The very name has always been interesting. Kobe Bean Bryant. By definition, Kobe is a variety of beef, typically associated with Japan. In other words, an overpriced piece of meat. Beans come in a lot of various forms. Green, yellow, fava, navy, pinto, lima, and many others. Some grow on poles, while others are of the bush variety. My earliest recollection of the name Bryant was my dad having a crush on someone named Anita, which my mom used to chuckle over. At least I hope I got the Bryant thing right. Perish the thought he secretly wanted to have a fling with Bear. That would have raised a few eyebrows back in the day, not to mention making my life in grade school rather awkward.
Nonetheless, Kobe Bean has evidently decided to retire after this season is over. Of course, many have jumped on the farewell accolades bandwagon. Maybe Obama will give him a Presidential Medal of Freedom somewhere along the way soon. Good grief, the Prez is handing them out like Halloween candy to everybody else in his last year. Why not Kobe?
Kobe did this. Kobe did that. Kobe did a lot of things over all his years in the NBA.
He certainly scored a lot of points -- over 32,000.
A 17 time All-Star.
Five championship rings.
Two Olympic gold medals along the way.
But upon further review.....
Sure he scored a lot of points, because he took a bazillion shots. Forget Black Mamba. Kobe was a black hole on the court. Once he had the ball, it wasn't going anywhere else. Despite double/triple teams, he would twist, turn, and find a way to put up incredibly awkward shots. Some of them actually went in. It was ANYTHING but pass the ball to an open teammate. In the old days this was commonly referred to as a ball hog.
17 All-Star appearances. That had to do with three things.
1) He always scored a lot of points. See above.
2) Kobe was never shy when it came to selling himself to the sports media. And like Tiger Woods, the media couldn't get enough of him. One fed off the other, the ever-gullible fans bought into it and -- presto -- Bryant got a lot of All-Star votes every year.
3) He played for the Lakers, until recently the highest of high profile teams.
Five championship rings. Though much emphasis is always placed on this when evaluating a player's "greatness", it's a very misleading statistic in team sports. Even some all-time greats couldn't get it done by themselves. See Lebron in his early Cleveland years. He had to go to Miami and hook up with D-Wade and Bosh to win a championship. Dan Marino never won a Super Bowl with the Dolphins. Take away Scottie Pippen and a few other cogs that did the heavy lifting, and Michael Jordan wouldn't have won all those titles while with the Bulls. Only in individual sports like golf and tennis can a man, or woman, be fairly judged on their stand-alone accomplishments.
Though their super-egos often clashed, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal needed each other for the Lakers to win a few championships. Let's just say the dear Mr. Bryant got some considerable help from the big gorilla that dominated the "paint".
Years later, when Shaq was off filming body powder commercials, Bryant would win a couple more titles with the Lakers. But this only came about because they had paid big bucks to obtain the services of other big men --see Pao Gasol and Lamar Odom -- that would do the dirty work inside while Kobe merrily continued to shoot and shoot some more.
The two Olympic gold medals are almost laughable. One need only consider the Dream Teams he played on. You, or I, your average wino on the street, or even one of my toy yorkies could have taken Kobe's spot on those USA Olympic teams, and they would have won gold medals too. Such was the awesome array of talent America had to choose from. Bottom line? Kobe needed those teams a whole lot more than they needed him. They would have won regardless.
And let's see.
Kobe could never play a lick of defense.
Though he denied the rape charges, he freely admitted to being an adulterer on his wife Vanessa. On that note, a few blood stains (later determined to be non-menstrual) were found on his accuser. So do the math. If it was non-violent and consensual, then why was she bleeding?
To the surprise of nobody, his accuser refused to testify against Kobe at a criminal trial, hence the charges were dropped. But ah, enter the civil suit that was sure to follow. It did, and the settlement was forever sealed to the public. Yet it's probably a real good bet the young lady got some serious dough on the condition she forever remain silent on whatever happened in that spa in Colorado. That's pretty much how it's worked in recent times. Guys with enough money can buy their way out of serious jams that the average person would get thrown in prison for. And their beat goes on.
What yours truly found absolutely jaw-dropping was one of Kobe Bean Bryant's statements upon announcing his retirement. This man had the utter gall to suggest basketball fans the world over should "savor every moment" while he's going from one arena to the next playing out his final year in the NBA. Hey, the dude made $24 million last year and another $24M this year. When he could even stay healthy enough to play -- which has been rare -- he's stinking it up on the court along with the rest of his teammates. The Lakers have gone from showtime to blowtime. They're bottom feeders. Who in their right mind would pay a guy $48 million for a very predictable two years of incompetence?
But Kobe is supposedly retiring. Here's hoping he doesn't pull a Favre or two in the next couple years and renege on it. It's not only time, but long overdue. For whatever he once was, he ain't no more. Not even close.
How to sum all this up in two words?
Then again, maybe he can team up with Shaq again in the basketball afterlife and do some moronic TV commercials endorsing a product here or there. Anything for a buck. People like this know no shame. And that is profoundly sad. What's even sadder are the legions of idiots that will run right out and buy such products. That only encourages the ad people to feature them in even MORE stupid commercials, lining the pockets of people that don't NEED any more money. And the lemmings will follow along again with their wallets.
A sorry state of affairs indeed. But this is America, dammit. Where starting major league pitchers with a losing record get paid a million bucks a pop to actually play every 5th or 6th game. Where millionaire "closers" can only pitch in the ninth inning with their team already ahead and will be gassed after 20 pitches or so -- though they likely threw 40-50 in the bullpen warming up. Where the MINIMUM salary in the NBA is five times greater than the MAXIMUM salary in the WNBA. Where people in Detroit still think their Lions are going to win the Super Bowl every year. That goes beyond sad. It's downright pitiful. And don't get me started on the politicians that put their party above getting anything useful done for the citizens.
But this started off about Kobe Bryant. May he enjoy his farewell tour -- deserved or not.
All in all, he did pretty good for a piece of meat and a bean.