It’s hard the fathom the pressure Kobe Bryant feels right now. It’s not the pressure of a police officer drawing his weapon in the line of duty, of a single mom struggling to make ends meet, of an addict trying to get clean. But it is unique and powerful in it’s own way.
Kobe is an athlete. An entertainer. There is no doubt, whether he admits it or not, he feels the need to perform. To compete. It’s what has driven him all these years. The desire to be the best.
As his greatness and influence have grown over the years so too have the expectations placed upon his shoulders by those who watch. First there was the need to distinguish himself from Shaq. Then he spent years battling image issues stemming from the accusations in Colorado. Now the Jordan comparison’s shadow his every achievement, even if it’s too soon to make that call.
So now here we are, hours away from a pivotal game 5, and all I can think is, why? Why make the decision to ignore doctor’s request for an MRI? Why risk the possibility of colossal injury and embarrassment? Why endanger the legacy that he’s worked so hard to construct?
Is it courage that drives him? Is it out of some stubborn disregard for the opinions of others? Is it ego? Maybe he feels like acknowledging the injury would only give his opponents a psychological advantage that he’d rather hold for himself.
Perhaps he believes that in some way building the suspense of the moment will give him another “signature” game. Something comparable to when MJ played through the flu in the finals. When Reed limped on to the floor in the Garden.
Or maybe it’s just one of the greatest fake outs of all time.
Ultimately history will decide the answer to the question. If he comes out and dominates, he’ll be thoroughly lauded for his fearlessness and his fortitude. It will go down as one of the legendary performances of the NBA playoffs.
Bu if two minutes into the contest he has to limp off, never to return, then we learn subsequently that he was playing on some sort of season / career threatening injury, what then?
Honestly I’m not sure where I come down on this debate. Only time will tell, and it will tell us soon enough. I guess the only thing I do know is this: Bryant’s dramatic (selfish?) decision has made this NBA first round game eminently more watchable.