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Kobe Bryant: Judgement Day

Sunday night was a cruel, cruel reality check. What if he’s not Kobe anymore? Is there a point to basketball? Who will we deem the best clutch player of all time without any statistical evidence to back it up next?

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After watching Kobe Bryant’s eight turnover, -.31 PER gem of a day, I found myself in a torn state of pity and sarcasm. I love Kobe, I love making fun of him and I can only do that because he’s an all-time great.

Sunday night was a cruel, cruel reality check.

What if he’s not Kobe anymore?  Is there a point to basketball? Who will we deem the best clutch player of all time without any statistical evidence to back it up next? Nobody else deserves to shoot 6-of-24 and win a Finals MVP.

Kobe at least offers a variegated shrubbery of insult-fodder. Nick Young has about one week’s worth of monochromatic jokes. He’s so dimensionless we’re resorting to this, which just isn’t funny.

Kobe’s proven year in, year out that he’s a machine (sorry, Sasha) and this is all starting to look eerily like Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Kobe’s the T-800 who’s been replaced by a newer, swaggier T-1000 (Nick Young) and Steve Blake is John Connor because he looks like a kid that probably has a whiny voice.

Anyway, you find yourself rooting for the same guy you rooted against in the first Terminator because now he’s older, cooler, has a sense of humor and is up against a whole bunch of Swaggish-evil. The T-800 is clearly outmatched but there’s no way the dude is getting outgunned. The T-1000, on the other hand, is just a relentless, one-trick pony in pursuit of his next shot. Nobody wants to root for that.

We all know how it ends. Swaggy P shish kebabs Kobe with a pole but Kobe re-routes his system to an alternate power source and grenade launches Swaggs into the melting pot. But this is where the movie gets sad. Because Kobe still has to go. The movie’s ultimate realization is that even a Terminator has a heart. And that heart must be melted into oblivion.

The T-800 can’t actually self-terminate either. Linda Hamilton has to do it for him. That’s the thing with these great players — they’re often unable to self-destruct unless the circumstances are right, i.e., joining a miserable team who hits the red button for them.

Enter the Brooklyn Nets.

If Hollywood is where dreams and personalities go to die, Brooklyn is where basketball Terminators go to liquidate their chips. The Nets have arguably the second-best power forward in NBA history in Kevin Garnett (because Tim Duncan isn’t really a power forward) and a Hall of Fame, NBA Finals MVP in Paul Pierce. Both of them are currently self-terminating in a giant, industrial melting pot in Brooklyn.

I mean, those guys terminated the ultimate Kobe Bean Terminator in 2008. Last year, they were both highly functioning, effective basketball players. Nobody saw this coming. Their collective negative drop in PER this season is -14.82. That’s like a whole league average, anti-player. They have managed to create some sort of negative value T-1000 out of their decline that is as rotten as Pau Gasol (14.90 PER) is valuable.

It could be worse, I guess. They could be on the Knicks. If the Nets are the league compost pile, the Knicks are the New York City garbage system. One is at least full of things, or the shells of things, that were at one time colorful and useful. The other just stinks and give you tickets that cost a lot of money.

Anyway, with all these once-great machines waving goodbye to Linda Hamilton as the industrial elevator takes them to their ultimate doom, I’m not ready to see Kobe Bean go there yet.

You’ve got an alternate energy source somewhere, Kobe. Find it.

You’ll have to self-terminate someday of course, because we can’t have Nick Young getting that chip of yours.

But not yet.

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