Just Saying, Is All...Learning to Lose with Kobe Bryant

There’s nothing quite like spring in Los Angeles.

It’s the sense of hope, is what it is. The palm trees are in bloom. The haze is in retreat. And Kobe Bryant, Bubba:

Kobe Bryant’s getting ready to do his postseason thing. You could hear it on Sunday, when KB’s 50 points against the Sonics helped the Los Angeles Lakers clinch a playoff berth—a collective twitter, a faithful buzz. Angelenos know an A-List bandwagon when they see one, after all, and so it is that the Staples Center has in the last week become a whole heap more, well, fashionable.

The catch, obviously, is that fashion only counts if you know how to wear it.

And let’s just say Kobe Bryant’s still trying to get comfortable in that home uniform.

I’ve never been one for soothsaying, but I’ll go out on a limb here: The Los Angeles Lakers will not win the NBA Championship in 2007. In fact, I guarantee it. If I’m wrong, you’ve got me: I’ll jitterbug down Sunset Boulevard with a Kurt Rambis jersey in my mouth, or sing Randy Newman songs on the Santa Monica pier with my pants around my ankles, or—

Anyway—you get it. I’m pretty sure on this one.

Too bad Number 24 can’t see the obvious for what it actually is.

And look Bubba, so we’re straight: The fact that the Los Angeles Los Angeles Lakers won’t win an NBA Championship in 2007 isn’t Kobe Bryant’s fault. Kobe Bryant can’t, by himself, give Smush Parker a clutch game, or give Phil Jackson a clue; the Los Angeles Lakers are and can only be a team—and when they go down, it will be, as it always is, an exercise in group futility.

The only problem: I’m not sure Kobe Bryant knows that.

And there’s nothing sadder than a star intent on burning itself into oblivion.

I’ll spare you the Freudian rigamarole, but let’s be clear on this much: It ain’t easy being Kobe Bryant. It can’t be, right?—not with the psychic angst, and the chronic need; not with that Me-against-the-World/Daddy/the mean kids in high school/the street toughs in Philly/Michael Jordan/Shaquille O’Neal/Mike Miller’s trachea/Manu Ginobli’s temple/Marko Jaric’s septum...when the only fight worth winning is the one win the dude on the far side of the mirror.

And yes, okay, I know: Kobe Bryant has to be a one-man box score, because he’s the only gun the Lake Show’s got. You can’t win games if you don’t make baskets, and you can’t make baskets if Sasha Vujacic’s calling the shots, and so right Kobe Bryant’s gotta do what Kobe Bryant’s gotta do—which, seriously: Kobe Bryant doesn’t have to do anything. Or, more to the point, Kobe Bryant can’t do anything that’s ever going to make him feel like he’s finally done enough.

They’ve got an ethos in the City of Angels: Fake it ‘til you make it. If you’re Nobody, act like you’re Somebody. If you’re Somebody, act like it matters.

Human longing’s a tough nut to crack, Bubba, and Lord knows I’d never begrudge anyone his existential right to shoot for the moon. But still it’s like if I could only just tell him, you know?; if I could only just give the guy a hug, or a heartbeat, and tell him that he can save all the posturing and the preening and the so-very-pointless point-heavy pathos because man, Kobe Bryant, everything’s going to be all right, even if it’s not, and even if it can’t be, and even if—even if—

Even if I’m only just saying, is all...