Kobe Bryant turned back the clock on Sunday with a vintage 35 point performance against the Rockets. The only issue with Kobe’s epic game was that despite his best efforts, the Lakers still got blown out.
In any other season, Kobe would not have taken a second to enjoy himself no matter how many points he scored if his team lost by 20. But this year, things are a bit different, and The Black Mamba actually found time to appreciate his performance after the game.
Such has been the attitude for most of Kobe’s final season. With the Lakers not going anywhere and engaged in serious drama off the court to boot, Bryant had to put some of his usual fiery competitiveness to the side in order to find anything gratifying about his last season in the NBA.
Adrian Wojnarowski at The Vertical chronicled some of Kobe’s triumphs this season, and one of them has been his ability to deal with the fact that the Lakers were not going to be contending for a title.
“The ovations wouldn’t be here. We’d be amidst cutthroat competition. In this season, I’ve been able to come up for air, take the blinders off, look around, soak it all in – and say thank you. Had we been competing for a championship, there’s no way I’d allow all this to happen. We’d have one goal in mind and that would be winning the championship.
“In the end, this wasn’t hard to accept. I can accept reality and move on.”
In addition to dealing with the Lakers’ putrid record, Bryant also had to contend with his ailing body. Heading into the season, Kobe wasn’t sure that his injuries would stay away and allow him to get through 82 games, but the work he put in over the last few years has allowed him to power through at age 37.
“It feels so good. For the last three years, I haven’t been able to do it. Achilles. Knee. Shoulder. Serious injuries. My preparation was right. I worked and worked for my body to be able to get through this.”
“Coming into the season, I had the concern: Could I make it all year?” Bryant told The Vertical. “I had the fear. But I embraced that fear, and then I let it go. I realized: I can’t control it. I prepare. I do all the work. If that happens, it happens. And I stopped thinking about it.”
With the Lakers not concerned with much except potential draft position at this point, the spotlight will be firmly on Kobe for his final two games. Los Angeles will travel to Oklahoma City on Monday, and the last time we will see Kobe Bryant in an NBA game will be Wednesday evening, when the Lakers host the Jazz in their season finale.
(Via The Vertical)