"It's great for the league," Toronto coach Dwane Casey told reporters before last night's Raptors-Lakers game. "It sucks for us tonight."
"Yeah, I think the expectations are too high," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said beforehand. "But he'll probably meet ’em."
Because Mamba Mentality is immune to pressure. And injuries. And age. And all the other excuses other mortals fall back on.
If you see Kobe in a fight with a bear, pray for the bear. If you see Kobe in a fight with the Toronto Raptors, expect a religious awakening, with Kobe rising from the ashes in front of 20,000 Lakers fans who never doubted him.
That's obviously not what happened at Staples Center on Sunday, but first and foremost I'll remember Kobe's comeback game for how high everyone's expectations were. There's no better testament to Kobe than how excited everyone was to watch a guy who by any reasonable measure should not have been playing basketball eight months after rupturing his Achilles. We should've known this would be depressing, but somehow Kobe convinces everyone to abandon logic. This is his greatest superpower.
In case you were busy finding a new locker room from which to ban stat sheets, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
Kobe Bryant returned to action after rehabbing from last year's Achilles tear, but his Lakers suffered a rare home defeat to the Toronto Raptors 106-94. "It's OK that we lost," Bryant said after the game while sitting in the locker room. "Fear can be a very powerful motivator." Suddenly the lights in the locker room went out, and horrifying screams echoed through the facility. The lights flickered on briefly, and a young girl was standing with her back to Lakers guard Nick Young, singing, "Do you want to play with me?" in a sweet tone. Then the lights cut out again before quickly coming back on. The girl had turned around, and instead of a child's face, she had the face of Popeye Jones. "Do you want to play with me?" the little girl with Popeye Jones's face sang in a scratch baritone to a terrified Nick Young. The lights cut out again, before coming back on to reveal everything back to normal. As Nick Young curled into a ball on the locker-room floor, Bryant chuckled to himself by his locker, and said, "Yes, things will be all right. Fear is a very powerful motivator."
Welcome to the official Kobe Returns Survival Guide, in which I’ll walk you through, step-by-step, the rules and procedures for preparing, watching, and analyzing Kobe Bryant’s first game back from injury.
On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being "I’ll catch the highlights later on YouTube" and 10 being “I don’t care if the light’s red, the Mamba is playing in five!," Kobe Bryant's return is a 20. Kobe is on a mission to prove the haters wrong. He is here to defy his age, bones, muscles, and most importantly, tendons. This is like if Broadway, the WWE, and a Kanye West interview had a baby ... and that baby tried to play basketball only nine months after it tore its Achilles tendon. This will be a very important moment that must be seen and processed in the quickest and safest manner possible.
This survival guide is not for everyone. It is for those who love Kobe, basketball, and any type of entertainment whatsoever. If you do not fall into any of these categories, feel free to move on. For the rest, please proceed — and good luck.
There are trades and contracts that require cold, calculating analysis about whether the logic of particular transactions accomplishes the clear goals of the franchises involved.
Kobe Bryant's two-year, $48 million contract extension is not really one of those deals. At the very least it requires a different set of standards for judgment — standards only a handful of teams would actually use in judging themselves. Making Bryant the highest-paid player in the NBA over the next two seasons is, objectively, not a smart thing. He's 35 years old, and he has not played a single minute of in-game basketball after suffering a traumatic injury that has devastated nearly every player who has suffered it and managed to stay in the league.
He had precisely zero other suitors at this specific moment. He may have had suitors this summer among the 10 or so teams that could work their way to max-level cap room, but some of those teams are not in the right evolutionary position to spend that kind of money on a 35-year-old, and others could not have cleared enough space to compete with this L.A. deal. Bryant was not the best player in the league last season, nor was he even really close to it. The Lakers have voluntarily decided to pay him at that level as he enters the twilight of his career, amid unprecedented (for him) health uncertainty.
We won't do a full update and make Tri-Stars roster changes — a.k.a. the Viking funeral for Bargs — until the beginning of next month, but because sports news is a little heavy this week, it feels like the right time to look to the People's Dream Team to brighten the spirits. A few highlights from the first full of week of regular-season hoops.
And I know it was just one regular-season NBA game, most of the East Coast was asleep, and it probably changes nothing for what we expect from either team. But as single games go, it was so much more fun than it should've been. Let's start from the beginning.
Picture yourself waking up from a multi-day, Pinkmanesque bacchanal. The couch is smoldering, strangers are snoring in the hallway, ominous stains dot the rug, and the detritus of now-departed house guests litter the scene. There, in the dawn light seeping through torn drapes, is a person dutifully bagging the beer bottles, wiping off the counters, and sweeping up the ash. That person is Pau Gasol, and this is Lakers Media Day 2013.
We've been getting in the mood for basketball for a few weeks now, but the NBA season doesn't officially begin until Media Day.
That's when everything that's amazing and ridiculous comes back at once. The photos, the quotes, the trash talk, the outrageous predictions. It's all there. And it's been even better the past few years, because Twitter makes it easier than ever to share all the best moments. With the help of Danny Chau and the rest of the NBA Internet, let's run through some important moments from around the league.
Kobe Bryant is a human with a cell phone so I sent him some text messages.
Me: Oh hey. Kobe: Mamba in. Me: Mamba in? Kobe: That’s how I say that I’ve entered a conversation. Me: I mean, I get it. But still. Mamba in? Kobe: Mamba’s confused. Me: You know what. I’m gonna go. Let’s just restart this later. Kobe: Mamba out. Me: jesus christ
Kobe Bryant has a cell phone and I have a cell phone and so I sent him some text messages.
[No response.] Me: Hello.
[No response.] Me: hello? Kobe: Who’s this? Me: It’s me. Shea Serrano. I’m messaging about that tweet you sent out looking for the best Vines. Kobe: Who? Me: Dude. Shea. We met, like, six months ago at a meet and greet in Houston. Kobe: Do you know how many of those I do? Me: I was the one with no shirt. I was rapping the words to “Started From The Bottom” except I’d made it into a Kobe version (“Started from the Hornets, now we’re here.”) I had your name painted across my chest. Kobe: Wait...
Frank Robinson and Malcolm Thomas carry Hank's Blazers to their first Drew League title since 2009, in a victory over Kings of L.A., despite heroic efforts from Portland's Dorell Wright and Toronto's Amir Johnson. Robinson hit the game-clinching 3 mere inches from Kobe Bryant, who was sitting courtside. Check the video below. After the jump, you can watch more Drew League action.
On Thursday night at the Nokia Theatre, there was an event called Kobe Up Close. The details: Jimmy Kimmel was going to interview Kobe Bryant for an hour, they were selling tickets for anywhere from $25 to $200, and all proceeds from the event would benefit the Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation in partnership with Cedars-Sinai’s Sports Spectacular, supporting their work toward eliminating homelessness and providing preventative health services in underserved areas of Los Angeles. We found out about all this on Monday.
We had no idea what this event was, or what an hour-long interview with Kobe might bring, but when we heard this event was going down 100 feet from the Grantland office, Juliet Litman and I obviously had to get tickets and find out for ourselves. When we sat down in the theater, Juliet described it best: "I feel like we're in a megachurch, and the religion is Kobe Bryant."
Dwight Howard has been a Houston Rocket for three weeks. I sent him some text messages.
Me: yo, yo Dwight: hey Me: so, man, I mean are you really in the news this much all the time? Dwight: what do you mean? Me: well, right around the time that you signed up with Houston, I set up a "dwight howard" email alert and every day there are four or five stories about you Dwight: :) i have a dwight howard email alert also. Me: I figured. So there are always this many stories about you? Dwight: I also have one for "Houston rockets" and I also have one for "hotdog fistfight" Me: um, what? Dwight: What what? Me: what do you mean what what? Hot dog fistfight, bro Dwight: oh. it mostly just returns zero results but, I'm saying, what if a video pops up of a hot dog fistfight? I don't wanna miss that. Me: What's a hot dog fistfight though? Dwight: I DON'T KNOW THAT'S WHY I HAVE THE ALERT. Me: :/ Dwight: it could be something ordinary like two guys that get in a fight over a hot dog (I saw a video like that last year) but it could be something amazing like two actual hot dogs that fight each other Me: cartoon hot dogs? Dwight: real hot dogs Me: this is the most I've ever talked about hot dogs in my life Dwight: did you ever see that documentary The Golden Child? Me: not a documentary but sure I saw it Dwight: remember that part where the kid makes the soda can get up and start dancing around? Me: sure Dwight: what if that kid shows up one day and decides he wants to make two hot dogs get up and fistfight each other??? Do you really wanna be the guy that misses that video? Me: jesus christ
You may have heard about Steve Nash “trying out” for Inter Milan, the Italian soccer powerhouse competing, along with seven other teams, in the Guinness International Champions Cup starting next week. The tryout, which isn’t a real tryout, is among many promotional events scheduled in the lead-up to the tournament. Nash sat down for an extended one-on-one with Grantland a few hours before the tryout to discuss his basketball philosophy, the Lakers’ future, the Spurs’ near championship, Dwight Howard, and lots more. What follows is an edited transcript of our chat.