Heisler: Kobe he was, Kobe he remained, Kobe he left us too soon

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error In the end, Kobe Bryant didn’t need to be one of the NBA’s star of stars to be remembered, but he was one.This isn’t the end of his playing career that we always talked about, but the real end that came all too soon in that devastating helicopter crash, reminding us not of Kobe’s basketball career but how precious each day of his life was, and ours is.People around the world came together to mourn as they do in few instances. There was a moment of silence at the Grammy Awards. Fans at the NFL’s Pro Bowl chanted Kobe’s name. Dallas owner Mark Cuban said the Mavericks will retire Kobe’s No. 24. President Donald Trump posted condolences as did former President Obama, former President Bill Clinton, Tom Brady, Whoopi Goldberg, Taylor Swift, the Alabama football program, Real Madrid Football Club, Novak Djokovic, Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar.Kobe was 41 and had been retired for almost four years but in our mind’s eye remained forever young, if no longer the willowy 17-year-old the Lakers acquired out of Lower Merion High School in 1996 who stood 6-5 and weighed 165 pounds, rather than the imposing 212 he would bulk himself up to. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersThe heartbreak is the painful recognition that there was his career, which seemed long and glorious … and his life that was all too short.Moving into a special niche, Kobe had remained Kobe to the end of his career in 2016, three years after blowing out his Achilles tendon and ceasing to be the player he had been.For the symbolic farewell that seemed so important – he actually lived to create content his whole life – he willed himself to go out spectacularly with that 60-point game that started with five missed shots, prompting all to wonder if he was going out with an 0-for-20.Being Kobe, ever defiant, he never stopped firing and never would. He wound up taking 50 shots, outrageous even for him, and made 22, amazing us one last time.In a career that was nothing short of mythic, we all thought that was the perfect ending … but it didn’t turn out to be the ending, at all.center_img So much of what we thought about Kobe wasn’t really true, much as we wanted it to be as we followed him through what seemed like 20 years worth of change … from his arrival in 1996 as a spindly teenager who dared to feud with the mighty Shaquille O’Neal, and even fought him once … to the post-Shaq years after the Lakers chose Kobe over him … to the angry years following Bryant’s arrest for sexual assault in a case that was settled, when Kobe bristled daily at the press … and in 2007 tried to arrange a trade to the Bulls, excoriating the Lakers brass up to and including Jerry Buss, whom he was caught on camera calling an “idiot” … to the triumphant days when Kobe chilled out en route to his fourth and fifth titles in 2009 and 2010.As diminished as his play was after Achilles surgery in 2013, Kobe turned into a grown-up version of his post-adolescent self, less edgy and happier, with his final season an adoring tour de force around the league which had once scorned him.He had won. Best of all, he understood it. He hadn’t surpassed Michael Jordan, as he once had dreamed, but he had come to understand how unnecessary it was to base a career on being the GOAT, modern slang for Greatest Of All Time … crazy as it is that this rarest of distinctions now has its own acronym so we can debate it endlessly, and fruitlessly.Bryant had figured that out. Being Kobe, NBA star, husband and father, with the youngest of their four daughters arriving last June, seemed enough.No NBA player ever deserved what he got from the game more than Kobe, who poured more into it than any player ever had, working out 365 days a year, lifting weights, stretching, icing, going under the knife all around the world to avail himself of the most cutting edge medicine.I used to wonder what he would replace all that with when his playing career was over. So, surely, did he.The answer he decided upon was, when he was gone, he was going to be gone. No coaching, as, indeed, he could have. No running the Lakers front office, as Jeanie Buss and Magic Johnson asked him to do. No announcing. No involvement with basketball, except for some video breakdown he did for ESPN, which he could do by himself from home.Instead, he formed his own media company. In a feat that no former athlete had ever accomplished, he won an Academy Award for an animated short subject that he wrote, himself: “Dear Basketball.”It feels the more heartbreaking that our final glimpses of him would be of a man having a ball.He attended few Laker games. The last was Dec. 29, a victory over Dallas with Kobe in a stocking cap, hoodie and quilted vest, sitting courtside next to his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, whom they called Gigi … and who would perish in the helicopter crash with him.During that game, LeBron James came over. Kobe sprang up and the two hugged.James had arrived in the 2003 draft, also straight out of high school, seven years after Kobe, which is like two generations in NBA time. For years, the gregarious LeBron was leery of the solitary Kobe, but that ended years ago when they became teammates and friends on the U.S. national team.James is now a Laker, on Bryant’s old turf, with many of Kobe’s fans still pining for him … even as the comparison became irresistible last week as LeBron moved ahead of him for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.That was Saturday night in Philadelphia … the night before that helicopter went down and the all-time scoring list stopped feeling important.With Lakers fans on sports talk programs upset at anything that seemed to eclipse Bryant, Kobe made it clear how he felt about being passed up.“Stop,” he told a columnist recently.“When LeBron came to Los Angeles, he is now a Laker, he is part of our brotherhood, part of our fraternity, and we should embrace him that way …“Appreciate what he is as an athlete while he’s here. Appreciate this guy, celebrate what he’s done, because it’s truly remarkable.”Kobe he was when he arrived. Kobe he remained, as much as he grew up.Kobe he left us, with Gigi and seven more, all too soon.last_img read more

Jermell Charlo’s emphatic statement to Bare Knuckle letdown: The good, the bad and dirty in the week of boxing

first_imgThe Dirty- Malignaggi and Lobov put on a dud for the ages. A ton of hype surrounded BKFC 6. The promotion, Malignaggi, and Lovbov did a great job making the event feel like a significant deal. Malignaggi and Lobov did media all over the country selling the fight, saying how they didn’t like each other, how bad they were going to hurt one another and provided the usual low brow shenanigans we stated above, including the former boxing star saying he would urinate in Lobov’s mouth.Then, Malignaggi and Lobov stepped into the ring and fought. Yes, we got some cuts, bruising, a little blood, but Malignaggi and Lobov failed to deliver on what they promised the world. What people saw was nothing more than a below average bar fight at 2 a.m.Putting their uncalled for words to action proved to be too much of a task as the rivals were more content on dancing, throwing atrocious punches and showing once again that more often than not, the bark is more significant than the bite. Join DAZN and watch more than 100 fight nights a yearWith Harrison sitting ringside, Charlo was trying to figure out Cota’s awkward style during the first two rounds. That changed in the third when a short right hook crumpled Cota to the canvas. Cota should have stayed down because when he rose up to his feet, Charlo immediately pounced on his wobbly opponent and hit Cota with a thudding straight right hand that nearly sent the 40-1 underdog through the ropes. If one wasn’t enough, @TwinCharlo hit him with a second knockdown…JERMELL CHARLO IS BACK! pic.twitter.com/25nJDa13dK— FOX Sports: PBC (@PBConFOX) June 24, 2019 Charlo did precisely what he should have done. He got in, got out and preserved his title shot at Harrison, who didn’t look to be too impressed with the finish.-Andrew Cancio proves he’s for real. There were still doubts from many people whether Cancio could have a repeat performance from his fourth-round stoppage over Alberto Machado in February. Not only did the guy who works a full-time job at a gas company in Oxnard, CA. prove to those in boxing that he’s the real deal, but he also quickly finished Machado the second time around with a third-round knockout to retain the WBA (regular) super featherweight title. The excuse in their first fight was Machado wasn’t in shape because of a severe weight cut. On Friday night, Machado entered the ring in great shape. But none of that mattered as Cancio showed he’s the better fighter. The 30-year-old stuck to the script from their bout four months ago by staying on the inside to negate Machado’s reach advantage, pound away at the body and throw power shots. He nearly finished off Machado in the second round which had him on shaky legs and not knowing where his corner was.Going back to what was effective in the previous stanza, Cancio continued to pound the body. “El Chango” closed the show when he reached back with a scintillating left hook to the body that took a moment to deliver its full effect, as Machado crumbled to a knee. Machado made it up to his feet, but the referee looked at Machado and decided he couldn’t go on.It’s time to start taking Cancio seriously as a legit and top fighter in the 130-pound division among the likes of fellow titleholders Gervonta Davis, Miguel Berchelt and Tevin Farmer. Where he ranks is up to you, but Cancio showed he is in that echelon of the elite at super featherweight.- Where has this Guillermo Rigondeaux been in all of our lives? When it was announced that Rigondeaux was going to take on Julio Ceja, you could hear the collective groans far and wide. For as great Rigondeaux is, the two-time Olympic gold medalist hasn’t proven to be the most exciting fighter and more often than not puts the crowd in the arena and the people watching at home to sleep. But on this Sunday night in Las Vegas in the co-main event of Charlo-Cota, Rigondeaux put on a crowd-pleasing performance that makes one wonder why the 38-year-old waited so long to compete like this? He stood in the pocket and went toe-to-toe, slinging the leather with Cota. And he absorbed shots from Cota as well and didn’t back off. Then in the eighth round, Rigondeaux launched a blistering left hook to drop Cota to the mat. To the testament of Ceja, he got up, but the referee used great discretion and waved it off. Hopefully, this wasn’t an anomaly, and we see more of this from Rigondeaux as this was the best time I ever had watching the Cuban fight.The Bad- Oh, Paulie Malignaggi. The former two-division world champion and current Showtime Boxing analyst said everything under the sun to disparage Artem Lobov heading into their main event tilt at Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship 6 on Saturday evening. He slapped Lobov, spit on him, hit him on the head with a microphone and said he’d win rather easily.That wasn’t the case as Malignaggi lost to Lobov by unanimous decision. The judges scored the first two rounds for Malignaggi and the final three for Lobov. (Sporting News scored it 48-47 for Malignaggi). After watching the fight back, the judges got the scores right. Malignaggi won the opening rounds with his boxing and then Lobov was the aggressor and landed the harder shots in the later rounds.Instead of giving credit to Lobov for what he did, Malignaggi had a poor attitude and went on to blame a broken hand suffered in the second round, the judging, and his age.“He was getting out-boxed very easily, but now I was cut, and the bush league judges scored the blood and not the actual fight,” Malignaggi said at the post-fight press conference. “As the fight was winding down, I was like, ‘This ain’t so bad.’ I was controlling the action, I was controlling the tempo, I was so calm.“I think if I had been left with two hands and I hadn’t broken it in round two, I could have got off some really fresh combinations,” Malignaggi continued. “I got in my groove as the fight went on – I just only had one hand.”“This is also a problem when you have a state that has a fight every 50 years,” Malignaggi added. “You have judges that don’t know what the (expletive) they’re watching. They don’t know what the (expletive) they’re doing, and you get this. Everybody and their mothers thought I won this fight, but you know what? I’m also 38-years-old, and I guess this is sort of a sign to say, ‘Yo, you’ve got to stop.’”The tone of Malignaggi comes from the fact he got embarassed and he knew it. He shouldn’t have lost to Lobov even though he was long in the tooth and had seen better days inside the ring. His vast experience alone should have netted him a victory. But Malignaggi did nothing of note in the final six minutes against a below average MMA fighter with mediocre punching at best.Hopefully, Malignaggi rewatches the fight and realizes how bad he looked, comes to the realization he lost, stops coming up with every excuse and blames himself for letting down the boxing community. It was another interesting week in boxing. Here are the highs and lows of the last seven days.The Good-Jermell Charlo sends a definitive statement to Tony Harrison. Charlo and Harrison were supposed to have their rematch on Sunday night, but the WBC junior middleweight champion pulled out a couple of weeks beforehand due to torn ligaments in his right ankle. Jorge Cota stepped up to the plate on short notice to see if he could pull off an Andy Ruiz Jr. However, Charlo had different plans in mind, blowing out Cota and scoring perhaps the most violent knockout of 2019 in the third round. last_img read more