The secret is out. I mean, we knew. We could see it in the way his body moved across the floor. In a way that each step was a little too slow. The shots were a little too short. The mind was there. The will was there. The body wasn’t. And so he called it. After the speculation. After the guessing. He called it.
In a way, this is the only way Kobe could go.
He was a player of a generation. He came in with the determination and the skill to be the very best and that’s what he became. He chased rings. Personal accolades. Milestones. He worked day in and day out to perfect his game and make himself the best possible version of himself he could on the court. That’s all that mattered.
When you watched Kobe play you saw unbelievable grace on the court. You saw passion. But you also saw determination and rage. Everything inside him propelled him to be better. Even when he was the best he wanted more.
In his farewell, Kobe confesses that basketball is the one thing that he can never let go. He let everything go but one thing. Being on the court. On the court he was the master of his own destiny. He was telling his own story, and God bless anyone who got in the way. He, singlehandedly, delivered generation-defying moments of greatness year after year. He took the mantle of being a basketball icon and placed it on his shoulders.
Off the court, however, there was no grace, there was no beauty.
From day one, Kobe demonstrate the drive that would define his whole career on the court and paint his persona of it. He strong-armed Charlotte (along with the Lakers into a trade) to play for LA, where he became one of the best. He then pushed Shaq out, cause friction among the management and pushed all of his other teammates to the limit.
He continued this with almost everyone, assuming that everyone had his on court drive. His passion. His determination. Charlotte, Shaq, Phil, Payton, Gasol, Nash, Howard…. The list can go on and on. He couldn’t belong because to him, the court was everything. And everything off the court was inconsequential.
Even the Colorado case was that. He handled it with a detached coldness, flew back and forth between the court and the hardwood. His body was present in both, but his mind was ever in one.
And just like that, he leaves. With no grace. No hanging it up when the time is right. No walking away when everyone wanted him to. No fairy tale ending. Only one broken man and the court. Where he belongs. And everything else… Inconsequential.