I hate Kobe Bryant. I never liked him when he was a hyped rookie, an NBA Most Valuable Player or a five-time NBA champion. But after all the stunning events throughout the All-Star weekend, more than ever, Bryant just told all of his doubters to be quiet. After I disliked Bryant and rooted against him for a long time, his reminder that he still is one of the best — if not the best — basketball players in the world has finally earned my respect.
How can you not respect his masterful performance in the All-Star game two nights ago? In 29 minutes, he shot 14-for-26 and made seven out of his eight free throws for a game high 37 points. He even managed to grab 14 rebounds.
But the stats weren’t the real reason why he amazed over the weekend. His dunks, his three pointers and his passing were at their best and he definitely deserved his fourth All-Star MVP award. All of these accomplishments are made even more impressive when you take into account all that was going on in the background.
Leading up to the All-Star weekend, the big news in basketball remained the trade talks involving Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony. As the players and fans came to Los Angeles, the news headlines focused on Anthony’s meetings with the presidents of the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets. All the talks came because of a recent trend of players wanting to take more control in where they play and with whom they play. The last couple years were dominated with talks about LeBron James and his potential departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers, and now Anthony is causing a similar ruckus.
Both Anthony and James played in the All-Star game yet they hardly seemed to be worth what they claim to be compared to Bryant. Even with James turning in an impressive triple-double performance, Bryant ended all talks when he dunked on James on a fast-break opportunity. James tried to go up behind Bryant for the block, but Kobe showed the world that he still has his hops with the two-handed dunk. Adding insult to injury, Bryant’s West teammate Chris Paul stole the ball off the inbounds pass right after the play and passed to Bryant for a 3-point shot. After that sequence, it was clear who actually belonged in the spotlight. After all, the West ended up winning the game, despite the desperate effort from James.
Bryant just enjoys being on the biggest stage with everyone’s eyes on him. Today, Bryant has been forced to share the stage with a rising star in Blake Griffin because Griffin plays for the cross-town Clippers and has had his share of monster dunks in his first healthy season. Griffin’s quick rise to fame can be assessed best by his thunderous dunks and high-profile entertainment in the slam dunk contest. As a result, the fans have started to call for more Griffin over Bryant; however, Bryant wants the attention back on him. He even said that Griffin’s effect on him was shown through the dunks he had at the All-Star game. Although age and injury has been slowing Bryant down, he reminds everyone that he still has the flashy athleticism and sharp shooting that gave him his star status, even among the rising stars in the NBA.
The All-Star weekend was busy for many basketball reasons. With everyone talking about, and looking at, other events and players in basketball, Bryant forced them to divert their attention back to him and him alone. I used to detest him for that very desire to garner attention and be the solo star in the team game of basketball, but now I realize this player has more than enough talent to be such a star and at this point, he deserves the attention.