Kobe Bryant: The Muhammad Ali of Basketball.
Yesterday we witness for the first time ever a basketball player push his body it's max limit.
Not for a contract, not for a championship, or notoriety but for the sole purpose of winning.
Before that night if anyone, anywhere, questioned Kobe's love for the game they now have their answer.
If anyone questioned his love for the Laker franchise, his love for his teammates, they don't anymore.
What transpired during the course of that day was was the definition of true unselfishness.
Anyone can pass the rock, set a screen or take a charge. Not anyone can give up themselves to the point that Kobe Bryant did.
Not only during that game but throughout the year, No there sacrificed more, delivered as consistently, under more pressure then Kobe did this year.
Howard was injured in the beginning of the year and played half the season hobbled. Gasol was deactivated twice, Nash had a shin injury now a a hamstring ailment.
Even when they were all on the floor together, Kobe had to guard Nash's man because defensively he has never been able to hold his own, now that he is old he's basically ripe for the picking.
Gasol and Howard were both playing soft down low the bench were off and on mostly off.
D'Antoni still doesn't have a clue or an identity for this team.
Yet Kobe was still the only constant, the anchor attached to a deteriorating battle ship in the midst of a raging storm.
So when Kobe went down the first time with the hyper extended knee, it didn't register to NBA fan's how bad Kobe was hurt because we have taken for granted that he will get it.
And, on cue Kobe got up.
He takes another hit this one seemingly to the shin, he stays up right running it off as if trying to escape from the pain.
He looks physically as if he wants to hit the floor and writhe but he stays up, hits two free throws and continues battling.
After hitting two consecutive threes to tie the game he goes to drive again, and again he is knocked down. This time he stays down. This was the injury, the stumbling block that finally took down the mamba. True to form he would not go down without a fight,he got back up and with a torn Achilles tendon Kobe knocked down two free throws to tie the game.
Most people can't even stand with that injury, let alone knock down two free throws in hopes to get to a playoff he won't even be playing in due to injury. Then in typical Black Mamba fashion he began to walk off the court unassisted until Robert Sacre came in to lend a hand.
Then it hit me, most casuals fan's have either ignored or have been oblivious to what they are actually witnessing when it comes to the career of Kobe Bryant.
So caught up in the comparison in the media to MJ or the more asinine comparison to Lebron. They have not been able to appeciate Kobe for Kobe. They have robbed themselves from the enjoyment they would have no doubt experienced had they just accepted Kobe's journey as what it is Kobe's journey.
At that moment it dawned on me, is Kobe the Greatest of All Time? Is he the Muhammad Ali our time.
It may sound sacrilegious because Kobe doesn't have the flawless career of Rocky Marciano or MJ if you will.Nor does he have the crushing, bruising, dominant career of Mike Tyson or should I say Lebron James.
But he does have the career path of one of the greatest to ever do it.
Like Ali Kobe tasted great success early in his career and like Ali Kobe has had humbling lows.
Both always found their way back at the top.
Right now Kobe has just taken a hard left hook by father time, just as Ali had taken decades earlier in the middle of Madison Square Garden.
Ali got up and continued to fight, and eventually years later got all the way back to the top.
Will Kobe follow suit, will Kobe ever get back to the top after such a devastating blow?
Throughout Ali's career he was beloved all over the world, accept his native country. In the U.S he never was fully accepted as the best. So it is with Kobe,all over the world he is regarded as the best basketball player playing today, EXCEPT in the U.S.
Whether he is finally accepted, appreciated and respected or not. One thing is for certain as Ali before him, When Kobe Bryant is done playing basketball not only he will be the Greatest of All Time, he will be the last great one.