Vicarious. Is that the word being directed at me and my ilk? Sure … sure, I have no problem with that at all. There’s no question I often live vicariously through sports heroes, and, indeed, heroes of many shapes and sizes. So what? I don’t have the skills of Kobe Bryant, and all the practice in the world won’t develop them. There’s a lot of pretend when I watch him on the court doing the impossible. I like to pretend. I also like to make stuff up. I like to make stuff up, sing about things and pretend I’m someone super special, yep, all of that. It started when I was a little kid and it continues to this very day when I’m a … ah … big kid.
I like to think we share something in common, Kobe and I, and that is, the effort made. The effort made is the common denominator binding humanity with the hope we are something good and worthwhile. When a fireman rushes in to a burning building, we like to think we also have what it takes to do the same thing. Of course, none of us know until the building looms before us and the searing heat deters us with every hellish degree.
And yes, it is more a male thing than female. Women DO give birth and, yes, it gives them an edge over us men. In general women seem to have more built in courage at the ready at least to my mind and observation. I think it’s some kind of genetic fearlessness. C’mon men, haven’t you ever been with your woman and paused to marvel at how such a delicate beauty manages to match your strength with such ease? Well, perhaps another topic for another time.
Let’s just say, us guys love our sports and usually more than you gals do and I don’t mean as something to merely observe for aesthetic purposes.
All of the above are tangents to bring me to last night’s basketball game. Kobe Bryant’s final game of professional basketball after twenty years.
I’m an L.A. boy and Kobe plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, and has for every one of those twenty years. That makes him my man on my team in my city. See how us men think? This milestone and historic event in the life of Kobe is practically ALL about ME!
Kobe is acknowledged by all as one of the greatest to play the game. This is a huge event and expectations are high. Yes, he has used up his body and there is little left in the tank. But we are hoping he can go one last time to the well and turn the clock back a couple ticks.
Maybe twenty points or even, dare I say it out loud, thirty big points to say goodbye and thank you? It’s possible, and we all know it, and secretly are hoping beyond hope he can do it. Mind you, this is going to be a memorable night if he doesn’t score a point and they have to help his broken body off the court. He’s already given us all the thrills we could ever ask for. He’s already earned the roof raising ovation he’ll receive when he walks off the court for the very last time.
Well, it’s game time now.
It isn’t an auspicious start. He looks every bit of thirty-seven-years old and twenty years of hold-nothing-back play has taken a terrible toll on his body and it shows. Five shots up and five misses. But to hell with it, keep giving him the ball and let him shoot. That’s why we’re here. We want to see the Black Mamba shoot that ball!
Finally! Just like days of old, he drops one in, and then another and still another. We sigh collectively in relief. He’s going to get his twenty and there’s a good chance he’ll even get thirty tonight. Coach Scott has already said he won’t take him out for a rest. Kobe can stay out on the floor as long as he wants. Knowing Kobe like we all do, he isn’t coming out.
The half ends and Kobe has twenty-two points. Thirty is in the bag. We all think it, but no one says it. Honestly, we’re all thinking forty. For sure no one mentions it.
At this point I feel like making up some crazy wild scenario. Wouldn’t that be fun?
The second half starts and Kobe looks a little tired, but he’s out there and he’s wasting no time. He passes thirty and is slowly marching to forty points. This is a dream. Forty points on the last night of his career. A storybook ending. Well, a victory would be nice, but this Utah team isn’t about to let this rag tag team of rookies and cast-offs embarrass them on national television, Kobe or no Kobe. It would be bad enough having a thirty-seven-year-old worn out man drop forty on them in his final game. No, they aren’t going to let the Lakers anywhere near a victory on top of that.
The fourth quarter begins and no one is surprised to see Kobe on the floor. He has thirty-eight points. We’re all guessing he’ll get his forty and walk off to the ovation of the century. But, Kobe has other ideas. He gets his forty alright, then forty-two, forty-five, forty-seven … Oh my god! Kobe is going for fifty! Fifty damn points. Fifty points on the last night of his career. It never even occurred to anyone to dream it let alone think it.
Once down fourteen points, the Lakers have pulled within five points. But, no one thinks the Lakers can pull the game out, they don't have the team to do that. Kobe is sucking in air and barely able to breathe. He looks like he might drop to the floor any second.
A little over four minutes to play, Kobe has the ball and heaves it towards the basket. IT GOES IN! FIFTY POINTS! He has fifty points and the Lakers are only down by two.
The two teams trade points and the score remains close. All of the Laker points are scored by Kobe Bryant. Fifty-two, fifty-five, fifty-seven … there’s twelve seconds left and the Lakers have the ball and that means Kobe has the ball. Lakers down by one. Kobe’s mouth is wide open sucking in air trying to breathe. He hoists the ball towards the basket in desperation.
The ball doesn’t touch the rim as it burns through the net. There are eight seconds left in the game. Kobe Bryant has sixty points and the Lakers are on the verge of winning the game. The Lakers rebound the quick missed shot of Utah and call time out. Four seconds remain.
The ball comes in to Kobe. He looks down court and sees young Jordan Clarkson near the opponent’s basket. It looks as though Kobe is just throwing the ball away as he heaves it down the court. It lands right in the hands of Clarkson who slams it into the basket sealing the victory. The outgoing leader has passed the torch to the next generation.
Kobe has scored sixty points and the Lakers have won the last game of his career.
Do you think I made this whole thing up?
Every single word of this is absolutely true. I stood up alone in my room jumping up and down like a little kid for the entire ending of that game in amazement and sheer joy. It was the single most amazing triumphant exit from ANY sport in history.
Yep, me and Kobe, baby, for your entertainment. Did you expect any less?