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Kobe Bryant: What's left to say about him?

Kobe Bryant

The hardest person to shop for is the guy or gal who has everything.

Similarly, the hardest sports column to write in L.A. is the one on Kobe Bryant.

What are you gonna say?

I mean, what was the last good article you saw that wasn't some dumb rehash about him and Shaq?

Well, here's what I say.

Kobe has grown up.

He's now a terrific teammate.

He's giving to fans, great with the press and tremendously charitable and generous in the community.

Remember the large family in Covina who  recently experienced that horrific shooting tragedy, the Ortegas? Do you know who quietly and without any publicity at all gave the surviving family members money to try to make their lives just a little better?  Kobe did.

On the court, he's made a pact with the part of his personality that once WAS too self absorbed; he now trusts, encourages, mentors and inspires the other Lakers he goes to work with every day.  He isn't impelled to shoot all the time, even though he could.

He lets his mad skills do the talking, like scoring 61 points Monday night, a new record for Madison Square Garden, unmistakably using the show-stopping performance on Broadway to send an importantly timed message to both Laker fans and to the rest of the league, including the Celtics and Cavaliers: the Lakers aren't gonna give up just because Andrew Bynum went down again.

In the Olympics, Kobe graciously allowed such American teammates as Dwyane Wade to think THEY were the stars, until it came time to actually win the gold medal in the gold-medal game. Then who did they turn to? Who do you think?

Kobe Bean Bryant has been one of the nation's most polarizing athletes since he came into the NBA at age 17. Love him or hate him, but hardly anyone ever has no opinion.

His one big mistake in Colorado, followed by the ugly divorce from Shaq, made it easy for the haters, gave them plenty of ammunition, and they happily loaded up, some still firing to this day.

But today, it all seems so old, so 2004, so tired, past-tense and out of touch. So childish.

At 30, in full bloom as the basketball player with the greatest skill set ever -- yes, greater even than Michael Jordan's -- it's time to applaud Kobe for what he is today: The consummate professional, the Black Mamba and -- sorry, Kyra Sedgwick -- the real, true and ultimate Closer.

To L.A. fans, especially the ones who've hated Kobe Bryant, I simply say this: Sit back and enjoy the show. It won't be here forever. Because in your lifetime and maybe two or three more, you're not going to see another one even remotely close to the one you're watching right now.

--Ted Green

Ted Green formerly covered the Lakers for the L.A. Times. He is currently senior sports producer for KTLA Prime News.

Photo: Kobe Bryant. Credit: Kathy Willens / Associated Press

 
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