Kobe Bryant(notes) had come back into the empty arena, his gray Lakers T-shirt soaked with sweat as the shots kept arcing into the night. The clock lurched toward midnight, the clean-up crew stuffed popcorn boxes and wrappers into trash bags and the NBA’s most maniacal talent wouldn’t leave the gym. He had returned to shoot for an hour and a half on the Heat’s floor, to go back to work, launching hundreds of jumpers and inspiring a spectacle born of obsession and manipulation.
This was awesome, if even just for press. Even if purely Machiavellian, just the gamesmanship and symbolism of the entire spectacle is just so…raw; staying behind on an opponent’s court in admission of defeat; in plans for conquer, a 32-year-old legend dueling the pain of recent mortality. Kobe Bryant is not the league’s best player. But he and everything he represents–art, obsession, maniacal meticulation–is the best of what this league offers. No, Bryant is not this league’s best player, but I feel blessed to have seen him from the start, and we will all be at loss when he is one day gone.