I've never really been a Kobe Bryant fan. Maybe it's because I grew up idolizing players like Johnny Unitas, Brooks Robinson, and Pele. In my young adult years it was Magic Johnson, Dan Marino, and Cal Ripken.
I'm not a fan of the arrogant, self-centered professional athletes that we see in today's games like LeBron James, who put self ahead of team. Maybe it's because Notre Dame football doesn't have their names on the back of their jerseys, because what's on the front is more important.
I know Kobe is and has been a phenomenal talent on the court, but in some ways he was one of the first athletes to change the focus from the team to the individual. So when I got a text from my son the other night asking me if I was watching history in the making I told him I wasn't going to watch Kobe's last game.
He wasn't talking about Kobe.
On another channel, the Golden State Warriors were giving it their last best shot at setting the new season wins record, beating the Jordan/Pippen-led Bulls and their unbelievable 72-10 record. I had heard the hype all year long on "SportsCenter" and through my NBA-loving students in class, but not being much of a professional basketball fan I really didn't pay a whole lot of attention to their success.
I knew about Steph Curry from his incredible run in 2008 taking Davidson — a school only twice the size of my high school graduation class — to the Elite Eight, falling one basket short of knocking off No. 1-seeded Kansas to make it to the Final Four. And that was after knocking off Gonzaga, Georgetown, and Wisconsin. And I am certainly aware of this pro career, and his highlight films fill the time for "SportsCenter" practically every night during basketball season (does it ever really end?).
Now that was some history in the making. Not only did the Warriors break the Bulls' record, they did it in style defeating the Grizzlies 125-104 having broken the 100-point mark on a 3-point bank shot by Curry at the end of the third quarter! I really didn't recognize the greatness of this team because I hadn't seen them play, but they have a lot more going on than Steph Curry and Curry, although the greatest shooter in the game, is also a very humble teammate who doesn't pass up the pass if a teammate has a better look at the basket.
That's the type of athlete I grew up watching.
But to be fair, there was also some history in the making in the L.A. Forum that same night. In the final game of his career, in a game that meant nothing to the Lakers and a rare final season game for Kobe when it didn't include the playoffs, "The Black Mamba" put a serious exclamation point on his storied career.
Right from the outset, Kobe seemed to know this was it so he began reminiscing about his 20-year career by making a shot from every possible inch on the floor. Fifty shots and an amazing 60 points later, including the go-ahead basket, and Kobe's NBA career was over.
Watching records fall is part of the sports world. It may be tough to see a sports' icon drop out of the top spot or to see your team's winning streak come to a close, but it's what makes sports exciting as they continue to grow and develop. We all strive (or should) not to be ordinary but to be extraordinary.
If you settle for the status quo, that's exactly what you'll get.
Records are meant to be broken. They help to push the young athlete to work harder, the teams to put in extra hours, and the coaches to find better ways to win the game. It inspires innovation and change; some that are minimal and some that change the entire complexity of the game.
If you knew that you would never be able to break the record or that the "Greatest Of All Time" had already been handed out, would you show up for that extra session in the gym shooting countless foul shots or pumping iron? Would set your alarm early in the morning and get out of a warm bed to go for a run in the freezing rain if you thought that was the best there was? If there wasn't that chance that we could do something special and set a new wins record, earn a personal best, or potentially win a state title, would ANY high school athlete go to summer workouts voluntarily?
I, like others of my generation, have been witness to an unbelievable amount of sports history being made. What drives people to that level of success?
American author and scholar William Arthur Ward said it best, "Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records."
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