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In the scoop of the near last quarter century, Kobe Bryant can be difficult to deal with. Imagine that.
Well, actually this only marks the start of the 19th season for the Black Mamba, but surely you can trek the trajectory of all the lunacy spiraling about from those seeming to imply this revelation somehow comes as new news. Truth is, Kobe Bryant has been a lightning rod from the very moment he emerged on the NBA scene as an overly-cocky 17-year-old surefire star and ultimate first-ballot Hall of Famer. Point is, Kobe is Kobe, essentially begging the question of what justifies the overriding news cycle now affirming just as much?
It’s virtually the gospel within NBA circles that Bryant ranks as one of the most polarizing figures known to Hoops Nation simply based on who he is. So why the need for all the added pile-on now from all his once-marveling critics, at a time when they all seem overly convinced that he can no longer, well, be Kobe?
For all those who have at one time another anointed Bryant as an immortal, you’ll easily now find twice as many eagerly ready to persecute him for even existing. Has Kobe, at least at times, been a relentless gunner made even more insufferable by virtue of his dismissive attitude and heartless nature demonstrated at those who would be his allies?
Check. But how many others have demonstrated anywhere near the level of intestinal fortitude of the Black Mamba? Now, ask yourself purely based on the games he plays, isn’t that what ultimately makes all the difference? You may not long to hang out with Kobe Bryant on a personal front, but when it comes to registering wins and claiming chips, how many NBA players have there ever been with whom you would have rather been more aligned with such clutch matters on the line?
For incoming Lakers coach Byron Scott, a longtime franchise stable who actually was on hand and in the same backcourt with Bryant on his first night in the NBA, coming to love the Black Mamba seems all so natural.
“He’s the last of a dying breed,” Scott said of the five-time champion who has averaged at least 24 points, five rebounds, and five assists over the last twelve seasons in which he has played in at least 58 games and netted 19 points and three rebounds in L.A’s 108-90 season-opening loss to Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets. “When he’s gone I think people will start looking back and seeing how because he’s got an old-school spirit. He takes a lot of pride in what he does. He takes the game very seriously. To him, it’s all about winning.”
Yet, throughout his journey, Bryant has arguably not known a challenge quite the depths of the one his undermanned and overmatched Lakers now face. Coming off a franchise-worst 27-55 finish in 2013-14 in which he only played in six games because of a torn Achilles’ tendon and fractured kneecap, no one in L.A. seems certain what to expect on either comeback front.
That is, not anyone not named Byron Scott. “He’s going to still average 20-something points a game,” he said. “He can score. That’s what he does. I think anything less than that, he’d probably be disappointed. It really kind of depends on what he wants to average. That’s how good he is.”
And for that, Kobe Bryant, when it comes to talking hoops, deserves more respect than what he’s getting. If not for who he is, than for what he’s done.
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