Thursday, March 7, 2013
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Somewhere in past times in the heart of Italy a young mix of European flair and the things American dreams are made of is growing and fermenting between good food and soccer skills. Decades later after ageing for 16 years, through championships and father time, a death of a dynasty and a whirlwind of Hall Of Fame personnel, the one thing that stands the test of time in all its potency and purity is Vino. Vino being Kobe Bryant's new nickname, lapped up by him pouring through his new Twitter feeds to find a fan who understands the final chapter of his career just as well as he does.
Getting even better with age, the former eight wonder of the world, wearing the number 24 still has venom in those Black Mamba fangs. It's venom tinted with vino for a deadly but tempting taste. Cold blood red seeping out of the Celtic green bottle to purple and gold coronation. Sure these days it's LeBron's bubbly stung tear winning league and Jordan comparisons, but the only one who could ever even come close to the 'money'-ball ballpark of the greatest is Kobe 'Vino' Bryant. Still crushing opponents like grapes, still always going down smoothly like Burgundy scotch. Even if his Hall Of Fame, dream team turned nightmare teammates are playing like champagne pretenders instead of contenders.
Shaq and Kobe part two but with just the arguments. World Peace in a world war. Gasol on the bench and Steve Nash on the last quarters of his career. No Phil Jackson. No Derek Fisher. No hope against Oklahoma. No playoffs even? We'd love to say no problem but Laker family Kobe has 99 problems right now, but at least a bitch of a downside of a career 'aint one for the Jay-Z of the league. Even if this hero is watching the throne from a Hawkeye Avenger distance. The dark knight will rise again. Age won't water this guys talent down. He's playing like he's been kept in a cellar for years now just waiting to be uncorked to get it popping. Now left to breathe through the bad times he's ready to take his team from the cellars and the basements of the Western conference to the royal box and high-rises his franchise is used to.
To Kobe. Until Vino is drinking champagne from a glass again. There's a quart of diesel and some Zen blessed in this wine, passed down through the ages. Like the Magic/Mike hybrid way he's played of late, able to switch it up like he's able to fill any statistical category when needed. Making new moments, memories like classic moments of spirited NBA's past. There's memories of 81, that was a good year, like the trifecta of championships, when Kobe, Shaquille and Coach Phil really where the holy trinity of professional basketball. These days the 'afro may be gone, but the hops aren't. Rising like yeast through all the sobering problems Kobe's passion is still a dark red. No rose here, or mild white wine. The Black Mamba will still drink from the reservoir of his talents until his career see's the toast or the roses.
You don't need to hear it from the grapevine that the Lakers are in deep trouble. Elimination trouble. This could be the worst 'best' team ever of things don't change. This isn't like Shaq, Kobe, Payton and Malone. They played through all their troubles...and brilliantly too. Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace must have the bottle to follow their aged and experienced leader through the vines. Times are hard, this is no secret...but Kobe is the truth. 100 proof like vodka, but just a little more classy. Red wine certified. The stuff of prestige. Prestige belongs with NBA royalty not lottery balls.
The American dreams, cultivated in Italy didn't come this far to lose. So as Laker fans are drowning their sorrows at night to all sorts of intoxicants, Kobe remains alive and well through it all, playing some of the best ways in his career during the hardest times. Raising a glass to the memory of the recent dearly departed Dr. Jim Buss (rest peacefully), giving his legacy, the voice of Chick Hearn and the words of Jim Murray hope as they look down with pride. Kobe won't rest until the critics labels wear off and the blood red passion he's given this game results in glasses clicking with celebration. It's not about the past, it's not about the future. It's about right now and right now Vino is still tried and tested, pouring and scoring. Time to let it breathe.