Kobe Bryant’s last appearance in Boston tonight has me thinking. Actually, lets call it reminiscing. As a 23 year old, Kobe was the brightest NBA star of my generation. Sure, there was Shaq, Iverson, KG, and the emergence of Lebron. However, no one did it like Kobe. People in my age group were unfortunately just young enough to miss Michael Jordan carry the league on his back. We remember MJ as a shell of himself, toiling away on the lowly Wizards. It just didn’t seem right. Kobe’s farewell tour has seen him and the Lakers struggling mightily. Even as a die-hard Celtics fan, predisposed to loathing the Lakers, I hate to see him go out like this. So lets remember the good times.
The 1996 NBA Draft was loaded. The league was in need of an injection of youth and this draft class certainly delivered. Kobe, Iverson, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, Marcus Camby, Stephon Marbury, Jermaine O’Neal, and Antoine Walker were all selected in the first round. These stars set the table for the new millennium, yet the 18-year-old kid from Philly towered above them all. Kobe was instantly paired with Shaq in Los Angeles. Although it took a few years, that duo would come to dominate the league
For a team to three-peat in today’s modern sports landscape, everything needs to go right. The early 2000’s Lakers certainly had the juice. Shaq, starring as leading man, had Kobe as the best supporting actor in the business. The team was loaded with veterans and clutch shooters like Robert Horry, Derek Fisher, Rick Fox, and Horace Grant. The Lakers steamrolled through the league going back to back to back, a colossal run that would make Drake blush. However, all good things must come to an end.
The Staples Center was not large enough to contain both Kobe and Shaq’s egos. After the 2004 season, Shaq was shipped off to Miami. The Lakers languished in mediocrity for a few years until 2008, which saw the Lakers back in the finals, facing who else but the Boston Celtics. The series was a fan’s dream. Kobe, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom against Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett. The Celtics largely dominated the series, winning it all in a game 6 blowout.
Kobe was far from done. The Lakers grabbed two more rings in ’09 and ’10, with the latter being a Celtics loss that haunts me to this day. Age and other factors began to catch up to the Lakers and they began to slip. The current day squad is a disgrace and far less than what Kobe deserves. He has given basketball all that he has, and his impending retirement is truly the end of an era. Celtics fans, give Kobe the ovation and tribute that he deserves. We may never see another player with his ice-cold demeanor, clutch ability, and his willingness to play the villain. The NBA won’t be the same without him. With that said, BEAT L.A.