The Twisting Finale of Kobe Bryant



Two weeks ago I wrote a relatively scathing piece on Kobe’s final season in the NBA. You can see what I had wrote below, its overly emotional and angsty; but it is a good representation of how Kobe’s final season has been divisive to me. It had felt like my sports and competitive idol had essentially cheated me for years and was just now coming clean to his legion of fans. 

Then the real finale came, and it was Kobe in all his glory, 60 points on 50 shots. It was tremendous to watch and a quintessential Kobe performance. It gave haters and fans alike something to indulge in. It was the Kobe of legend, willing to win at all costs — in this case sacrificing, or what was left of it, his body. At every timeout he looked exhausted, borderline broken, but he was able to push through and, like hollywood movies, save the day at the end. 

That was always the magic of Kobe, the ability to control the narrative in unbelievable ways. Hitting game-winning shots and providing ridiculous, but amazing, quotes about himself all helped provide this perception that he was in complete control of everything.   

Even beyond the court, he always seemed vastly in control of his personal image. That image reinforced everything we loved about the ruthless ass that Kobe was or is. This season tore that apart in ways that were hard to stomach, it borderline averted me from wanting to watch my favorite basketball team. 

But, dutifully, I tuned in for his finale like millions of other people. To watch that performance was like buying a ticket to get a last glimpse of a legend. The performance was genuinely breathtaking. What that performance left us with was a paradox though.

All season long Kobe had seemed to adopt a strange persona that tolerated being average or worse. The final game against Utah, took that and twisted it on its head. He, for one last time, was able to give us what we wanted and mold the story to how he thought it should go, and it was breathtaking.

What we are left with is two varying images of Kobe. One that showed him as a fake, someone who had fed a persona until it outgrew him and he could no longer keep up with it. And another, the Kobe we adored for his all-or-nothing approach to winning and life.  

- David Clarey




The Disgusting Finale of Kobe Bryant ~ Two weeks before his final game

Rematching Kobe Bryant’s press conference in 2013 after he tore his achilles feels like watching an abrupt end to an American icon in a few moments. The free throws he shot after the injury, before leaving the game, are forever a part of the legend of Kobe — a player willing to go to any length to win. It is in this legend that he lives in so many basketball fans’ hearts. Those of us too young for Jordan latched onto Kobe with unwavering commitment, our own generation’s Jordan. 

We were constantly told this was the closest thing to Jordan we would get. And it was true. No other contemporary player provided us with the thrilling highlights, the flair for the dramatic, and the consistency like Kobe. So we relished and adored the legend. We trudged forward despite atrocious sexual conduct. We latched onto him even when it was clear that, at some point, the legend of Kobe had outgrown the truth of Bryant.

Never has this been more evident than in the embarrassing 2015-2016 Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour. The season has been, predictably, a disaster. The team sits at a record of 15-59 and recently fell to the Utah Jazz, a team Bryant had terrorized throughout his career, by 48. The game was an embarrassment for fans of Kobe, seeing him smile for pictures on the sideline with fans there and seemingly detached from the outcome. Where is the Kobe we latched onto? 

Admittedly, I don’t watch sports as much as I used to, college seems to have a way of prioritizing our lives for us — with little acknowledgment of what we may have once prioritized. But I still follow the Lakers and Bryant avidly, the demise of a legend can be captivating. The player I had grown to adore is entirely lost, replaced by someone who has adopted a bizarre wise and overly-content old man persona. Someone who is content with losing by 48 and being subject to countless articles by media about how much it means for other players to be playing against Bryant in his last season.

Screw that. Bryant’s final season is sickening to watch because its killed the legend we believed in. The player that would play through any injury, meet any challenge, and scoff at anyone that told him he couldn’t. If this season has told us anything its that the Kobe of legend was a persona. You can say that he is just moving with the motions of a final season and farewell tour, but the Kobe we adored wouldn’t have accepted this.

- David Clarey