If you’ve ever met someone who has trepidation of flying, they’ll tell you the takeoff, the landing and the various levels of turbulence in between are the scariest parts. Those three parts of the flight no one has any control over besides the pilot.
The uncertainly that clouds Kobe Bryant’s return sends similar shock waves through every fan’s nervous system. While we all can’t wait for Kobe to come back, we’re nervous what type of player he’ll come back as, as father time is undefeated; but the Black Mamba is taking it to 12 rounds. It’s a situation where we’re so invested, but we also have no control.
Kobe means something different to every single of his fans (just read how people respond to anything he posts on social networks), but above all, the five-time world champion’s significance lies in these three themes: consistency, optimism and hope.
We all need some form of hope in our day-to-day lives, it’s used as a motive for a lot us normal folks to wake up and function morning after morning. Hope that we do well in school, so we can hopefully get into university, which we hope can lead to a career that can provide for our future families, so on and so forth. Kobe is symbolic of that glimmer of hope for so many of us, even when we come up a little short in our daily goals, we can vicariously live through Bryant’s mind-blowing late game theatrics that evening.
Kobe Bryant entered the NBA in the fall of 1996 and has remained relevant to present day, a feat less than a handful of his peers have been able to accomplish.
17 years of excellence is a long time for anything, let alone professional sports. In 17 years, economies around the globe grow and plummet, technologies become popularized and extinct, folks get married and divorced, and the President can potentially change four times, all the while Bryant has still been one of the top 10 basketball players in the world.
Without Bryant suiting up in the golden armor, the Los Angeles Lakers have been a joy to watch, but just not the same. Without him and Steve Nash, dare I say the Lakers are just like every other team clawing for a playoff spot (sorry, Pau!). Twitter user @gabedahl, said it best in a recent tweet: “technically, ‘the Lakers’ and ‘Kobe Bryant’ are two different things, but for fans of my generation that concept is difficult.”
To see your heroes become human is a natural part of growing up. Once their athleticism betrayed them, Shawn Kemp was revealed to be a man dependent on drugs, Allen Iverson became an irresponsible adult who refused to accept his limitations up until his recent retirement and apparently, Tracy McGrady was too lazy to get his pants tailored, just like the rest of us.
That point has yet to come for the Laker legend.
On April 12, when he tore his Achilles, it was the most human we’ve seen him since he chucked up a series of air balls against the Utah Jazz as a brash rookie. The most humane moment of all may come a couple games into his return, when he learn that regardless of how hard he worked to rehab that Achilles tendon, the NBA’s last Alpha Dog may still have lost his bite.
The deck is stacked against Bryant. According to ESPN’s department of statistics and information, no player in NBA history has averaged over 21 points per game in his eighteenth season or later.
There’s a list of reasons for why Kobe’s comeback is destined to fail that stretches farther than the Great Wall of China.
They say that there’s no way a 35-year-old can come back the same after such a serious injury at this stage of their career. They’ll use the examples of Chauncey Billups, Elton Brand and Mehmet Okur to demonstrate how every player who has suffered the same injury in the last 10 years has returned as a shadow of their former selves.
But remember, Kobe will never win another championship without Shaq, they also said.
And the truth is no one knows how or when Kobe will return, but much like how the passenger who hates to fly has no choice but to trust the pilot’s ability to get them to their destination safely, us fans can only sit back and believe that the undisputed face of the Lakers can defy every odd, once more. There are some things that are just out of our control, and the sooner we accept that, the more we’ll enjoy it.
Heck, if the Lakers’ front office believes enough in Bryant to invest $48 million in him over the next two years, then so should we.