by Eric Woodyard
“It’s cool to love to win but it’s better to hate to lose…”
— Nas, The N—-r Tape (2008)
If there’s one thing that can be said about Kobe Bryant, it is that he hates to lose. With such a burning desire to rise above the competition, why would he even think about a negative outcome?
Despite the Lakers success this season on the road, KB24 and the Lake Show have struggled recently in the Motor City. L.A. hadn’t tasted victory in the Palace of Auburn Hills since March ‘02, losing their last nine games against the Detroit Pistons. Although the days of dominance are long gone from the Pistons’ franchise, they still managed to defeat the Lakers, 106-95, on their home court earlier this season in the Iverson era.
With Kobe so close at last night’s game, I got a glimpse of how serious he takes the game of basketball. This inspired me to focus on his every move…
After arriving only 30 minutes before the game because of car issues and finding my seat directly behind the Lakers bench, my eyes were fixed on Black Mamba. I didn’t even notice Aretha Franklin passing right by me. To be honest, I didn’t even care.
I watched my idol do his job. He was dressed in purple with yellow trimmings, showcasing a white No. 24 stitched on his fabric, a yellow wristband squeezing his left elbow, white tape on his ring finger, black and yellow, Nike Zoom Kobe IV’s tied to his feet, with tattoos on his arms billboarding his love for his family; inked in his time of turmoil.
His strength is documented, but his scrawniness baffled me. It doesn’t seem as if KB is so small until you see him in person.
As I watched him participate in the shoot around, the superstar took each shot seriously as he warmed up with teammate Trevor Ariza.
Catch. Pivot. Triple Threat. Dribble. Spin Move. Pull-up! Zoning out his atmosphere, Kobe did this over and over.
His approach to the game was more militant than any other player that I’ve watched. If you looked into his eyes, you could see that basketball to him is what Black Nationalism was to Malcolm X! (…yes, it’s that serious). His eyes lit up every time he touched the rock.
This is Kobe Bryant — the best to ever do it! (Yeah, I said it). Hated on so much, Passion of the Christ need a sequel.
Kobe didn’t waste any time getting everything started as he manhandled the smaller Aaron Afflalo and any other defender that stepped in his path. With the absence of Allen Iverson, Rip Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace, KB was like a kid in a candy store, displaying his “He-Cant-Guard-Me” swag all night while filling up the stat sheet. He dropped 30 points, grabbed 8 boards, dropped 7 dimes and accumulated 2 steals.
The fans in the arena didn’t know what to do. Some cheered while some booed the living legend. At one point early in the 3rd quarter when he stepped up to the free throw line, half of the arena chanted “M-V-P!” while half showed hasty dissatisfaction. The noise didn’t bother KB though as he sank them both down. Take that!
He may be the most loved/hated athlete to lace up a pair of sneaks and from his actions during the game, and he has become aware of this and feeds off it. Nothing could throw-off his focus, as I watched the determination in his eye during every second that he was on the court. The same determination that has his team back in tact for another championship run this season. The same determination that has propelled the Lakers to four straight victories. This game would be no different.
The Lakers would win 92-77 over the Detroit Pistons.
While waiting to get a few sound bites from Kobe, I decided to chat with Derek Fisher. When he spotted my shoes, Nike Huarache 2k4 in Lakers colorway, we had plenty to talk about.
“Man them are some of the best shoes to ever come out,” Fisher says.
“I know man, I love them,” I respond.
“Yeah, they’re really comfortable.”
“I know, didn’t you used to wear them too?”
“Yeah, I wore them when I played for Golden State. I loved them too.”
After we wrapped up our convo, Kobe walked out from the back of the locker room. Still inspired from his performance, I waited for all of the other journalists to finish up with their questions before introducing myself to him, giving him a run-down of what I do. He responded with great attentiveness, and we shook hands before he left to get on the bus to catch to plane to inspire another person in another city.