It has become a running joke with my family that when a player gets hurt, we always say we don’t cheer for injuries. And that’s the truth, we never want anybody to get hurt. This idea has turned into a comical moment of one of us saying to the other, with a huge grin on our faces, that “we NEVER like to see anyone get hurt, but…”. That’s how the conversation topic runs its course; we don’t even finish the sentence anymore.
That was the first thing I thought of when I heard that Kobe Bryant tore his achilles Friday night in a win at the Staples Center. To sum up my initial reaction, whether I vocalized it or not: DOWN. GOES. KOBE.
To me, this was it. The man who gets every call in the book, yet it’s still never enough. The man who openly berates his teammates and is loved for it. The man with a checkered past that everyone outside of Boston dismisses and forgets. That was my first thought: payback.
But then as I woke up Saturday and looked myself in the mirror, I remembered a warm September afternoon five years ago when my idol got knocked down and never got back up.
In regards to Tom Brady’s ACL or Bryant’s Achilles, these aren’t just cases of injury, they lost so much more. They lost invincibility. Two titans of their sports, two of the greatest athletes every to play their games, and two people that are both admired and loathed. These are players that always played hurt, always gutted out bumps and bruises, and always got back up when they got knocked down.
That is why it was so strange for me to feel pity for someone that has been an enemy for the entirety of his career. The difference between Brady and Bryant is that Tom was towards the prime of his career, with years left to recuperate and return to form.
Kobe Bryant has played nearly 17 full seasons in the NBA, combined with seven playoff runs that led to the NBA finals. Add on the fact that D’Antoni ran him into the ground to fulfill Bryant’s ambitious guarantee of returning to the playoffs, and Father Time takes an even greater toll on his body.
Last April when Mariano Rivera collapsed on the Kauffman Stadium warning track, I always hoped he would return to vanquish the lasting memory of his head covered by a towel being carted off. He wasn’t supposed to end his career like that, not Mo.
Our lasting memory of Kobe Bryant should not be a legend withering in pain on the Lakers 3 point line. He deserves to walk off the court when he is finished, with his chest and chin out, like he’s done so many times in his illustrious career. I want to see Kobe strut in front of his domain after a Lakers victory, grab a towel and use that bogus grin in his postgame interview while “I love LA” blasts from the Staples speakers.
For the man who time and time again makes shots that defy logic, the man that will make you earn every step on the offensive end and the man that rises to the occasion unlike any other player we have ever seen, he deserves better. Last night Kobe Bryant lost his invincibility, but he has all the ability in the world to come back and be Kobe Bryant again.
That would be something worth cheering for.