This is a guest post by Ryan Readman, @juster12 on Twitter.

Hate? That’s a pretty strong word yet Kobe Bryant illicits this response from so many people. Is it the daggers he’s put through the heart of your favorite team? Ending their season maybe even just one game? Is it his demeanor, the fact that he doesn’t seem to express joy when doing it? Just a simple finger wag as he jogged backwards down the court letting you and your team know “Nope. Not today. This day is mine.” Crazy, right? You may hate him but you won’t for much longer. Twelve games left in this season, his last. Who knows how many of those he’ll actually play in. Plenty of people have played this game with his exact temperament of winning at all costs, that’s the fun. How many players can you recall that played the game with a smile on their face that were perennial champions? Only two come to mind for me, Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal. There’s always rare exceptions.

Kobe said his goodbye and is taking a farewell tour throughout the league it’s well deserved but not even that sits well with anyone. Even though he’s finally let the wall down he built up around himself for his entire career to keep that personal, to try and win a mental battle before he even stepped foot on the court against his opponent. Those days are gone now. He didn’t have a contemporary, Michael Jordan retired. There were no great Larry Bird Vs Magic Johnson battles. No smiling foe in stark contrast to Kobe’s demeanor. You can hate him if you want but you’ll certainly miss him when he’s gone no longer able to cheer him on against an opponent or pray that your favorite team can beat HIM. Not the Lakers, you always hoped hour team could beat HIM. We’ve all taken him for granted. The greatness, the countless injuries he’s played through, and the countless times we were just in awe.

There are a few things I’m NBA history that really stick out and are played over and over again. Michael Jordan playing with the flu against the Utah Jazz and propelling his team to a win in the finals. Isiah Thomas limping his way with a severely sprained ankle en-route to a 25 point performance against the Lakers in a NBA Finals loss. You know what will never get as much play on Sports Center as those? A regular season game during a lost season where Kobe Bryant tore an achillies and shuffled out to the free throw line to drain two shots because it may help his team win. Keep that in mind the next time you see LeBron James get carried off the floor by his teammates because he of cramps. It’s only sad that Kobe Bryant’s amazing career is ending with a whimper instead of a roar.

-Ryan Readman

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