I love LeBron James, and a part of me wishes he were playing tonight against Kobe Bryant, in a super-matchup. But he's not. Instead, we have just Kobe. I wonder if that makes the finals less of an event. Will the NBA's television ratings, which have been very good in these playoffs, continue growing or slump now that Kobe Bryant is the single, only headliner? Will people tune in or out?
I get the feeling people don't like Kobe. Kobe doesn't inspire style like Lebron does (for example, LeBron's straight-billed NY Yankee hat look). Nor does he market himself as deftly as LeBron. See: recent, stupid, fabricated, propaganda film by Spike Lee on Kobe. Whose bright idea was that? But Kobe is a straight killer, a virtuoso, on the court. He is a supremely talented and well-honed genius of an athlete who will do anything to come out on top in a basketball game. And yet -- he often doesn't come out on top. He's lost, in fact, the last two times he has made the finals, in 2004 and then again last year. If my memory is right, between those was an embarrassing seventh-game loss to Phoenix. You can imagine these facts just eating at him, which makes him exactly the kind of performer who makes tuning in worth it: Kobe brings to the game an unending desire to give a spectacular, winning performance. His whole life is geared to gaining victory tonight, and then to gaining three more victories over the next two weeks. His level of concentration, focus, and determination to be the best basketball player he can possibly be is almost unreal. I mean, try living like him for a week or a month: choose one far off almost impossible thing -- one thing you want to be the very, very best at in the entire world -- and gear every minute of every intense day toward accomplishing it. You'll be Kobe Bryant for as long as you can pull it off. I love the admittedly very flawed man, and hope his team wins tonight. I hope he wins tonight, and I hope he then goes and wins those three other precious games that will give him the championship he wants, and deserves.