Kobe Bryant’s Polarising Career Comes to an End

Kobe Bryant retirement

My knowledge of the NBA is not all there. I do take an interest in the league and openly pledge allegiance to the Chicago Bulls, but ultimately I would not consider myself anywhere close to being an expert on the game.

Yet you don’t need to be an expert of the game to know who Kobe Bryant is and what he accomplished in the game.

Kobe Bryant officially played his final game against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, amassing an impressive 60 points in a 101-96 win. In terms of the division standings, the game was meaningless, as neither the Lakers nor the Jazz could make the play-offs yet the Staples Centre was abuzz all night long.

LA is just about the only place in America that unanimously loves Bryant. Elsewhere he’s as polarising as he is talented. An arrogant, holier-than-thou demeanour on the court will rub a lot of fans the wrong way, and of course there is the matter of the rape allegation in 2003 which had the potential to derail anyone’s career.

Yet Bryant was allowed to play during that whole scandal, and LA didn’t turn on him when he *supposedly* pushed Shaquille O’Neal out of the state and when he *supposedly* held the team to ransom with his monster contract demand in his twilight seasons.

How many players, past or present, could really get away with these kinds of situations? I suppose you’d have to ask how many players won 3 or more rings and helped to build a dynasty.

For all the controversies, Kobe Bryant was a dynamo on the court. You don’t get a nickname like “Black Mamba” by pussy-footing around, Bryant was ruthless on the court and was ruthless in the locker room. His work ethic and desire to be the best led him to be labelled by Forbes sportswriter Michael Heisler as “the most alienated player the NBA has ever seen (2004-2007)”.

When things on the court were not working for Bryant he would simply try to force it to work. That makes anyone a frustrating teammate, but also one that you would probably want in your team.

Kobe Jordan

His work ethic, combined with his reputation as being a clutch game-on-the-line shooter and impressive numbers and championships, make it easy for Lakers’ fans to support Bryant through thick and thin.

Whilst he has missed the most field goal attempts in NBA history and has often been accused of being a selfish shooter, he is amongst many other things:

– The youngest player to reach 33,000 NBA points
– The first player to amass 30,000 points and 6,000 assists
– The youngest slam dunk contest winner
– 15 time All-NBA team
– 18 time NBA All-Star
– 5 time NBA champion (with 7 final appearances)

Why did LA show loyalty to Kobe Bryant amidst all the scandals and locker room bust-ups?

Most likely because, above all else, he spent his whole career in the purple and yellow. Yes he did angle for a trade in 2007, but hey, we’ve all wanted to quit our jobs but ultimately held our tongues.

It helps that we all love a winner in sports, and Kobe Bryant is most definitely a winner.

Whether you like the guy or not, whether you agree or disagree with the scandals or not, Kobe Bryant has had a Hall of Fame career. I’ll leave it to Lakers fans to decide where he stands on the list of all time great Lakers and I’ll leave the hardened NBA fans to decide whether he will leave a Michael Jordan-like legacy, but on Wednesday night the game celebrated one of the best.

At the end of the day, for what Kobe Bryant left on the court for both the Lakers and the US National Team, he had earned his night of adulation from fellow professionals and fans (although the whole season was probably a bit too much). Whether you like it or not, it is the end of an era in the NBA.

A few miles up the country, the Golden State Warriors were attempting to make history and win that record 73rd game to beat the previous record of 72 set by the Bulls in 1996. The Warriors, and in particular Steph Curry, have been on a tear all season yet their achievement, especially on Wednesday, played second fiddle to number 24.

Only Kobe Bryant, the latest Saint of Los Angeles, could attract such buzz, attention and respect.

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