Ball talk with Jon Soc: Kobe Bryant’s passing takes fans by sad surprise
Bryant killed in crash
On Jan. 26, 2020, Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, and his daughter Gianna both died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California along with 6 others. Kobe Bryant. Kobe. One of the most iconic players in NBA history. I can sit here and give you accomplishments and stats to try and explain how good Kobe was, but that doesn’t explain it enough. If you go to any country in the world, you can find kids shooting basketballs, yelling “Kobe.” From Canada to Brazil to India to China to Africa to Australia, kids yell “Kobe.” Throwing trash into the garbage? Kids still yell “Kobe.” His influence was unreal and absolutely everywhere. He was larger than life.
I used to always want to work like Kobe. I still remember doing summer training at IMG Academy with my little brother and us trying to “work like Kobe”; “If Kobe can do it, why can’t we?” We’d be up at 5 AM to get extra shots up before practice. We’d bring food in our backpacks so we wouldn’t have to go to the dining hall across campus and lose all that time in the gym. That was Kobe’s inspiration to us — two random kids from Canada he never even met. Kobe Bryant, a five-time champion and the greatest Laker of all time, was more than just a basketball player. He is one of the biggest inspirations to myself and many other young people. Kobe Bryant was famous for his work ethic; with stories of him being at the gym at 5am for an 8am workout, Kobe was the embodiment of “If you work hard enough, you can accomplish anything.”
Every NBA player who has worked with him has some story about Kobe’s crazy workout. If you haven’t read it, I’d recommend reading “The Secret I Learned from Kobe Bryant” by Buddy Hield for the Players Tribune for a few amazing Kobe stories. One excerpt that I really loved from that story was Buddy talking about Kobe texting him on draft night. “It doesn’t matter where you go,” Kobe wrote. “It matters more what you do when you get there. Just go there and work.” Talking to my friend today I compared losing Kobe Bryant to when the Library of Alexandria burned down. Endless amounts of genius was lost today. It’s a very sad day. Rest in paradise Kobe.
Ball talk with Jon Soc, the written story, is back! This week, I am here to talk about a wide variety of things in the sports world:
First, Zion is back! Zion Williamson, ESPN’s favorite player in the league, played his first NBA game in a loss against the San Antonio Spurs. He played 18 minutes, had 22 points and shot four out of four from the three point range. It was an impressive showing by an impressive player — so impressive that the New Orleans Pelicans have changed their management strategy. Before his return, the Pelicans were taking calls on their players looking for returns and future assets, but after his inspiring performance, rumors are that the Pelicans would rather not give up yet and are trying to make a late season playoff rush. Zion’s return also has a big impact on the Rookie of the Year race. Zion has missed 44 games meaning he can only play in 38 games, assuming he misses no time. For most rookies this would be a death sentence, but with the absolute hype train that ESPN is for Zion, there’s a chance that he could steal the award from current front runner Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Second, Joe Montana is the happiest football fan in the world. He played from 1979 to 1992 for the 49ers and finishing his career from 1993 to 1994 in Kansas City. Lucky man!
Third, the race for the NBA’s eighth seed in the Western Conference is on. The Spurs currently control it, but the twelfth seeded Pelicans are only four games out. Between these two teams are the young Memphis Grizzlies, the veteran Portland Trail Blazers and the existing Phoenix Suns. There are so many factors at play for this spot. The Spurs are a model of consistency; betting against them is always a bad idea. The Grizzlies are young and could fall completely or could continue their dominant streak. The Trail Blazers will be getting Collins and Nurkic back from injury soon, hopefully bolstering their front court and giving a much needed strength boost. The Pelicans just got back Zion Williamson who could be the energy they need to go on a good run. The Phoenix Suns are hopeless. It’s really still anyone’s spot to get! Except for the Phoenix Suns.
Fourth, Rudy Gobert better be an all-star. For three years straight now, Rudy Gobert has been absolutely snubbed from the all-star game again and again. This is the year it needs to stop. The Utah Jazz are currently sitting in the second seed in the west. He is easily the best player on the team, averaging 15.6 points, 14.5 rebounds and two blocks per game. Gobert is having a career year and it is paying dividends. This is the year he deserves it; it’s no longer a question of who gets in over him, but who doesn’t get in for him. My vote? Paul George.
Fifth, “Get chips or die trying” Masai Ujiri 2020 (paraphrased). Masai Ujiri believes that this year’s Toronto Raptors will win a chip “or die trying.” A basic statement at first basically equating to “yes I believe in this team,” but the question then becomes: how much of this roster is he willing to change?Who is available for trade? Who are they targeting? Honestly, I’ve heard nothing, and this is probably a non-story, but I still find it interesting. The Raptors are currently in the third seed in the East and have managed to stay afloat despite significant injuries to literally every key player. It’s madness. I couldn’t list all the players that are injured and have missed time because it’s a considerably longer list than those that haven’t. Still they get the job done — lets see if they can keep it up.