With five NBA championships, 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, and two Olympic gold medals with Team USA, there is no doubting Los Angeles star Kobe Bryant’s legacy on the basketball court. The ‘Black Mamba’ will play a record-breaking 16th career Christmas Day game when the Lakers host the L.A. Clippers.
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His performances on court have often been compared to NBA legends like Michael Jordan, who had also plied his trade as a shooting guard, and Lakers legend Magic Johnson. But Bryant, a polarising figure in the world of basketball, a ‘hero and a villain’ according to his own admission to the Associated Press, likes to look at his own legacy from a different perspective.
“I try to look at my legacy and how it impacts the future of the game. I’m not looking at my legacy from the standpoint of where I fit in with the greatest of all time. For me, it’s a moot point and a shallow argument.
“I think the most important thing and the most beautiful thing is how your legacy impacts the generation of players to come. If what I’ve done and what I’ve stood for these 20 years has impacted the players today and the players tomorrow in a positive way, in a way they can then carry that legacy on themselves and impact the generation to follow, that’s much more significant than where I stand in history,” said Bryant during a conference call on Monday night.
An Olympic finish
Kobe’s form for the Lakers has been sporadic this season, much like the rest of the squad. The Los Angeles-based team are 5-24 this season and for Kobe, a place in the USA team for the Rio 2016 Olympics is far from guaranteed. But the two-time Olympic gold medallist refused to be bothered about it, though he conceded that a place in the Olympics team would be an ideal way to end a glittering career.
“It’s not something I’m absolutely pressing for but being part of the Olympic experience is a beautiful thing. It would be a beautiful thing to finish my career playing internationally. But that being said, we will see how it goes,” said the Lakers’ shooting guard, who has also featured as a small forward in his final season in the NBA.
Kobe’s father Joe Bryant was a professional basketball player himself and played for NBA sides Philadelphia 76ers and San Diego Clippers before moving to Italy to play in the Italian A1 League. Kobe was six when the family relocated to Europe in 1984 and returned to America only when his father retired in 1991. There he learned to speak fluent Italian and play football.
But the NBA’s third highest point scorer ruled out any possibility of moving to another league. “I would have loved to play overseas for a season but it’s not going to happen. I wish I could have done it but I can’t. My body won’t let me.”
However, the legend hopes he can continue to contribute to the development of the game in all ways possible. “I definitely plan on helping the game spread and helping kids all around the world understand (the) kind of metaphors that come along with the game … everything that surrounds the game of basketball,” said Bryant.
Regardless of the team’s performance, Kobe is upbeat about his final season in the NBA, especially after a few a characteristic swashbuckling performances, including a 31 pointer against Denver on Wednesday. “My body has been through a lot. And it’s very easy to forget I haven’t played because of it. My timing is off, my rhythm is off. It was about me continuing my training and believing my timing will come back and that’s what happened,” added Bryant.
When the Lakers take on the Clippers on Christmas Day, all eyes will be again on what Kobe can conjure on the court. A pressure he has continuously carried on his shoulders with pride. They say heroes come and go, but legends are there forever.
The ‘Black Mamba’ might be retiring at the end of the on-going season, but one can be assured that the song of his dynamism and determination on the basketball court will continue to be sung for a long time.