Dear Kobe,Posted: November 30, 2015
This was written before Kobe’s retirement announcement. Had I known this would be his final season, I may have approached this letter differently. But I think it still fits…check it out.
Let me preface this by saying I am a huge Kobe Bryant fanatic. This didn’t just start a few years, months, or days ago…I’ve been watching the dude since 1995 when I was still in high school. I heard about Kobe Bryant when he was a junior at Lower Merion and of course I was skeptical. Then I saw some footage of him and I officially became a hater. I was a year older than him and he was making headlines for talking about being NBA ready.
A year later I was away at junior college in Iowa watching the McDonald’s All-American game and I was jealous because Ed Cota from Brooklyn got to play in that game on Kobe’s team and I foolishly thought because I played against Ed that maybe I was good enough to be there. I wasn’t. Watching Kobe go through warm-ups and seeing the way he carried himself during that game, I told everyone that he was next up. I didn’t know for sure but I saw a dude that had a true mission that transcended some silly high school all-star game and loaning his talents to the collegiate world for a year so they could capitalize off his greatness. He was focused on being the next Jordan. Let me rephrase that, he was determined to be better than Jordan. He even told Michael that he could beat him once he arrived in the league.
Dear Mr. Bryant,
I know that I am a stranger to you. I’ve read Mad Game, watched every documentary that told a piece of your story, I even bought your expensive shoes a few times and that still gives me no right to address you directly. But last week I watched you compete against the Golden State Warriors while they were on a quest to break a record for being undefeated to begin a basketball season. They were successful and easily skated to a 40-point blowout and no one was surprised. The Lakers look like a college team when it comes to their cohesiveness and fire. Maybe Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell can’t play in your enormous shadow. Or could it be that the talent on the young team isn’t what we thought it was? I won’t go as far as to say that you guys should have drafted Mudiay or Okafor, but I feel like if you had a killer on your team, you could sniff him out and crown him.
But this isn’t about those dudes, this is about what I witnessed the other night. It was like watching that Lenny Cooke documentary where he played against LeBron James at that camp and the dreary jazz music set the melancholy tone…and Lenny turned it over a few times…and Bron hit an off-balance game winner and his ranking ascended and he became the top player in the country regardless of class. As sad as that was to see a dream deferred, which might have been slightly more depressing than the flick about the Benji Wilson story (and Benji died), Kobe scoring 4 points on 1-14 shooting in a televised game is not just disgraceful, it’s disheartening. You’re shooting 19% from 3-point range and on Steph Curry’s worst nights, he has a better percentage than your best. I’m not saying that to depress you, I’m saying that a change needs to occur.
I could easily point to coaching, a depleted roster, the front office decisions, nagging injuries, and the media’s blatant assault on your alleged deterioration…but I would rather focus on you. Well not just you, but the man that has yet to lose in all realms of athletic competition. That man is figuratively known as Father Time, and he is supposedly undefeated. And even though Tim Duncan shows flashes of brilliance, Dirk Nowitzki is still putting up numbers, and Paul Pierce knows how to affect the game, they aren’t you.
They don’t carry the weight of being the second best shooting guard in the history of the sport. They don’t shoulder the burden of the “Heir Apparent.” They aren’t chasing 6 rings like you are. Tim Duncan could possibly win 7 rings and will never be compared to Jordan. People want you to retire, fans say you lost it, it’s over, and your body has failed you. To some degree, they are right. It was just eight or nine years ago that I witnessed you put Smush Parker, Lamar Odom, and people like Jordan Farmar on your metaphoric back and almost got them to the finals. When my peers doubted that you would ever win a ring sans Shaquille O’Neal, I argued in multiple gyms and barber shops that the Mamba would find a way to at least get one more. I used the 81-point onslaught as one of my arguing points. “Any human that can will himself to score like that, can accomplish feats that most of us would deem impossible,” I spewed in the midst of pick-up games. I risked sounding like a geek boy analyst with a vocabulary in the most ghetto social settings back in Brooklyn, New York where Knicks fans literally die-hard…just so I could praise your legacy. I was the lone believer in you, and when you got not only one more ring, but two, I was ecstatic and grateful to be alive to see it.
And then the media began talks of the elusive 6th ring. It would be the piece of jewelry that would solidify the Kobe-Mike comparison and at least edge out LeBron from being second fiddle to the rest of the globe. But once Pau started to become lowercase pau, Bynum turned into a freedom fighter, and Lamar Odom changed his last name, the Lakers began to unravel before my eyes.
We all forget the few moments that Chris Paul was on his way to wearing purple and gold until the league mysteriously shut it down. Then there was the Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Mike D’Antoni fiasco. Dwight still hasn’t recovered from his L.A exposure. We now know that he isn’t just a big kid having kids, but he’s just happy to be in the NBA. How can anyone like that understand your passion for the game?
That Achilles tear may have been the way you should have gone out. In hindsight, it wasn’t the same finale as the Jordan crossover and jumper to finish the Jazz, but then again his curtain call on the Wizards was his true endpoint. And that wasn’t memorable either.
So what am I saying? I’m challenging you to make up your mind. That brilliant, alien mind that pushed himself to drive the Lakers to ship all-star Eddie Jones out of town back in the days. The same mind that decided to outwork every off-guard in the league to score and defend at the same time before there were “2-way players.”
The kid that went from air balls to all-star games when no one else knew it could happen. It’s time to decide how you can stay in this association and be respectable. I saw your face as Steph Curry was blowing by your teammates and as Iguodala and Klay Thompson were staying in front of you like nobody could ten years ago. You looked stupefied as open shots that were like candy to you became moments of fear as the rim seemed like an out of reach goal while your legs were heavier than you remembered them being.
There’s only one answer to this dilemma. Ray Allen figured it out while Allen Iverson could not. Take notes from the father of the best player in the game today, (yes he is the best and it’s ok to accept it) Dell Curry knew his role. You have to become a knockdown shooter. There’s no other way to survive in this game. Gone are the days of creating your own shot and dribbling within the triangle to find space. In the triangle, let someone else be who you were and you become Steve Kerr, Derek Fisher, even Sasha Vujacic if you have to. Train your brain to use less elevation and more wrist. Shoot the ball when you’re open and it doesn’t have to be a 3. When you’re comfortable knowing that they can’t leave you open, your game will manifest in a new light. People won’t look for you to drop 30 anymore but by the end of game 60, you’ll have 20 or more games with 5 or 6 threes simply because you knew your role. Of course there are other options, you becoming a point guard, or a bench player, or simply taking less shots while encouraging a new shooting guard to become what you were, but that’s highly unlikely for you. What is likely is for you to become the best spot-up shooter we’ve ever seen. Let Curry, Kyrie and Westbrook have their time. No one is staying in front of them and if they want to hit jumpers, their legs will allow them to do that. Your legs are not as kind to you for the mileage they have accumulated so now they must be used sparingly.
Trust me, this is the way to go my friend. Even though we aren’t friends, maybe someone you love or admire will get this message to you in another way and even claim that they thought of it. If the outcome is what I desire, the sender and method of the message is the least of my concern. Say goodbye to the Mamba and hello to the Sniper…or retire. Either way, we will always love you.