so, that he gets the MVP chant in every arena.  (And yes, the Boston Celtics crowd is on there too)  That would have been unthinkable just 4 years ago.  Now, the respect that has been earned year after year, is finally being shown.

The thing about that is, Laker fans aren't surprised.
We already knew.

(BTW, I can't help but get one, small, itsy bitsy, shot at the Celtics on here.)

Celtics fans....Remember this?
Paul Pierce in a Wheel Chair after rolling his ankle in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
(He'd go on to return in this game, and ... play in the rest of the games in the series).

Once again for Clarity.... Paul Pierce after rolling his ankle (and then returned)
OMG, OMG, OMG....Carry Me!
Kobe Bryant after tearing his Achilles, missing the rest of the season, and having surgery the next day.
I got this.

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