You can't build a dynasty without laying some bricks.
Last night in Memphis, with 6:22 to play in the fourth quarter, L.A. Lakers all-time leading scorer Kobe Bryant missed a 14-foot fadeaway jumper, setting an NBA record he didn't even know he was approaching. The clanger marked career miss No. 13,418, the most in league history.
The Lakers went on to lose 107-102 to the Grizzlies, and if there's a downside to Kobe's historic miss, it's that it hurt the team. A swish would have meant two points and a possible morale boost—especially since Kobe had been having kind of a lousy night—but whether it would have led to victory is impossible to know. What's clear is that Bryant is to be commended, not shamed, for his unrepentant gunning. He certainly wasn't apologizing after the game.
"You've got to step up and play, man," Kobe said afterward, according to ESPN. "You can't worry about criticism. You can't worry about failure. You really can't worry about that stuff."
As Bryant noted, he's a shooting guard who's been in the league for 19 years, and besides, as a kid, he once watched Michael Jordan take 49 shots in an NBA Finals game.
"You've got to go out and figure that out and play and do the best you can, and whatever happens, happens," said Bryant, who's got a bright future as a motivational speaker. "You can't be held captive by the fear of failure or the fear of what people may say."
The stats back him up. Bryant went 10-for-26 on the night and scored 28 points, 2.5 north of his career average. Over the years, he's won five NBA championships, captured two league scoring titles, and made the All-Star team 16 times. He also inspired one of Kanye West's cleverest lines.
This is a guy who hits nearly as often as he misses—he boasts a career field-goal percentage of .453—but even if that weren't the case, and his talent didn't continually justify him taking aim and lettering 'er rip, he'd be right to do so. This is America 2014, the United States of Entitlement. All the old barriers to success have crumbled, and for better or for worse, everyone is everything they've ever wanted to be—all time time. If you can dream it, make it shareable, and get someone to care about it for two seconds, you can be it—at least until some message-board troll or angry Yelper tells you your're crap, in which case you simply strike back louder and meaner, then go about your business.
You can't win the lotto without breaking some eggs, as it probably says on some poorly fact-checked website run by a wannabe writer who rightfully won't let his or her ignorance of idioms serve as a deterrent to being heard.
In this day and age, Kobe is a hero not because he's an exceptional player, but because he's a fearless chucker who believes in himself. Never mind about all those fancy trophies and all the points he's scored. Exceptionality is overrated. He's only as great as his Wikipedia page says he is. You know who controls that.
Photo by Andy Lyons, Getty Images