Earlier this year I wrote about the sad demise of NBA legend Kobe Bryant in his final season in the pros. The future Hall of Fame shooting guard, once the face of the Association with his high-flying aerial acrobatics, incredible clutch-shot making ability and personality that was a cross between a mastiff and a killer cyborg, slogged through his farewell season looking like a shell of his former self.
Two steps slower than he was in his prime, hampered by bad knees and worse teammates, Kobe selfishly gunned away and missed shot after shot while the Lakers finished with one of the worst records in the league. Going into his final game Wednesday night against the Utah Jazz, I was an expecting an emotional night but not much to speak of in terms of a competitive game. Boy did Kobe prove me wrong. Calling Bryant’s incredible 60 point performance vintage, as so many pundits did in the days that followed, doesn’t do it justice. A 34-year-old Dwyane Wade leading the break, eurostepping and finishing a tough layup over his defender is vintage.
Kobe scoring more than the entire Jazz team in the fourth quarter, netting the fifth most points in a game of his career, and hitting the game-winning bucket was something different. It was nothing less than the greatest career send-off in NBA history. Mamba out indeed.
End of the Line for Manziel
Maybe it’s because he always struck me as a bit of an a-hole. Maybe I didn’t think his scrambling game, average size and mediocre arm would translate well to the pros. Or maybe I’m just a hater. But whatever the reason, I’ve never exactly been a big fan of Johnny Manziel, so it wasn’t exactly devastating news when it was revealed that he is being accused of causing tens of thousands of dollars of damage to a house he rented in Los Angeles through his hosting of “drug and booze-filled ragers.”
Manziel’s career has been on the downturn going all the way back to his very first season in the NFL, when he failed to live up to the hype from his Heisman-award-winning career at Texas A&M by losing the starting QB job to the immortal Brian Hoyer. Since then, Johnny Football has been embroiled in a continuous cycle of personal and locker room controversy, gotten released by the Cleveland Browns and been dropped as a client by every agent he’s had. In short, things haven’t exactly gone well for him, and part of me wants to lay off in my dislike of the guy.
But then I remember that he’s a professional athlete who’s been paid millions of dollars and chosen to abuse his privilege by acting like a child. I’ve had enough of him and I’m sure NFL front offices are feeling the same.
Memo to Baseball: Nobody Likes Your Stuffiness
Two weeks ago, John Oliver had a segment on his show Last Week Tonight making fun of Yankees’ executive Lonn Trost’s derisive comments about certain people of lesser financial means sitting in the team’s premium seats. In response, he purchased six tickets and sold them to fans for 25 cents under the condition that they dressed “like they had never sat in a premium condition before.” It was a funny bit and fans showed up to the games dressed as Ninja Turtles and sharks, but the lightheartedness actually underlined a systemic problem within baseball: the refusal of certain people in the sport to understand that it’s supposed to be – surprise – fun!
Every season brings some new story of a stuffy veteran or front office exec bemoaning a violation of one of baseball’s numerous unwritten rules, whether it’s flipping a bat after a home run or running over the pitcher’s mound on the way back to the dugout, and it’s only a matter of time before it happens again. For a sport that supposedly recognizes that it has a problem appealing to the youth, baseball sure does a great job of making themselves the cranky old men of the sports world. Come on MLB, only old men watch Clint Eastwood movies, not little kids!