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    Kobe Bryant’s Struggles in the 1997 NBA Playoffs

    Kobe Bryant NBA Playoffs

    Basketball   |   January 26, 2022


    Kobe Bryant was a killer on the court who was known for never backing down from a challenge, a moment, or an opponent.

    He had a level of confidence and fearlessness that very few can match, and that, matched with his drive and discipline, is what helped him become one of the greatest athletes ever.

    But he had to overcome a lot of adversity when he first came into the NBA. He didn’t start at first, and he played limited minutes as a rookie. His teammates weren’t the most welcoming and they didn’t have a hard time telling him.

    On May 12, 1997 an 18-year-old Kobe Bryant shot three airballs in overtime (four counting one at the end of the fourth quarter) in a 98-93 loss against the Jazz in Game 5 of a second round series in the playoffs.

    “I didn’t have an offseason. I went straight to Palisades High that night as soon as we landed. Knew the janitor, he opened up the gym for me and I was there until the sun came up,” Kobe said about his performance.

    Years later he talked about the airballs: “Get over yourself. You’re worried about how people may perceive you. It’s embarrassing because you shot five airballs. Get over yourself. After that, why did those airballs happen? Got it, high school, the year before we played 35 games, max, right? A week in between, spaced out, plenty of time to rest and the NBA is back to back to back to back to back to back to back, I didn’t have the legs.

    If you look at the shots every shot was on line, every shot was on line but every shot was short, alright, I gotta get stronger, I gotta train differently, the weight training program that I’m doing, I gotta tailor it for an 82-game season, so that when the playoffs come around my legs are stronger and that ball gets there. So I look at it with rationale and say ok well the reason why I shot airballs is because my legs aren’t there, next year they’ll be there, that was it, done.”

    Kobe cost his team the game and the series with those air balls. It could have completely ruined some people. Most people don’t even want the ball in their hands at the most important moments of the game but he did and failed in the worst way.

    His teammate Shaquille O’Neal put his arm around his shoulder and said, “Look at all these people laughing at you. One day we’re going to get them back. Don’t worry. Someday everybody’s going to be screaming your name. Take this and learn from it.”

    When asked about it years later, Kobe said that he was fine after the misses: “Okay? I shot 5 airballs on national TV in front of millions of people that cost us the series, and I’m 18, but I’m fine,” he said.

    When asked how does someone get mentally and emotionally strong enough to where that level of public humiliation doesn’t bother him, Kobe said, “You have to look at the reality of the situation. You have to get over yourself. It’s not about you. Okay, you feel embarrassed? You’re not that important. If you are worried about how people may perceive you, and you are embarrassed because you shot 5 air balls, then get over yourself.”

    He then said that after you get over yourself, you look at why those airballs happened. The next morning, Kobe was in the gym shooting 14-foot jump shots.

    What can we learn from this?

    We are only the main characters in our own story. We are only supporting characters in everyone else’s story.

    Our successes and failures only mean the world to us. As Kobe said, “Get over yourself.” Get out there and try. Try, fail, and try again.

    And learn from every experience. If you are missing your shots short, get stronger and put more legs into it.

    Didn’t make the team? Work harder and get better for next season.

    Get over yourself, then figure out what happened, why it happened, and what you can do to learn from it.

    Then try again.

    Kobe Bryant is possibly one of the greatest NBA players of all-time and the greatest Laker ever. Two jersey numbers in the rafters at the STAPLES Center prove it. Kobe was able to take over games in ways that not many players could.

    His drive to win at any cost helped him succeed on and off the court. An 18-time NBA All-Star, five-time NBA champion and one-time NBA MVP, Kobe tragically passed away on January 26, 2020. Kobe’s game was influenced by Michael Jordan, he never denied it.


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