BenchMob Beat: Kobe Says…

It has been a long three days without a Laker game; so long that we fans have subjected ourselves to cheering for (gulp) the Boston Celtics. In our defense, there were reasons for this momentary lapse in judgment…

  1. The Celtics are the only team left in the Eastern Conference over which the Lakers would have home court advantage should they reach the NBA Finals again.
  2. Kobe Bryant loyalists have wanted to see the demise of the player who receives the utmost reverence and privilege despite accomplishing little, while our 4-time champion has defied age and injury but receives nothing but doubt.

LeBron James — the mere mention of his name can drive a faithful Laker fan insane. We are tired of every call that we feel he does not deserve to get in his favor. We see his images shown more prominently in advertisements than our superstar and we feel robbed. We remember every pass he has been given for disrespectful behavior and know that Kobe’s character would have been shredded if that behavior had been his. We think it’s unfair that people have crowned Kobe’s heir when he’s clearly not ready to abdicate his throne. The new guy has no idea what it takes, we say. He doesn’t know what Kobe has been through to get to where he is today.

This week, however, LeBron has gotten a more potent taste of something that Kobe has had an abundance of in his professional career, not to mention his life: adversity.

There is no use kicking LeBron while he’s down (as much as many would like the opportunity to enjoy doing so). He is, undeniably, a rare talent on the court, and his future is beyond bright even despite his inadequacy of late. Those premature accolades will eventually have the accomplishments to support it, but until then, he could use a lesson or two from someone who has been there, and done that.

“Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise.” — Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant’s career did not start with a Larry O’Brien trophy in his hand. It started with the pressure of being chosen at a very young age by the man whose silhouette represents the entire league, to play for one of the greatest franchises in sports history, on the brightest stage that ever existed. His success, and more so his shortcomings, are magnified for the harshest scrutiny, but what has contributed to Kobe’s tenure in the NBA is his fearlessness against the doubters, against the pressure, against the possibility for failure.

In the first round of this season’s playoffs, Kobe didn’t offer to take on the defensive assignment against Oklahoma City Thunder’s most consistent player – HE TOOK IT. He claimed that if the Lakers were going to be eliminated, he wanted to make sure he had done everything he could. In doing so, he, even for just a moment, silenced the critics who called him old and washed up (really, people?) and wouldn’t you know it, helped his team move another round closer to attaining another championship.

“The motivation for me is just the game itself, just playing the game the right way and trying to win, compete every time I step out there on the floor. That’s motivation enough for me to go out there and play well.” — Kobe Bryant

Kobe does not play the game to make Nike or Vitamin Water happy (though I’m sure they are plenty satisfied with his performance). He plays basketball because it is what he loves to do, and his love for this game is what contributes to his respect for it.

After some of the losses they experienced this past season, the Lakers were consistently asked about how badly losing made them feel. Kobe always shrugged the question off, saying that it wasn’t so much the loss they were concerned with, but the fact that they didn’t play the right way.

The Lakers didn’t end the regular season the way they hoped, but they also didn’t dwell in a past they could no longer change. They have regained their focus, locked into their competitive nature, and are playing Laker basketball the right way, especially when it has counted and now have won six games in a row (8-2 in the playoffs) to show for it.

“As far as carrying the torch for the years to come, I don’t know. I just want to be the best basketball player I can be.” — Kobe Bryant

Dwayne Wade once said in an interview, that what makes Kobe Bryant one of the best players in the league is his extreme knowledge and practice of the fundamentals. It is well documented that Kobe, above all else, is a constant student of the game, and he is proud to admit that everything he does on the court, he learned from those who played before him.

He has been called Michael Jordan’s heir, and what a heavy burden that is to carry. He is up for the challenge, but not necessarily to be another Michael Jordan (because even Kobe wouldn’t claim such a title). Kobe is a mere model (though with a perfect likeness) of what his Airness represented — hard work, fearless determination, and an interminable competitive spirit.

With a chance to attain another Championship, Kobe’s fundamentals, both mental and physical, permeate through the rest of the team like a positive virus. And if any torch is being passed around, it’s certainly been at the very least touched by those who wear his same uniform. How else can a team reach the league’s highest honor?

“When I’m finished playing, I want people to say, ‘He handled this well, he kept his cool.” — Kobe Bryant

The Lakers, especially the coaching staff, preach throughout the season about not wanting to get too high or too low after a convincing win or terrible loss. It’s almost the basketball emotional equivalent of “just right,” one could say and the Lakers have maintained this middle-of-the-ground attitude, which has frustrated many fans and sports analysts who expect a specific type of dominance each night.

Despite having the best record in the Western Conference for the third straight season, and the third best record in the league, the Los Angeles Lakers have been viewed as not playing badly, but still not playing their best basketball in many viewers’ eyes. They have been called “lucky” to survive the first two rounds of the playoffs and, according to ESPN analyst Chris Sheridan, their charm and luck are due to run out very soon. But if there is one thing Kobe has greatly influenced on this Laker team, it’s his stern yet calm demeanor, especially when it counts the most, and what better time to maintain their cool and play as only they know how, than in the most important time of their year.

Personally and professionally, Kobe Bryant has seen his life hit the abyss, but he has also witnessed his resurrection, not to mention that of his teammates who are no strangers to their own plights. Adversity and triumph can travel with you through a lifetime if you have the mental fortitude to keep them together, and this Laker team — they have that. They just don’t pay mind to those who tell them otherwise because at the end — of their seasons, their careers, and their lives — what they will be remembered for was how they handled defeat as much as how they handled the glory.

Anna Gonda has been the post-game editor for LakerNation.com since the 2009-2010 season. Between post-game reports, she's a full-time advertising coordinator for an academic publisher and a part-time photographer. Favorite Lakers: Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher. Favorite Laker Moment: Game 7, 2010 Finals against the Boston Celtics.
  • TOUCHING_MYSELF

    NICE! What a perfect article! It summed up everything that us Kobe fans feels about LeHype, the media, and the refs. It also points out all the factors in why we have such faith in him… his sheer hard work, determination, and the pure and simple desire to be the best basketball player that he can be!

    GO KOBE!!!!!!!!!
    GO LAKERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/the-purple-line/ Ramneet Singh

    Amazing article Anna

    • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

      Appreciate it, Ramneet! =)

  • deviate

    3. Revenge against the Celtics.

    • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

      DEFINITELY!

  • http://lakersground.net lakers4life372417

    I would never root for the celtics. i would have preferred a lebron & shaq vs. kobe finals even if we didnt have homecourt. lakers all the way.

  • rizzo

    lebron’s supporters keep making excuses for his shortcomings. they cry that the reason lebron doesn’t have a ring is b/c he doesn’t have good teammates. but how is it they can finish with the best record in the regular season? they continue to make alibis for Lebron…

    …meanwhile, as Lebron fails and his fans cry, Kobe keeps winning championships. he’ll have his FIFTH in a couple weeks. and thats whats up

  • LakersFirst

    I refuse to want the Suckdics to win a game. Screw em. I never Boston to win one game. Whoever their opponent is, I root for the opponent. I would rather have had lebron win.

    • http://lakersground.net lakers4life372417

      thank you. there’s at least another die hard lakers fan that is smart.

    • Jordan B

      Im as die hard as they come, and hate the Celtics with passion, but its a different kind of hatred because it comes with respect. As a fan of the game you have to respect what the Celtics have brought to the league like them or not. The Lakers and Celtics are connected for ever in the legacy of basketball, its the way it is. You dont have to like Larry Bird, Kevin Mchale, Robert Parish, Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Kevin Garnett, or Ray Allen. But you must respect them, because they are winners. Lebron James and the Cavs, are not, they are arrogant, pompus, childish jack asses who are bad for the sport. Thats the difference between Boston and Cleveland. Respect for Boston, nothing for Cleveland.

  • JFK-analysis-at-TLN

    Do people even watch ESPN? Every prediction that they make is incorrect. We only have a few smart people on Tv man:
    Mark Jackson
    Jenny Smith
    Jeff Van Gundy (sometimes- he is funny)

    then you have the idiots:
    the ENTIRE ESPN staff
    Charles “No Ring” Barkley
    ………………………………………………………………………………………..
    Kobe and the Lakers are playing great. As long as Gasol is playing at a high level we will be Champs!!

    • JFK-analysis-at-TLN

      *Kenny Smith lol- not Jenny

      • 808ty

        I Lol’d before i saw your correction!! LMAO

  • LifeLongLakerFan

    Good Story. Sheridan whomever he is is dead wrong on this one.

  • lakers999999

    Where did Kobe buy that sweater?
    I want one…does anyone know?

    • KindSir

      If Kobe is wearing it that means that it’s ridiculously expensive. You don’t want it.

  • WS

    Well written article Anna. Enjoyed the read.

  • lakers35

    kobe looks like an avatar lol
    and lakers will have 16 championshis
    by the end of the playoffs

  • Corey B from the RIC

    As a Lakers fan since 1979 there is no way I could cheer for the Celtics to beat the Cavs.The Cavs were living on borrowed time anyway because Orlando was going to out them again.The only good thing that came out of that was the fact that now the media has seemed to stop praising Lebron.Kobe is still the best player and I would have loved for the Lake Show to have played the Cavs in the Finals to prove that.But now I just want to see Orlando beat the breaks off of Boston,but hey if they get past the Magic,then it’s sweet revenge for the Lakers

  • Robert

    First, a word of agreement with JFK… about ESPN being Laker-haters, Kobe-haters, Left Coast haters, etc. They are mostly east coast crew, and just insanely jealous. They built up LeChoke, and now they are paying for it – scrambling to make excuses. They are also extremely disappointed that the man they still call the “chosen one” continues to come up short.
    .
    Except one.
    .
    Colin Cowherd (yes, strange name, but he’s a cool guy). He’s on Sports Nation, and the day before yesterday said something like the following: “I know that ESPN doesn’t want me to say this, because I would get in trouble, but it is really cool to be Laker Fan”. So … Colin is the ONLY ESPN guy who stands by Kobe and the Lakers. He is from SoCal, and has nothing but love for the Lakes. His partner ‘Beadle’ abhors Kobe and the Lakers, but she is just jealous.
    .
    The other thing you’ll notice about what Colin said, is something akin to ‘admitting’ that ESPN hates the Lakers. It’s true! They can’t stand it that a “West Coast” team RULES! They have their Yankees, Red Sox and Steelers, Colts, Patriots, whatever, but they Ain’t Got Basketball. WE DO! And one other thing:
    .
    Dr. Buss will get his dream, and the Lakers will end up winning MORE championships than the Celtics. That’s his great legacy. We are ‘almost there’ – just 3 Championships away (seems like a lot, but let’s hold on!).
    .
    As the great Jim Hill says, “Keep the Faith”.

  • WINLESS

    Great arcticle Anna!

    I hope this reminds people that when KB has a bad shooting night or taking too many shots coz the rest of the team is not stepping up, that he does what he has to do to react to what’s going on on the court. I get frustrated sometimes when he takes too many shots that are questionable, but it gives me perspective that if they’re gonna lose the game, he’s going down swinging. He’s not gonna quit on his teammates and cop out later and say “I spoil fans every night. So when you have 3 bad games in 7 years” blah blah blah or some sh*t like that. At least, he didn’t quit!

    And I keep saying this all the time. I hope people appreciate KB even if you’re not a Laker fan because players like that don’t come around too often. We tend to take him for granted because we see him play every night. We always nit pick at his game even if they win. But when the road comes to an end, we’ll all realize that we are TRUE WITNESSES to the G.O.A.T.

  • Betto

    It’s good to see that LeClown is out of the playoffs and Shaq with him.. hahaha
    There was a game in the regular season where the Cavs were blowing a team and they started dancing and laughing like clowns, I thought it was disrespectful for not only the opposite team but for the nba.
    We never saw that from Jordan nor will we see that from Kobe, I don’t think LeClown takes the game of basketball seriously.
    Espn’s boy is out of the picture! At the beginning of the playoffs Espn nba sports analysts were comparing how long it took Jordan to get a ring and they were like OMG, LeClown is in the 7th year with the Cavs, he’ll get a ring for sure cause they got the best record and it’s the team to beat.. NOT!!

    LeClown is not a king, he’s merely just the jester.

  • lakerville213

    dear anna,

    i love your articles. unfortunately, i cant say that about everyone in the tln staff. you and jason bring out that special something about our lakers that’s beyond sports. thanks again. hm by the way, what does tln do in the summertime?

    sincerely,
    lakerville

    ps are u enjoying how things are going so far in the playoffs? just goes to show that the postseason is “chess, aint checkers…”

    • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

      Thank you much! This is my first season as a TLN blogger so as far as the off-season goes, I guess I’ll find out this year. Huge amounts of withdrawl will probably follow =)

  • pauer

    OK article, the highlighted quotes were out of place, and seemed forced.

    • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

      The quotes are subheadings that correspond to the paragraph that followed, but thanks for the comment.

  • Conan of Covina

    All Hail Darth Kobe

  • Michael of Whittier

    Welcome to the Purple and Gold side…. Conan of Covina

  • j

    :) ’nuff said