Enjoy the show
Don't knock Kobe, just appreciate his greatness
Posted: Monday March 26, 2007 4:05PM; Updated: Monday March 26, 2007 10:49PM
As I sit down to write this column, it's Sunday night and the clock is showing 9:32 p.m. on the East Coast.
Tonight, I am looking forward to watching the Los Angeles Lakers play. Specifically the guy wearing No. 24.
If you like basketball, right now the greatest show on earth has nothing to do with CBS. Its name is Kobe Bryant. And it's become must-see TV.
I should stress that this wasn't an easy admission for me to make. Long ago, something about Kobe refused to let me appreciate him. I didn't like how brash and unconscionable he appeared early in his career. I didn't like the way he announced he'd be opting out of his contract during the NBA Draft, and then seemed to drag out his free agency for effect. I didn't like what happened in Colorado, whatever happened, and I didn't like the way all of that ended. Mostly, though, I just never liked the way Kobe never appears to show us his real self. Maybe what we see is what we get -- maybe this Kobe, as we know him now, really is who he is. But I'm convinced that somewhere deep down inside, there's a Kobe who pulls practical jokes on his teammates, who drives around with his windows down and The Clipse blasting, who doesn't intentionally try and channel Michael Jordan during interviews. We just don't get to see that Kobe.
At some point this year, I decided to give Kobe a fresh start. And you know what? It's been great. He's obviously not a perfect basketball player. Does Kobe share the ball like Steve Nash? No. Does he play defense like Bruce Bowen? Nope. But he sure is fun to watch, if for no reason other than the complete hedonism of his offensive game.
I can't recall the last time I saw a player with such a free reign to shoot whenever he feels like it. When the Lakers come down on a fast break, if Kobe gets the ball, it's going up, regardless of how the defense is aligned. If Kobe has the ball anywhere on the right side of the court, it's likely going up. Actually, if he's open anywhere on the floor, he's probably going to shoot. Even if defenders are right on him, he just jumps over them and gets his shot off.
The thing is, the ball keeps going in, and you eventually get conditioned to this brand of basketball Kobe is playing, until you find yourself cheering for Kobe to shoot the ball more and more and score 50 points once again. There was a point during the game tonight when Kobe came down and caught a pass from Luke Walton at the 3-point line. He pump-faked a defender, who sailed past. Kobe then re-set his feet and went up for the shot, without taking a dribble. Under normal circumstance, this would be probably be considered a bad shot, because he could have either taken a dribble to improve his rhythm or driven to the basket past his beaten defender. But as Kobe pulled up for the shot, instead of thinking, "Oh, come on, Kobe," I immediately thought, "Oh, I hope he makes it!"
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