The night began with an emotional Kobe Bryant near tears, as he listened to Jerry West, the man responsible for 17 year old Kobe Bryant skipping college and entering the NBA. And the night ended with Kobe Bryant telling Steph Curry and Draymond Green to “make history.” The words were immortalized on the game shoes he gave to Green. Make History. Make. History.
Draymond Green was supposed to rest this game, sit it out, but he just could not. It was Kobe’s last game at Oracle. He was going to be a part of it.
“It was amazing. We’re talking about his last time at Oracle. It’s bigger than just the game.”
Kobe knew it too. Against the advice of Lakers trainer, Gary Vitti, who wanted Kobe to shut it down the next two weeks, Kobe played when he otherwise wouldn’t have. His Achilles, which he admitted was stiff when he entered the game in the 4th quarter, was sore. Soreness was no big deal; he was used to overcoming it when the stakes were high enough. He wanted one last Oracle moment.
In his 20 years, Kobe Bryant has witnessed spectacular players put their mark on the league and the history books. There was the Jordan era. The Shaq era. The Duncan era. The Garnett era. The LeBron era.
Now it is the Steph Curry era.
“It’s their time. It’s their time to step up and play and see how many championships they can win, see how many gold medals they can win. I had my run. Now it’s important for them to carry it forward.”
Windows close very fast. Part of the reason the Kobe goodbye is at such a grandiose level is because Kobe took a very small window and extended it into years and years, because of his talent and willfulness. He doesn’t want to see the Warriors waste one bit of time because once the moment is gone, it is near impossible getting it back. Kobe had to wait 7 years between titles. Having lived the life, Kobe understands how easily things get away from you if you don’t consistently attack it.
Good teams win titles. Great teams make history. History begins with two titles in a row. In the past 30 years, five teams (Lakers, Pistons, Bulls, Rockets, Heat) have won two titles in a row. The Lakers and Bulls have done it more than once. Four teams (Spurs, Pistons, Celtics, Mavericks) have failed to repeat as champions.
Luke Walton, the Warriors interim coach, was a member of a Lakers team that was a repeat champion. Steve Kerr, the Warriors head coach, was a member of a Bulls team that was a repeat champion. But Kerr was also on a Spurs team that won a NBA title in Tim Duncan’s second season and then didn’t win it again for another four years.
Very few organizations have the opportunity to go where the Warriors can possible go this year with 70 wins, a return to the NBA Finals and a repeat title. Everything about this year is historic. The Warriors are at the halfway mark. To get to title number two they are going to have to go through the Spurs and perhaps a rematch with the Cavaliers.
From where Kobe is standing, his career nearly over, a transcendent player who slayed every player who was his equal (Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Allen Iverson), and every team that wanted to take what he had (Spurs, Pacers, 76ers, Kings, Magic, Celtics), there is no time to waste.
He said last night, “I played with blinders on.” It’s a good lesson for the Warriors. Don’t listen to the crowd. Keep the train moving forward. Get to 70 wins and a NBA title.
The Warriors one title has put them in good company with the Celtics and Spurs and Mavericks and Pistons.
Great company is what they are angling for. The Heat. The Lakers. The Bulls. The Rockets. History is what is possible.
“I’ve got to chase you”, Steph Curry told Kobe as Kobe left Oracle for the very last time.
One title down. Four to go.