Kobe Bryant has been through it all with his Los Angeles Lakers. He’s been a part of all the ups and downs the Lakers have faced in his 20 years career. That’s what made his run so special and unique. He cherished the lows even more because they’ve made their glory days possible. But it was frustrating for Bean, no doubt about it.
After tearing his Achilles in 2013, Kobe entered the final stage of his career, which was intertwined with him rehabbing and struggling on the floor. Especially the first couple of seasons after the injury when Bryant’s competitive drive was at the same level as before. However, it seemed like the last couple of years, Kobe came to terms with not being a part of a contending team anymore and stopped being so demanding on himself and his teammates. It was about the love and appreciation for the game and not demoralizing opponents.
Ever since Kobe famously hit two one-legged free throws after going down to Achilles tear vs. the Warriors, Lakers seasons went down the drain. From 2014 to 2018, the Lakers have averaged 23 wins per a regular-season, which was historically bad. Kobe has been a part of the roster for the first few years of that inglorious run, being even more frustrated because he wasn’t able to be on the court and help the team’s overall success due to his injuries. Kobe wasn’t happy, and he made sure to let his teammates know. Just ask Jeremy Lin.
“I remember he had gotten hurt, and he’s out for the season, so he wasn’t around for quite some time, just rehabbing and being away from the team and stuff. We haven’t seen him in a few weeks, all of a sudden he walks in a gym the day before the trade deadline. We are stretching and warming up, and he comes in, sweatsuits, he’s got his sling for his hurt shoulder, he’s got his Kobe shades on. Everyone was like ‘ooh’ and Carlos Boozer was like ‘Kobe, good to see you bro, we haven’t seen you in a bit, how come you came in today?’ and he was just stone facing and said ‘I just came by to say bye to some of you bums before you get traded tomorrow.’ “
Ouch! How to recover from something like that? The Lakers didn’t make any trade deadline moves, so Kobe’s prediction ended up being wrong, but I bet it wasn’t nice to hear something like that from the legend himself.
That was probably the last season of the Black Mamba himself. There weren’t many instances like this after 2015, because Kobe was at peace with where he was in his career at that time. And you know what - I love it. Just remember Jordan’s two years with the Wizards. His teammates hated him. He was still the type of leader he was in Chicago but didn’t have the abilities he had to back it up. Kobe never entered that stage of his career. Part of it was because of his injuries, so he cherished just being on the floor, probably more than ever. It was only about giving back and appreciating his final years on NBA hardwoods.
That being said, I love these types of Kobe stories. They are reminders of the ultimate competitor and fearless leader. You can either hate him or love him for it. But the fact is, he backed it up. Just look at five banners in the Staples Center.