Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

“Mamba Out”: The End of an Era

    “The black mamba is capable of striking at considerable range and occasionally may deliver a series of bites in rapid succession.”

    While this description describes the snake, “Black Mamba” became a fitting nickname for one of the most skillfully dangerous players in NBA history.

    Kobe Bryant has had a long, illustrious career, filled with drama, exciting moments, victory, and at times controversy. Only two players have scored more points in their NBA careers than Bryant. He has five championship rings, something that most players would be lucky to achieve just once in their career. For 20 years he was the face of a franchise and a city.

    No one is arguing that Bryant is likable. Throughout his career Bryant was one of the most hated players in the league for multiple reasons. His attitude rubbed people the wrong way both on and off the court and he clashed with teammates who didn’t meet his standards of work ethic.

    Bryant is famous for his drive to always get better; he was always the first guy in the gym and the last one to leave, and there are stories of him going into practice at three or four in the morning. Bryant’s mindset was such that if he was putting in this work which he thought necessary to win a championship, then his teammates should be working just as hard.

    This was not always the case. His star teammate early in his career, Shaquille O’Neal, was the opposite of Bryant, known for not staying in shape or practicing as hard as he could. O’Neal knew that at 7’1” and over 300 pounds he could physically dominate opponents. But Bryant still expected more.

    Other teammates were irked by his disinterest in passing the ball. Never one to trust anyone other than himself to take a shot, Bryant gained infamy with a selfish style of play. While they won’t complain when he’s hitting his shots, he has long been criticized for this.

    In addition to in house clashing, Bryant wasn’t too popular among opponents or opposing fans. His brash and arrogant attitude rubbed them the wrong way. He was booed in almost every arena and made his opponents visibly annoyed.

    Now, if he was an average player this wouldn’t mean too much. There are players in the NBA known as agitators—role players who opposing fans love to hate that don’t have a tremendous in-game impact. Bryant is different though; he was a transcendent player in the league who could score at will and broke the hearts of opposing fans with his clutch play and game winners.

    For 20 years, when the game was on the line for the Lakers, there was no doubt about who was taking the last shot. Even draped in two or three defenders, Bryant was getting the ball and putting up a shot. He was ruthless.

    All of this makes his farewell tour this past season all the more intriguing. In his advertised final season, the veteran, no longer able to maintain the level of play he once had, and playing on a roster with guys who had been three years old when he came into the league, received nothing but love.

    It came as a surprise to most people, including Bryant. But, everyone came together to pay their respect to the third highest scorer in NBA history. He was applauded and given standing ovations all over the country. Appreciation was given not for what he is doing, but for what he has done.

    In a way, Bryant’s retirement represents a change of times in the NBA. As his generation of players trickle out, a new generation is taking center stage. With the upcoming departures of future hall of famers like Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, the scene is being set for current and upcoming stars like Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, and Kyrie Irving.

    His retirement also coincides with a change of play in the NBA. As the league starts to embrace a more efficient, pass-happy style of play, the one on one low efficiency shots of Bryant have fallen out of favor. Having never shot higher than 47 percent in a season, Bryant might not even have a chance in today’s NBA.

    Coming into his final season Bryant didn’t have much left to prove. He is a five time NBA Champion, two time Finals MVP, a one time NBA MVP winner, and made it onto 15 all-NBA teams. While he always strived for more and to win, he knew that this season wasn’t about that.

    With the Lakers in the midst of rebuilding their team for the “post-Kobe” era, he was given free reign to play as many minutes as he wanted and could per night, and to take as many shots as he could. It was truly a farewell tour. In every game he played in, the fans were there to see Kobe Bryant play one last time.

    This is what made his final game all the more sweet. It was well televised and publicized by the media. Staples Center, Bryant’s home court for 20 years, handed out close to 500 media credentials, an unprecedented amount for a regular season game.

    His swan song didn’t disappoint. Bryant delivered a classic performance that fans hadn’t seen out of him for years. He played almost the whole game and scored a whopping 60 points. For once his teammates didn’t want him to pass the ball. It was his night. It almost felt like a dream for fans cheering him on like it was Game 7 of the Finals.

    When it was all said and done Bryant was given a microphone to address the fans in the arena. He was overwhelmed, out of breath, and exhausted. He finished his speech in a way that only Kobe could.

    “Mamba out.”

    Willy may be reached at [email protected]

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