No player in NBA history has ever scored 50 points in their farewell game, until Kobe did.
No player in NBA history has ever played two decades for the same team, until Kobe did.
No player in NBA history has scored 81 points in a single game in this era (trailing only Wilt Chamberlain's 100 in 1962), until Kobe did.
Rewriting history. That's his story.
Bryant delivered the perfect storybook ending last night in the last game of his 20-year career, putting up a season high 60 points and leading his team to a 101-96 comeback win against the Utah Jazz - the greatest career finale in NBA history.
Now every writer knows, the construct of a good story has a protagonist (the hero), and an antagonist (the villain). Two entities of opposition that are instrumental in creating conflict. Rarely are the two played by the same character (I mean, could you image if Beauty moonlighted as the Beast?). Unless of course your script is the narrative of Kobe Bryant.
With a passion for storytelling as a close second to basketball (spoiler alert to his career after the game), Bryant credits the hatred he received throughout his career as a vital component to drive him to greatness.
"It was extremely necessary for me because that's what I fed off of, Bryant said. At that time, to be embraced would have been like kryptonite for me. The darkness, those dark emotions is what I used to drive me. That isolation is what I grew up comfortable with. Even saying things that create some type of animosity, I just continued to use that as fuel to propel me forward. It was extremely, extremely necessary. If you wanted to beat me at that time, all you had to do was embrace me, and I would have been done."
The latest Nike commercial called, "The Conductor" (here) shows him conducting a choir of haters, calling on each to stand and sing his part while Bryant rejoices in the negativity directed at him by fans, Paul Pierce and Rasheed Wallace. The spot serves as a reminder of Bryant's 20-year role, playing both the villain and the hero.
"I'm both. Just like everybody in this room, Bryant said. It's a very simple concept when you think about it. We're all both. We all have a little hero and villain inside of us, it's just dependent on perspective."
Being great at the same job for 20 years is an accomplishment. Performing it at legendary proportions for that long, is epic.
Walking into the final game of the worst season in Lakers history, the most fans could hope for was a celeb-studded farewell to the icon of their franchise. What they got was to witness Bryant rewrite history, one last time. The finality of a career, bookended with greatness.
As the world turns the page on two legendary decades, (like any good plot) it forces an introspective into our own storied careers. In the authorship of your own life...what role do you play- are you the hero or the villain? And if you are vilified do you enter into your own transformation of progress, or become your own enemy of possibility?
At the end of his final post-game press conference, Bryant thanked those reporters whom he once hated - those whose hurtful narratives that fueled him to greatness.
"Thank you. Seriously, thank you. I've liked most of you guys for my career, I've hated some of you guys throughout my career; but then come to actually appreciate everything that you guys do. Truly, truly thank you so much for all of these years. A lot of what you guys have written have inspired me, have pushed me, and have helped make me the player that I am today, and I don't think you guys truly understand the impact that you have on players with the things that you write. Good and bad. You guys can help inspire and shape the future generation of NBA basketball players, and the sports industry as a whole. Words are a very powerful thing. So I just really want to thank you guys for everything you've done for me and what you continue to do for the game."
You can't write something better than this, until Kobe did.