Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports  |  Last updated 1/18/12

The best way to describe Kobe Bean Bryant is half-man, half-mamba, half-ay caramba. Of course, to make the math work you have to understand that certain sportswriters flunked math in college. That’s why partly I’m discoursing on this subject and not Poisson distributions. Certainly, the greatness that is Kobe transcends multiplication tables, even though his uniform number change from 8 to 24 might have been the result of simple multiplication — a calculator confirms this — or one of many conspiracy theories ranging from trying to one-up the famous number-23, Michael Jordan, to being a fan of the former TV show, a fervent backgammon player who understands the number of points on the board, his love of Canadian football where there are 12 players for each team on the field, or, the more likely explanation, to commemorate the year in which oldest Jewish fraternity — Aleph Zadik Aleph — was founded in, all places, Omaha.

Whether one likes Kobe (he would have done better than Rick Perry at the Iowa caucuses), or hates him — hey people didn’t like Pop Rocks at first either but once people found out what happened when you combined the candy with soda, they loved it — one must be able to appreciate the talents he has displayed for the better part of two decades. This, for a guy who was the first ever guard drafted out of high school in 1996, giving hope to every Korleone Young, Jonathan Bender, and Ndudi Ebi trying to bypass college electives on their way to the NBA. Most came up short in reaching Bryant’s stratosphere, except maybe Ebi who now plays in the top division in Lebanon.

Kobe was drafted by the then-Charlotte Hornets. He was, however, soon traded for Vlade Divac, known as much for his 16-year NBA career as perhaps he was for his chain-smoking exploits, which earned him the nickname, “The NBA’s Marlboro Man.” Of course, the trade wasn’t as bad as the Boston Celtics’ trade of the Ice Capades for Bill Russell in 1956, or Thomas Jefferson swindling the French out of a large chunk of the Midwest for what amounted to some trinkets. Kobe may have wished that Colorado was not included in that package deal with Napoleon.

Kobe played most of the early part of his career in the halcyon days of the NBA, back when a guy like Nick Van Exel could make the All-Star Game. (Subsequent rules have it made it more difficult, since the NBA now has a clearer definition of what a “star” is.) After years of seasoning on the bench behind guys like Van Exel, Eddie Jones, and splitting time with something called a Travis Knight, Kobe finally came of age.

Kobe, who had tried and failed to put out a musical album in the late 1990s, and Shaquille O’Neal of rapping genie fame, teamed to win 3 straight titles. Prior to the 2003 season, the Lakers tried to establish a mega team with cagey (read: over-the-hill) veterans Karl Malone and Gary Payton. The result was not a championship but the NBA’s version of a Marx Brothers film, with Shaq yelling at owner Jerry Buss to “Pay me” during a preseason game in Hawaii and Kobe doing his best Groucho impersonation: “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.”

Conflicts arose. Phil Jackson was dumped. Shaq was traded. Kobe nearly ended up on the Clippers but resisted the lure of sharing top billing with Yaroslav Korolev, and stayed. Rudy Tomjanovich came and went, as did Kwame Brown, whose trade to the Memphis Grizzlies for Pau Gasol was so one-sided at the time it may have convinced some people that the NBA world was flat. The result for Kobe was an MVP trophy, three finals trips, and two more titles.

This season has arguably yielded his most impressive performance. Kobe has found a way to lead the NBA in scoring and, just the other night in a game against Dallas that set the league back 50 years, had a streak of four straight 40-point games end. He has done all of this with a torn lunotriquetral ligament in his right wrist suffered during a preseason game against the Clippers. If that injury is half as painful as it is to pronounce, it must be excruciating. I’m not sure if this helps his argument, but I once missed a deadline for this very website after spraining my index finger hitting the “escape” key with a little too much gusto.

Undoubtedly, the pain must be magnified for Bryant when realizing he has to pass the ball to Jason Kapono at some point. Yet, the Lakers have still compiled one of the best records in the Western Conference, as much a testament to Kobe’s prowess at the age of 33 as it is to the compressed schedule in the league this year which was necessitated as a result of a lockout over the slight monetary discrepancy of $3 billion.

Throughout his career, Kobe’s on-the-court prowess has been tempered by events outside the arena. His exploits in Eagle, Colorado in 2003 while having a knee operation not authorized by the team got him into slightly heated water, causing him to lose a valuable sum of money from his Nutella endorsement. (Insert inappropriate joke.) If the heat-pump was not on full blast then, perhaps it was this past offseason when he got back from Germany for a secret procedure he had on his ailing right knee and left ankle. Not too long afterwards, he and his wife Vanessa filed for divorce. Not that the two are related but everyone knows what happens in Düsseldorf, stays in Düsseldorf.

When Virgil jotted down the Latin equivalent of the expression “Love conquers all” perhaps he had not been brought up to speed on the concept of prenuptial agreements. Reports say that the lack of one in Kobe’s marriage might cost him in the neighborhood of $75 million; or, if to help you on the arithmetic, 2 Rashard Lewis’s, an Antawn Jamison, and a Rudy Gay. As it is, on his way downtown to the courthouse to sign the legal documents, I don’t see Kobe whistling the chorus to the eponymous Petula Clark song.

For a guy who has logged over 15 years in the league, spanning nearly 50,000 minutes total (slightly less than the amount of reality programming currently available), soaring and flooring along the way with game-winning shots and the occasional 81-point performance, Kobe Bryant is no worse for wear, even if his body is metaphorically being held together with glue and tape. Even though he’s on the wrong side of 30, something is still fueling Kobe’s game winning shots and youthful fervor.

We know that’s it is no longer a spread made out of sugar, vegetable oil, and cocoa solids. Perhaps it’s the occasional slight which keeps him going, including a recent one that had him listed as just the 7th best player in the league, just as insulting as me being listed in a recent poll as the 7th best writer for this website. Either way, even with the advancing age, Kobe has proven that, unlike his namesake, even with his advancing age he is no piece of meat.

This article first appeared on Larry Brown Sports and was syndicated with permission.

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Bears trade up one spot with 49ers for Mitch Trubisky

Cleveland Browns select Myles Garrett with No. 1 overall pick

Matt Carpenter’s walk-off grand slam was pretty rare

Report: Rajon Rondo ruled out for Game 6 against Celtics

NBA announces eight new awards to be voted on by fans

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Sherman wants to be traded to Patriots

Report: Carmelo Anthony trying to save marriage with wife La La

Yoenis Cespedes exits game with left hamstring pull

Colts' David Parry pleads guilty, faces three years in prison

Report: Former Washington GM running scouting service, advising NFL teams

NFL to honor late Steelers owner Dan Rooney during draft

The 'NFL Draft Day is finally upon us' quiz

Most memorable 'NFL Draft weekend drama' stories

Everything you need for the 2017 NFL Draft

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Eastern rivalries take center stage

Marshawn Lynch gives an already-spurned city hometown appeal

Box Score 4/27: Waiting for Goodell to call our name

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The 'Bonehead blunder that watered down the 1931 AL home run crown' quiz

Draft prospects we're most excited to see in the NFL

Stanley Cup Playoffs: The West is full of surprises

Box Score 4/26: NFL Draft eve

The 'QB or not QB? That is the question' quiz

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 'NFL Draft Day is finally upon us' quiz

Most memorable 'NFL Draft weekend drama' stories

Everything you need for the 2017 NFL Draft

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Eastern rivalries take center stage

Marshawn Lynch gives an already-spurned city hometown appeal

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The 'Bonehead blunder that watered down the 1931 AL home run crown' quiz

Draft prospects we're most excited to see in the NFL

Stanley Cup Playoffs: The West is full of surprises

How the Astros are following the Cubs' blueprint to the top

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker