Kobe Bryant was not a part of my journey to basketball. His persona cast a shadow so long it bordered on societally ubiquitous. Yet by the time I came to the sport his career was winding down; he still held sway, but my understanding of him didn’t include his height as a global phenom.
What we’re left with in the wake of the helicopter crash that killed Bryant, his daughter Gigi, and seven other individuals is the echo of their lives. Right now that echo is like a scream, impossible to ignore for all the heartbreak it embodies. Heartbreak for the surviving family members who are now without those so dear. Heartbreak for millions of those who saw some small piece of themselves in the lost. Heartbreak for the forever unfulfilled possibilities of nine lives cut short.
The memory of Bryant was and will be much like it is for most people: Complicated.
There were the countless successes on the court: Five championships, 18 All-Star appearances, 15 All-NBA nods, a league MVP award, the remarkable connection with a single franchise and single city that edges towards its own passing as basketball evolves.
There were the troubles off the court: 2003 and an eventually dismissed sexual assault allegation, a competitive drive that routinely burned those around him — friend and foe, injuries that sapped the ability to continue competing at the upper echelon of the sport.
There were the signs of a burgeoning second act after basketball: Open doors to endless pursuits, an invitation to return to the game in whatever capacity he desired, the chance to be a mentor to those who revered him as a god incarnate, four daughters, a wife, and a chance to rise above that which had passed in pursuit of some new greater being.
And now we’re left with that painful echo. For all its stark immediate detail, in time it too shall begin to gradually fade, and in its place some legacy shall remain with equal measure of beauty and blemishes.
Kobe Bryant was a legend. Kobe Bryant was an imperfect human. Life remains ever fragile.
The NBA’s Great Creators (The Ringer)
Those who regularly read the MMMR will recall an exercise by FiveThirtyEight a few weeks ago that attempted to collate how much of a team’s scoring output could be directly traced to one player. In what was of now surprise to us, Giannis topped the league in points scored and points earned by assist.
Now the Ringer has done one better combining points, assists, and screen assists into one gigantic matrix. Giannis continues to sit atop the list of overall creators, though he drops down the list a bit when it comes to assist numbers (inherently difficult to measure since establishing what a screen assist is or isn’t is tough to do).
Still, it drives home just how crucial he is to Milwaukee. Without your traditional second star — and Khris Middleton is doing his damndest to audition for the part — the burden falls on the core piece. Good thing Giannis is so adept at handling the responsibilities, eh?
Zach Lowe’s opinions on All-Stars aren’t exactly untouchable, but they’re about as close as you can get from any member of the media.
Much of his reasoning for who is in and who is out is sound, and the most important part of all is that Khris Middleton makes the “no doubt reserve” cut:
Middleton is better on both ends than he was last season, when he made his All-Star debut. He is flirting with 50/40/90 shooting and is more consistent on defense. He is averaging 31 points and six dimes per 36 minutes when he plays without Antetokounmpo, and Milwaukee has outscored opponents by 12 points per 100 possessions in those minutes.
Oh, and for the He Who Shall Not Be Named crew? There’s a little something in there for you, too.
For all of those who have been pushing for rightful acknowledgement that Giannis is deserving of hardware as an offensive and defensive force: Yahoo has heard thee.
Now it’s time to whip up the fervor even further and get people aboard the George Hill Sixth Man of the Year train.
Winning and winning big is always fun and will never be taken for granted here on this column space. That being said, winning and winning big nearly 82 times out of 82 does leave the mind a bit of room to wander even while history is being made.
So we thank Alex Boeder for finding us a couple of numbers which do a solid job driving home the never-before-seen nature of what we’re watching.
My favorite? The Bucks could’ve lost to the Bulls last week, 170-0, and still held the league’s best point differential.
Know Your Enemy
It’s an interesting time to be Bradley Beal: Sitting somewhere on the border between star and something greater, he had the misfortune of being on the team that gave John Wall a lot of money before the worst injury luck in a long time anchored the roster to the bottom of the sea.
Now, fresh off signing a new contract extension, Beal is back to losing yet again. Yet with a new front office in place and something akin to a pulse in some teammates in what is still a lost season Beal has taken to expressing his displeasure at the situation. Just blowing off some steam? Or the lighting of a fuse that results in Beal’s exit from DC?
I’ll quibble a bit with the idea that Jokic has been the league’s most consistent star as just one look at his October/November numbers would point to a slower than expected start. Still, he should get credit for working himself into shape and rhythm as the Nuggets continue to climb the standings in the West.
His task in being named a starter was made that much harder given the other frontcourt guys in the West. LeBron, Anthony Davis, and Kawhi Leonard all got nods, and there are probably other deserving players who could’ve been in the mix. Jokic will be an All-Star, he’ll just have to wait for international buddy Giannis to pick him among the reserves.
Suns - Bright Side of the Sun - Ranking the Suns’ trade assets and potential targets by February 6 deadline
Even a good-bad team like the Suns have to be ready to jettison pieces to shore up their future success if an offer presents itself. That’s why we applaud our colleagues at BSotS for stepping back and assessing how their asset chest looks less than two weeks out from the trade deadline.
I’m not saying Dario Saric as he approaches RFA is intriguing, but I’m not not saying that either.
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I smell a podcast coming along
"Let's talk about tomahawk steaks."— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) January 23, 2020
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Are they... just beating up Frenchmen?
Good George Hill content alert
George Hill: wildlife sanctuary manager, bear hunter, 5-star vacation host, oh yeah, and the best three-point shooter in the NBA this season/6th man of the year candidate.@LoriNickel takes you inside the world of ageless George Hill https://t.co/VYNSCG0G3P via @journalsentinel— Matt Velazquez (@Matt_Velazquez) January 21, 2020
Timely tweet is timely
I’m pretty sure this counts as Vulture Talk?
Here’s a little something. Raptors are a game behind the Heat. As things stand, Spo would coach the East (Bud can’t repeat), but if the Raptors overtake the Heat in the next couple weeks, Nick Nurse would coach the East, meaning he’d get a taste of life with Giannis.— Kevin Rashidi (@KevinRashidi) January 20, 2020
Note: A lot of the guys posted tributes to Kobe on their Instagram/Twitter pages, so I encourage you to go check them out. It looks like Giannis completely deleted his social media pages which is as clear a sign as any of how hard he’s taken the news.
MMMR 2019-2020 Prediction Record: 32-15
retired janitor’s 2019-2020 Prediction Record: 40-6
I’m not quite sure when the Bucks returned from France, though they’ll have had three days between their game last Friday against the Hornets and tomorrow’s hosting of the Washington Wizards.
That is just the first in a three-part series of home games this week which sees the Wizards followed by Western Conference bruisers the Denver Nuggets and noted Buck-killers the Phoenix Suns.
I anticipate Milwaukee going 2-1 this week, but the first loss will come at the hands of the Wizards thanks in no small part to how tough the double time-zone adjustment can be on the body. Even with plenty of rest a transatlantic flight can take it out of you, so an off-kilter showing against a bland opponent wouldn’t shock.