While many on the East Coast were sleeping, and perhaps some on the West Coast were getting their party on, the Lakers season took a turn off a winding road and ended in fatality. Kobe Bryant tore his achilles tendon in the game against Golden State, and tore the still beating hearts out from Lakers fans everywhere. Bryant is obviously done for the season, and now stares up at perhaps the steepest mountain in his basketball career. I am not here to join in the fray of countless people who will be blogging eulogies about Kobe and his remarkable career, nor will I be talking about the poor Lakers and how the Bryant injury is yet another set back to the team. Instead, I am going to speak about a different subject matter. I am going to speak about the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. This is NOT an obituary for Kobe Bryant.
To say Kobe Bryant epitomized the all too familiar sports cliche about leaving it all on the floor, would be short changing the man and his efforts put forth for the sake of the team. Kobe Bryant has been Superman for the Lakers all season long. He has been the one doing all the heroic rescuing, all the heavy lifting, and putting himself in harms way to save the Lakers. He has been doing it so much, that his body finally betrayed him for logging all those minutes on the court, not to mention all the prep work before the games just to get his body to cooperate with him so he could play another game. Kobe has had to do EVERYTHING all season long, just to be able to drag the rest of the team with him so they could cross the finish line in 8th place in this marathon called the NBA season.
When the Lakers acquired Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic, they were told they were getting Superman. There would be no need for Kobe to extend his minutes, or lay his body on the line night after night. Instead, what we found out real fast was that Superman didn’t come flying in from Orlando like a bird or a plane, he came limping into Los Angeles, and never fully assumed his role of Superman. He grew comfortable with the role of Clark Kent, and so did the rest of the team. Game after game, we waited for someone other than Kobe to step up and be the man. Game after game, we were disappointed. The whole Lakers team collectively kept tugging on Kobe’s cape, and kept looking for Kobe to rescue them. Kobe is an intelligent person, and plays the game with a hunger that could be compared to that of a newborn child craving milk. When your NBA career contains that kind of DNA, his choice was simple. He accepted the role of Superman, and let everyone else on the team call themselves Clark Kent.
The question is not can the Lakers make the playoffs without Kobe, the question becomes WHO are the Lakers without Kobe? The Lakers in all probability have anywhere from two to maybe seven or eight games left in this season to begin to formulate an idea as to who they are, what they want to look like, and where they want to go. I am generously giving them seven or eight games in this season, provided they can stave off the Jazz for the eight seed, and then go quietly into the night after the first round matchup with the Spurs or Thunder. Will someone stick their hand up and assume the role of Superman? Will someone even be able to muster up the courage to take on the responsibility? Who’s coming out of the phone booth these last two games to rescue this team? Who’s the new super hero going to be for the seasons to come? Cape or shirt and tie? Superman or Clark Kent? Well? I’m waiting.