The Cleveland Cavaliers took on the Los Angeles Lakers on MLK day and on the eve of the historical inaugoration of President - elect Barak Obama.
I too had a historical event take place for me as I watched the game. While my experience pales in magnitude to the swearing of the first Black American president, it was significant nonetheless.
I have talked to enough people and haters to know that there is a certain resentment among many basketball fans towards Kobe Bryant. Some people love him and others hate him. I myself was on the fence, with my feet dangling over hate side. Who am I kidding? I often jumped off the fence onto the hate side, the grass was always greener there. And I, like other Kobe doubters have my reasons.
Tonight, that all changed. Not because he had an excellent game, not because his team won and certainly not because I felt like he showed LeBron up. No...it was something else. I'll come back to that.
The game itself didn't really live up to its billing. Both Lebron and Kobe had off nights, a few highlight reel moves here and there, but otherwise sloppy play by both teams. The Lakers ended up shelling the Cavs by about 18 en route to a relatively easy win.
It was clear that Kobe has a much deeper and talented supporting cast than Lebron and the Lakers certainly match up well against the Cavs, albeit, the Cavs, were without Delonte West and Ilgaga. Also, for a man that's leading the race in MVP voting, Lebron James gets the least amount of superstar calls than anyone else in the league. Even Sasha V gets more love from the officials and he's gay so what gives? Not that a man's sexuality should have any bearing on how many times he goes to the stripe...but I'm just saying, the man's getting hacked and he's the first black man to be on the cover of GQ....Give him some calls.
I did see a Laker team that played with alot more physicality than usual and an emerging star in Trevor Ariza who may just be the missing piece the Lakers championship puzzle.
Back to Kobe.
In the first few minutes of the game Kobe dislocated his ring finger on his shooting hand, popped it back in, and resumed play in significant amounts of pain. There was something about the way he played from that point on that brought about a change in my attitude towards Kobe.
For one thing he played the whole game. For another thing, he guarded Lebron for a majority of the game. I have to admit, the man impressed me. As I watched him battling with Lebron and doing everything to get his teamates involved I saw something else.... I saw a warrior. I saw a leader. I saw a mature, unselfish Kobe who just wanted to win. I saw the best player on the planet...
In Superman III, the one where Superman gets a piece of incomplete Kryptonite and it turns him into bad Superman...And he says to the blond chick on top of the statue of liberty " I hope you don't expect me to save you, cause I don't do that anymore" one of my favorite lines in the movie. Anyways, an epic battle takes place between the good Superman and the bad Superman
with the good Superman emerging victorious to save the world.
Something similar to that happened to me as I began to acknowledge Kobe's superiority.
The hater in me jumped out and started pointing at the TV.
" He hasn't changed"
"He's still the soft bastard that wouldn't drive to the hoop on the Celtics"
" He ran Shaq out of town and ruined the last dynasty in professional sports"
"He raped a chick"
Like superman, I grabbed my hater self by the neck and choked him out.
"Go to sleep."
Kobe deserves respect. My respect. And to all the Kobe haters out there, kill that hater inside you and open your eyes. You might just be able to catch and enjoy the rest of the career of one of the most talented and competitive basketball players ever to lace up a pair.
Kobe, much Respeck.
I'll do myself one better and add....I pray he wins it all this year.