Those who know me can attest to a couple of truths. One, I am not a Kobe Bryan fan. In fact, I am not much of an NBA fan. Maybe that can be attributed to being let down by the Portland franchise during the so-called 'JailBlazer' era. Maybe there is something else which has caused me to lose my taste for a sport I was once so passionate about that no remote control was safe while I watched.
I have not watched an NBA game all season. I have not even watched a single minute of any NBA game this season. I did not watch last season. I cannot remember the last time I watched an NBA game.
Tonight, I watched two games at once.
What Kobe did tonight is beyond incredible. He was humble without feigning false awareness. Watching Kobe, you could see the passion, the pain, the desire, the love of a game which has defined his life for the last twenty seasons. He pushed. Every day; every game; every practice he pushed. And tonight, he pushed a little harder.
Not letting an awful start weaken the moment, Kobe Bryant willed a body which had begun to fail him over the last few seasons. With a torn achilles having sapped his explosiveness, Kobe looked like a shell of his former self most of the season. Until tonight. Tonight, he looked like the Kobe who scored 81 points; or 50 points in four straight games' of 62 points in three quarters. He looked like the young kid who could do everything on his own.
But tonight was also a reminder of what derailed his train. Passion. He carried his team to the playoffs in 2013. Bryant averaged 45 minutes per game that season - and it cost him down the stretch as he attempted to get the Lakers into the playoffs - and then that proverbial arrow from the quiver of Paris changed everything. Tonight, he snubbed his nose at Paris.
To score 60 in a final game, at 37 years old, Kobe gave the basketball world a reminder that he was once the greatest player on hardwoods.
Coincidentally, Kobe tore his achilles tendon in a late season win over Golden State. Which leads me to the other game I watched tonight. Golden State.
Winning 73 games in a season? Are you kidding me? Look, when the Bulls won 72, they did so with one of the greatest assemblies of talent possible in the modern, free-agent, era. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman. The first 'Big Three' in the NBA were a destructive force 20 years ago. While the Warriors have some very good talent, most notably the defending (and soon to be two time) MVP Steph Curry, they are not the same dominant, two All Time top 50 players team that won 72 games. They just are not.
That's not an insult to the Warriors, it is just a reflection on the kind of talent possessed by that Bulls team - they were special. Yet, here we sit, wondering how in the world this team can win 73 games. How? Because Steph Curry willed his team to the record. His 46 points in, essentially, three quarters tells the story of his own will.
A torch was passed at virtually the same moment. Kobe Bryant finished his career with 60 points on 22 of 50 shooting, and moments later Golden State completes their own historic regular season breaking the Bulls' single season wins record.
A special night indeed.