The Final Score: Kobe Bryant, an old man among sharks
The old man had seen many great fish. He had seen many that weighed more than a thousand pounds and he had caught two of that size in his life, but never alone. Now alone, and out of sight of land, he was fast to the biggest fish that he had ever seen and bigger than he had ever heard of, and his left hand was still as tight as the gripped claws of an eagle.
Selfishly, he wanted to be the hero. Selflessly, he rammed his body into double-teams and triple-teams. Kobe Bryant was in perfect character for a must-win game. He was a lonely figure surrounded by teammates who appeared either distressed or disinterested. He was a singular force willing to face younger, faster opposition. He scored 42 points in solitude.
As I watched Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals between the Lakers and the Thunder, I remembered Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”, I remembered Santiago. The proud, stubborn, old fisherman set out to catch the marlin of a lifetime. Maybe he was too gray for such a dream. Maybe he was too tired for such a hunt. Yet he persisted valiantly, foolishly, admirably. Pride over pain, ambition over age.
The Thunder represents all that is young, all what is new. Kevin Durant is the new age closer. Russell Westbrook is a formula one engine in shorts. James Harden is the prototypical sixth man with a badass beard. To conquer the Thunder is to postpone progress. Kobe stands for the status quo. For Kobe to win, the old man must succeed against the ravages of age, time, repetition and evolution.
Just a caveat: I dare not describe Kobe as old in the matter of performance. He scored 36, 38 and 42 in his last three games. I only compare him to old man Santiago in the matter of reputation, pride and persistence. Up against the marlin of his dreams and the speedy sharks that patrol the sea, a wise man is labeled old not because of his inabilities, but due to his vulnerabilities. It’s easy for him to say that he has seen enough.
Kobe has seen it all.
Yet Bryant performed in Game 5 the way I thought he would. Just like Santiago. He is numerically older than Durant. He is logically slower than Westbrook. But there’s something about old man hunger. The rest of the Lakers had the look of a dismantled team with nowhere to run. The Thunder had the aura of a bunch with places to go. Kobe, with broken bones, doubters and devotees, still displayed the look of an old warrior with wars to win.
San Antonio versus Oklahoma City: sounds like the perfect match-up. Kobe Bryant refusing to fade without a bloody knife fight: it seems to make perfect sense. As young Manolin told Santiago, “There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only you.”-- GMA News