- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
In his own words, Yahoo Sports senior NBA writer Vincent Goodwill looks at how the NBA’s ambassadors reflected the best of the game — and why the Lakers legend met that challenge throughout his career and beyond.
- The NBA's ambassadors reflected the best of the game. When Dr. Jay was the face, the game was graceful, classic. Magic and Larry added a flair, imagination, and a shining drive.
Michael took it to the air with fury and was peerless. Their footprints exist well beyond their playing days. That's where basketball misses Kobe Bryant, the game's biggest evangelist.
Kobe, starting from the last few years of his career, seemed to embrace the process of aging and welcoming in a new era of player. Maybe it was because they idolized him in a different way than Magic, Larry, and Michael. They could touch him.
They could see he was more real than an ideal. Perhaps it was because Kobe's flaws were more picked out. His journey, more transparent. It wasn't pristine, nowhere near perfect.
He may have knocked himself down a few times, but he always picked himself up. Sometimes, bloody. Sometimes, battered, but the joy was evident, even when he growled. It's said, you can't have a testimony without a test, and Kobe had plenty of them.
So it was fitting. He was supposed to be the loudest voice, cheering players on and reminding us the game is more jazz the math, more freestyle than fear, more soul than sterile. Picture Kobe, talking about the beauty of bubble basketball, the game at its purest form, making us believe nothing could be better, even as we were missing our creature comforts.
Mamba mentality takes on many forms apparently. It's whatever Kyrie, or Devin, or Tatum need it to be for themselves. Because he's not here to be in their ear.
Kobe's game wasn't perfect. Hence why he was more Diet Mike than cherry Coke. He did things against the grain. He made you cringe, and he made you think. But he kept searching, even as his time was ending.
He openly marveled at women's basketball. Perhaps because he had daughters. He kept pressing for what's next, not being tied to what was or what could have been.
He was basketball's imperfect messenger, which made him perfect for the job. He cared enough to tell you he didn't, and that raw authenticity is missing. We don't know who will stand on the pulpit to encourage and critique, who will care enough about the present and future long after they're gone.
It'll be somebody. We just don't know who. All we know is it should be Kobe Bryant.