As if Elden Campbell didn’t go 1-13 from the field while Karl Malone got 32 points and 20 rebounds, the Los Angeles Lakers being eliminated in 5 games by the Utah Jazz in 1997 NBA Plaoyffs will be remembered for two air-balls by an 18-year old rookie named Kobe Bryant.
As if he didn’t refer to himself as the general manager of the Lakers, publicly excoriated Nick Van Exel after being eliminated from the playoffs leading to his trade, or yelled “Pay me” to Dr. Jerry Buss during a preseason game, Kobe Bryant blamed for Shaquille O’Neal’s departure from L.A.
Phil Jackson went on highly paid speaking engagements while promoting his book in which he claimed Kobe Bryant was un-coachable, only to return to the Lakers to win two Bryant led championships.
There are tales of him sabotaging his Lower Merion High School games so he could be the hero at the end. The streets said he wasn’t real because he grew up in Europe. The analysts said he stunted team development by taking too many shots.
The afro he wore was out of style and too grimy. He married a video dancer. His line about injustice, a Dr. Martin Luther King quote, during his acceptance speech at the 2003 Nickelodeon Kids Choice awards was edited from the broadcast because it was deemed too controversial.
He’s been mercilessly booed during NBA All-Star events; once in 2002 after winning the MVP in his hometown, and in 2005 by the crowd in Denver for deeper seeded reasons than basketball.
Kermit Washington punching Rudy Tomjonivich remains a dark day in NBA history. But Chris Child’s two-piece and Raja Bell’s clothesline is capsulized through widely popular GIF’s and MEME’s.
From sponsors to rappers, cable news outlets to internet message boards, coaches to fans, lots of people have been salty towards Kobe Bryant.
Now he has resigned, and you won’t have Kobe Bryant to kick around anymore.
LaMarcus Aldridge will go down as the last marquee free agent to spurn joining the Lakers (according to anonymous sources) because they (allegedly) didn’t want to play with Kobe. The Lakers will have all the cap-room they need to solidify their roster now that Bryant’s hefty contract is gone.
But the hardest part will be finding a suitable replacement super villain. There has to be a back story, like skipping college to go straight to the pros. There has to be mini sub-plots, like having an R&B star watch you winning the dunk contest as Brandy Norwood did in Cleveland in 1997, or using the owner’s private jet to make it to a road playoff game in Houston in 2004 the day of a court hearing.
There has to be adversity like the 2005 season which he courteously finished on the All-NBA third team while missing the playoffs for the first time before there can be triumph, like when he got MVP chants on road games in Lakers’ rival territory like Boston, Chicago, and New York.
Those waiting to get lined up at the barbershops will still carry on the argument over who was better, Kobe or Mike, but there will be no more game-by-game scrutiny of his field-goal percentage.
Many teams around the NBA only sold out when he came to town. Fans around the country packed the arenas to express their hate.
But now they must find someone else whom to engage in a love-hate relationship.
You won’t have Kobe Bryant to kick around anymore.