Kobe Bryant in the Twilight of his Career

Brian Phllips of ESPN’s ‘Grantland,’ which is directed by Bill Simmons, gives us a perfect analysis of where Kobe Bryant is right now, where he has been, how he got there and why. I don’t think any psychologist or any psychiatrist could have done a better job than Brian Phillips. I like to think I get inside these things pretty well but I’m not in the same league with this kind of study, this kind of explanation and this level of writing. This is a mini-masterpiece.

For the longest time, I could not put my finger on why almost everyone loves Michael Jordan and almost no one loves Kobe. Well, Brian Phillips cleared that up for me in a few paragraphs. Outstanding sports writers do that. They don’t just tell you what happened; they also tell you WHY it happened. That’s the difference. I try to do this in my TV work and it’s not easy. I will make a comment and, as soon as it’s gone, I’ll think to myself, “You didn’t tell them WHY. Next time, do that better!” Then, I’ll try to live up to my promise to myself. Again, not easy.

So, we find Kobe Bryant at the end of the line. He has said that next year will be his last. Let’s see if he makes it that far. He is always one step away from a career injury, as his recent problems — torn achilles tendon; torn up knee — have told us. He has also said he doesn’t want people cheering for him at his final stop in each city: “If you have always booed me, then don’t change that now.” Brian Phillips did not mention that but I’m sure it was in his file, somewhere. Like Sessue Hayakawa said in Bridge Over the River Kwai, “Be happy in your work.” Kobe can’t do that.

Well, here’s where he stands right now: (a) he’s on one of the worst teams in the NBA; (b) his shooting percentages have dropped off the edge of the Earth; (c) he will never win that 6th NBA title; (d) no free agent wants to play with him; (e) good players have left the Lakers on the first plane out of town — Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol — to get away from him. There is more but that’s a pretty heavy list right there. Sorry, but you can’t say Gasol has to “Put on his big boy pants,” and expect Gasol to like that. And Gasol is tearing it up now … in Chicago. Huge message.