Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Seize the Day

Most people want to go the US to pursue  the American dream. Me,  I just want to watch the Lakers at Staples Center before Kobe Bryant retires.

Last December, I had the chance to do just that. For reasons which felt valid then, I did not. I rationalized that Kobe (my favorite Laker since Magic Johnson) was under contract until the 2013-2014 season and could very well play a few more seasons after that. Plenty of time, I told myself.

A few minutes after shooting back-to-back threes to erase a six point deficit in the fourth quarter against the Warriors, Kobe tried to drive past Harrison Barnes and fell. It looked like his leg just gave out on him. He shot two free throws to tie the game and limped out of the court to a standing ovation from the faithful at Staples.  The Lakers went on to win, sans Kobe.

After the game, the Lakers beat writers started tweeting that Kobe might have torn his Achilles and if so, that would mean the end of his season.

I was disconsolate.  And that was before I saw this video of his post-game interview:

As any long time Lakers fan will tell you, Kobe doesn’t miss many games. He injures a finger on his shooting hand, he shoots with his left. Or figures out ways to shoot despite the crooked finger. He injures his nose or any part of his face, he wears a mask. Dahntay Jones intentionally steps under him and injures his ankle, he’s back after a few games. He injures his knee, he goes to Germany in the off season and comes back better than ever.

But after this injury? He knew he couldn’t play because he couldn’t even walk.

In the wake of Chauncey Billups’ Achilles injury last year, Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus did a study of players who injured their Achilles and the list isn’t long:  

Jonas Jerebko *  Dan Dickau * Elton Brand *   DeSagana Diop * Laron Profit * Sam Vincent *  Mehmet Okur * Gerald Wilkins  *Isiah Thomas *Dominique Wilkins * Jerome James *Chauncey Billups

The only “success” story, according to Pelton, is Dominique Wilkins who got injured at 32 but still managed to make it to two All-Star Games after recovering from the injury. The others were never the same again. In fact, Isiah Thomas retired at 32 after suffering this injury.

This game made me realize how fleeting an athlete’s life is. It seems only yesterday that Kobe and Shaq were leading LA to 3 titles in a row. Now, Kobe is 34.  And he’s played 17 seasons (actually, the equivalent of 20 seasons, if you count the playoffs and the Olympic games). He has also hinted at retirement recently.

My wish is for Kobe to be allowed to leave the game on his own terms. Not gingerly limping away while being supported by Robert Sacre. Not in the 80th game of his 17th season when the Lakers’ playoff hopes hang in the balance.

Come back strong, Kobe. Father Time owes you a few more rounds. Your fans want the chance to say a proper goodbye.  I want the chance to see you play in Staples.

And from now on, I promise never to put off doing something because there's time. Because sometimes, there may not be.

P.S. I'm not sure if this is a real Nike ad (the video part, I mean), but it's pretty good. Be back soon, Kobe.

Photo taken during Kobe's 61-point game at MSG. 
Credit to luzer / C. J. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/bigluzer/3252320838) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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