Mark Heisler on the NBA: The Too Long Goodbye: Kobe goes out as only he can

first_imgIf you’re wondering what point there is in Kobe Bryant going on from here …That’s a really good question.I know the answer: He’s Kobe.This isn’t just a game, it has been his life in a way that it may not ever have been for any other player. Actually, with his legacy safe and the direction of the season set, there’s nothing important at stake, crazed as it is making everyone.“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” an opposing player told the Los Angeles Times, quoting sources anonymously as if tracking the Watergate burglars back to Richard Nixon.In real life, for every Bill Russell who goes out on top, 100 Michael Jordans, Kareem Abdul-Jabbars, Magic Johnsons, Larry Birds, Wilt Chamberlains and Jerry Wests leave as imitations of themselves and are revered nonetheless.Kobe carved his legacy in stone years back: Not as great as MJ or as controversial as Wilt, but close.It’s a long season. Lakers fans, denuded of hope, need something to care about. Before, it was getting rid of Mike D’Antoni, the outsider.Soon, it’ll be getting rid of Byron Scott, who’s Lakers family.Unfortunately for the Lakers, Kobe, Byron and Jim Buss can join hands and walk out without helping.Does someone think Gregg Popovich takes this team to the playoffs?I know someone who doesn’t: Pop.There’s an important question and it’s not how long Kobe, Bryon and Jimbo stay:Will they tank to keep their No. 1 pick, which goes to Philadelphia unless it’s No. 1, 2 or 3?Actually, the real question is whether the Lakers are decisive enough to grasp that sad necessity.All they have in the meantime are the emerging futures of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, none of whom is the Next Kobe; their desperate hope of landing a big free agent and Bryant’s dead duck of a swan song.Now totally legacy-conscious, Bryant has been totally gracious, tortured as his explanations have become.The best was last week in Oakland after his marathon pre-game warmup, hoping to shock the world in the nationally televised game against the Warriors.Instead, the world got more of the same. The Lakes lost by 38. Kobe shot 1 for 14, dropping him to 31.1 percent, last in the NBA, as is his 19.5 percent on 3-pointers while taking seven, count ‘em, seven a game.Afterward, he said he got upset with how things were going, which “bothered me so I got out of my Zen.”He ran out of Zen a while back — April 12, 2013, when he tore his Achilles, ending a brilliant run (he averaged 30.5 with 7.0 rebounds and 7.5 assists that month) and the notion of he and Dwight Howard restoring the Lakers.Bryant hasn’t had his legs since. His shots are almost uniformly contested, flat and short.If it’s unseemly, he earned the right to go out this way. If he’s in denial, he earned that, too.No player may have been as devoted to the game. No one ever worked as hard at it.“It’s a game that he’s loved since he was able to talk,” said ESPN’s Bruce Bowen, his old San Antonio rival, “so who are we to say this player shouldn’t do this thing?“If that’s where his heart is, I think you have to respect that.”It’s true. Kobe once told me he realized he had a destiny to fulfill — when he was six.When he became a Laker at 17, weighing 165 pounds, he hired away Joe Carbone, the 76ers’ strength and conditioning coach whom he had worked with, and moved him across country as his personal trainer.At 29, Bryant’s work ethic awed young teammates on the 2007 U.S. national team like LeBron James, who didn’t know him — Kobe had been anything but chatty — and were leery of him until finding he was human, if forbidding.Several games into a qualifying tournament in Las Vegas, Coach Mike Krzyzewski gave his players a day off. They headed for golf courses, tables and high-end stores, except Kobe, who went back to the Thomas and Mack Center to work out.You don’t just switch off his kind of devotion and determination.This may be all he has left but it’s safe, too: Kobe is going out Kobe.Mark Heisler has written an NBA column since 1991 and was honored with the Naismith Hall of Fame’s Curt Gowdy Award in 2006. His column is published Sundays in Los Angeles News Group print editions.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more

Former Liverpool star backs move for Arsenal midfielder

first_imgDean Saunders has backed a rumoured Liverpool move for Aaron Ramsey, the Wales and Arsenal midfielder.Reports on Friday claim an interest in Ramsey from the Reds, with the Daily Express quoting the Transfer Window podcast to run the story. Where every Premier League club needs to strengthen in January Man United joined by three other clubs in race for Erling Haaland Latest transfer news three-way race Ramsey has still not agreed to a new contract to remain at Arsenal The biggest market value losers in 2019, including Bale and ex-Liverpool star Cavani ‘agrees’ to join new club and will complete free transfer next summer Kevin De Bruyne ‘loves Man City and wants to keep winning’, reveals father Chelsea confident of beating Man United and Liverpool to Sancho signing 2 LIVING THE DREAM Liverpool’s signings under Michael Edwards – will Minamino be the next big hit? Ramsey, 27, has entered the final year of his Arsenal contract and is yet to agree to a new, extended deal. Though Unai Emery, the north London club’s manager, wishes to keep Ramsey, he could be forced to sell the player either this summer or in January rather than risk losing him for free this time next year.Liverpool are evidently aware of Ramsey’s current situation, and if they moved to take advantage by signing the Wales international before the transfer window shuts next week, the Reds would be completing a wise bit of business.This is according to Saunders, the former Liverpool forward, who reacted to the rumours on Friday morning’s Jim White show.When asked if he could see a deal taking Ramsey to Anfield coming about, Saunders replied: “Yes. When you first said it, my reaction was ‘it will make them stronger, having Ramsey in the squad’.“He covers more ground than everyone almost every week, and he scores goals and makes goals; he’s a good footballer with a good brain. It’s been rumoured Liverpool could move for Ramsey late in the transfer window targets LATEST IN DEMAND “Liverpool have signed Fabinho and [Naby] Keita – they look really good – and Fabinho is more like [Patrick] Vieira, where he will sit in front of the defence.“Then you’ve got Keita and Ramsey… I can see that.“I think Aaron Ramsey will make Liverpool stronger. I think he’d be a great signing for Liverpool.“If Liverpool sign him, they definitely get stronger. What a midfield that would be – Ramsey, Keita and Fabinho.”With less than 12 months on his contract, Arsenal are racing against the clock to try and tie Ramsey down to an extended deal.Saunders has no sympathy for the Gunners, however, as they’ve brought this situation upon themselves.“It’s Arsenal’s own fault this situation has come up,” he continued.“They’ve let his contract run down to a year, and the power now goes to the player and the agent, because they can demand what they want. 2 Top nine Premier League free transfers of the decade REVEALED targets Arsenal transfer news LIVE: Ndidi bid, targets named, Ozil is ‘skiving little git’ TOP WORK “If you get that contract they are offering him now signed with two years left on his contract, as a club you’ve got the power. But Arsenal have let a number of players’ – including [Alexis] Sanchez and [Mesut] Ozil – contracts run down, and it cost the club in the end.“To stop Ramsey going to Liverpool now they’ve got to give him more money.” Tony Cascarino backs Everton to sign two strikers for Carlo Ancelotti RANKED moving on last_img read more