NBA Y2K: The Kobes of past, present and future

This season was full of injury and frustration for Kobe Bryant. In this episode of NBA Y2K, we're giving him a do-over of the season, and giving him a teammate he knows better than anyone. He will hate this. Oh God, he will hate it.

SB Nation 2014 NBA Playoff Bracket

If NBA 2K14 has it right, Kobe Bryant will not retire until I'm nearly 40 years old. When I was 17, he was already three seasons into his career, and I was working at an auto shop. A car would roll into the garage, and from the basement, I'd stand underneath it and drain the oil, replace the oil filter, maybe pump in some new axle grease.

An old Ford truck pulled in, and its driver freely admitted that its oil hadn't been changed in tens of thousands of miles. I wrapped the band wrench around the filter and tried to twist it loose; it wouldn't budge. The boss cussed at me for a minute, and when that didn't work, he grabbed a hammer, stomped downstairs, and whacked away at the handle of the wrench. It still wouldn't unscrew, because it was almost a permanent component of the engine by this point. With increasing fury, he banged away at it harder and harder, for a couple minutes, so hard the entire truck started to rattle and I wasn't sure whether the oil filter was even the point anymore.

The Best of Bois

That's what the Kobe Bryant of my limited perspective looks like to me: all goal-oriented rage, no joy, no satisfaction. This in spite of having won five NBA titles, dumped 81 points on an opponent in a single game, and ensured his place as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. This is my favorite Kobe anecdote. Its authenticity is unverified, but I have little trouble believing it.

It takes place in 2012 -- well after the NBA titles, the 81-point game, and the assured spot in the Basketball Hall of Fame. In short, Kobe calls a trainer at 4:15 in the morning and asks him to help him with some conditioning work. The trainer arrives at the practice facility by five, and finds Kobe drenched in sweat, "as if he had just taken a swim." They spend the next couple hours on conditioning and strength training, and the trainer leaves to catch some sleep.

He returns at about 11 a.m. Kobe is still there. He explains that he wanted to make 800 jump shots, and refused to leave until he had made them all.

I stop short of calling him a force of nature, because sometimes, he loses.

Sigh. We're all seeing a 44-38 season, friend, but we don't have it in us to tell you.

Thanks to a fractured knee, Kobe has missed almost all of this season. For only the fifth time in their 54-year history, the Los Angeles Lakers will miss the playoffs. Pau Gasol, their big free-agent get, might well be headed out the door this season. Steve Nash, their star point guard, is 40 years old and battling injuries. The pool of upcoming free agents is weak, as far as those go.

So we're going to give Kobe a do-over of this season, as well as a simulation of the next few years. This time, I decided to pair him with the one teammate I think he would choose, if he could:

There is, of course, a price Kobe has to pay for this. The rest of the Lakers' roster will be filled out entirely of players who:

- Are the default 6'3" and 200 or so pounds
- Possess perfect ratings in ball handling and passing
- Possess "zero" ratings in everything else, including shooting, rebounding, and defense

My idea here is to give Kobe and Kobe as many touches, rebounds, points, etc., as possible. Their teammates would prefer to just get out of the way. As usual, I found them on Twitter.

After about 750 responses (seriously, thank y'all so much), I settled upon the following 10 members of the Los Angeles Lakers.

THE PLAYERS.

#47: The TRP (@TRP_QCFL)

Thetrp_medium

IT'S REALLY HARD.

#11: David Harris (@THEdavidharris)

Davidharris_medium

Awesome fantasy: showing contemporary technology, like a laptop or video game, to someone in the past who hasn't seen anything like it. Someone like Charles Babbage or Marie Curie would probably start weeping out of sheer wonder. I'd get to explain so much to them, which is great, because my two greatest passions in life are a) being nice to people, and b) answering questions that are really easy.

This doesn't work with Richard Nixon. He'd teleport from, say, 1950. "Why are you playing football on the TV buttons? Don't you have schoolwork to do?" Uh, no, sir. I'm 31. "Have any buttermilk?" I'm sorry, sir, I don't. Did you know that in 20 years, you'll be the President? "That long? Jesus. I'm going to bed."

And then he'd get up at 5:30 the next morning and go to work, even though he literally just traveled to this time and could not possibly have a job. Then this fantasy really just becomes a study of what it's like to share a one-bedroom apartment with a middle-aged man who dislikes noise past 7 p.m. I should have just went with Malcolm X, like I usually do.

#93: Ricky Brunson (@rickybrunson)

Rickybrunson_medium

Here's a screenshot of my phone right now.

Voicemail2_medium

#88: Dan Rubenstein (@DanRubenstein)

Danrubenstein_medium

There's a bar down the street from me that's notable for serving well whiskey, in five- or six-ounce pours, for $1.50. It also sells food that might be okay, or might be so spoiled that the smell survives having been cooked. A friend of mine once got a chicken sandwich, and told the bartender that the meat was pretty clearly rotten.

There is no truer means of measuring the dive-bar-ness of a dive bar than to gauge the bartender's response to this. At this bar, the answer was, "ah, cool, we'll make another," with a sort of nonchalance you only offer if you hear it every day. Remember not to go to this place I'm not naming.

#46: wkbdyb (@wkbdyb)

Wkbdyb_medium

I once saw a newspaper insert that dedicated half a page to advertising CD-ROM drives. There was some mention of "supersonic speeds" and a guy sitting in a chair, white-knuckled hands clutching the armrests, yelling, wearing sunglasses, his hair and necktie blown back by what was implied to be the speed of said CD-ROM drives available for purchase.

That was in, like, 1996, when the fastest CD-ROM speed was 6x or so. I wonder how they advertised the 24x models that eventually came out. They should have shown him in a high-altitude pressure suit, helmet ripped off, just buckled over and vomiting profusely.

#12: Michele Catalano (@inthefade)

Catalano_medium

This sent me down a Wikipedia hole that led me to the entry for "Wick effect." It sounds pretty safe, and is actually completely horrifying. I believe in things like style guides and establishing a neutral tone, but I also think that Wikipedia authors, journalists, et al. ought to be able to use all-caps and interrobangs when the situation warrants. There is no clearer indication of the shortcomings of Wikipedia than the entry for "quantum mechanics" and its failure to note, "shit's CRAZY."

#62: Matt Ufford (@mattufford)

Ufford_medium

Bartleby, The Scrivener is a short story written in 1853 by Herman Melville. I really want to read it. According to the summary I read, it's about a guy working at an office who starts answering his boss's orders with, "I would prefer not to." He does this more and more frequently until he just stops doing work altogether. My only disappointment is that there's apparently a denoument at the end of the story. I don't want a lesson or an explanation or anything. I just want a portrait of a guy not doing work, and that's that. It'd be the best.

#23: Jesse Taylor (@jesseltaylor)

Jessetaylor_medium

well you have to

#51: Matt Bowyer (@MattWBowyer)

Bowyer_medium

I don't think I've ever encountered such an authentic dada performance. It might be some guy volleying an arsenal of bigoted slurs in your direction because you throw half your pitches out of the strike zone. It might be a guy in Titanfall asking a bunch of strangers what the controls do and "how to get the robot." Or -- and I've encountered this several times -- it might be dead silent, save for one 12-year-old who's wearing his headset mic, but clearly not talking to anyone in the game. "Hey. Hey. Hey Josh, ask if you can sleep over. Idiot. No! Idiot. Stop! Quit it! Idiot."


#67: Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL)

Hasan_medium

You think you're just performing a favor for somebody, but then word gets around that you have the only scissor-sharpening kit in town. People start knocking on your door, each day in greater numbers than the last. Folks start sprinting across town to your house, scissors in hand; of course, one ought not to do this, and accidents abound. This ends with hundreds, perhaps thousands of people stampeding and trampling each other to get to your door, and as the mob grows ever larger, it pushes against the walls and threatens the structural integrity of the building. Nobody's scissors get sharpened this way, and your home is reduced to a caved-in pile of rubble. You thought you were so fucking fancy with your scissor-sharpener, didn't you? Well, you're not.

ACT I: THE GAME.

I simulated one game in full: the Lakers' 2013-14 season opener against the Clippers. The Lakers' roster consists of the 10 folks above, 1998 Kobe Bryant, and present-day Kobe Bryant. I just let the CPU play itself. Everything you see in the GIFs below was completely the Xbox's idea.

Remember: these Twitter players are great at passing, and terrible at everything else. The computer was out of basketball ideas, so it came up with its own: if a guy goes up for an uncontested dunk, you ought to sprint toward him such that your face hits him in his penis.

Crotch_medium

And when you get an open look at a close-range shot, you ought to stand there and pump-fake until someone knocks you over.

Hasan_medium

Officiating a basketball game can apparently grow pretty exhausting if nearly half its players don't really understand how to play. One ref stopped caring, and I don't fault him.

Uhhhref_medium

But this, of course, is about two men: Kobe Bryant and Kobe Bryant. Old Kobe has a higher overall rating than Young Kobe. He has better court vision, he's a better ball handler, and he's far better at creating shots for his teammates. With this team of knuckleheads, though, much of his skill set didn't really help him.

On the other hand, Young Kobe was more reckless, more likely to keep the ball himself and go for the contested shot. As a consequence, he scored far more often. The computer seemed to note this. It gave Young Kobe 47 minutes, and Old Kobe only 33.

And Old Kobe hated it. HATED IT.

Freethrow_medium

If you watched the first video near the start of this post, you probably got the impression that Kobe and Kobe worked as some sort of an unstoppable dual threat. Well, I made that video while actually playing as the Lakers. When I left the Kobes up to their own devices, they refused to pass to one another. They were the only two viable scoring options on the team, and yet throughout the entire game, they passed to each other exactly three times.

It felt so true to life. I can't think of any player who would annoy Veteran Kobe more than Young Kobe, an energetic, prolific scorer who lacks a mastery of the finer points.

The Kobe-Kobe feud was wrecking this team. Look, y'all. He won't even give him dap.

Nodap_medium

Old Kobe, despite his significantly higher overall rating, spent a solid chunk of time on the bench. He pouted, mostly. He rested his head in his hands, or crossed his legs and looked up at nothing. Sometimes he'd turn to a teammate and kvetch about something while gesturing at whatever was making him angry.

When Catalano stepped out of bounds on a possession, Kobe was quick with the sarcastic clapping.

Claps_medium

Coach Mike D'antoni was completely unable to right the ship. As it turns out, Video Game Kobe dislikes D'antoni as much as Real Life Kobe does.

Blahblahblah_medium

You can just see the abject disgust pouring out of Kobe. D'antoni seems almost too scared to turn around. And that makes me feel bad, because as it turns out, Video Game Mike D'antoni is a pure delight. He's got this permanent grin plastered on his face. His team was down by 25 and in complete disarray, and he just doesn't care. He's still out there, smiling, unbelievably thrilled to be at the dang basketball game.

Dantoni_medium

Shitty coach, though. You're waving the wrong way, dude.

Also, I'd like to note the multitude of fans holding their heads in their hands. I count at least three there. In NBA 2K14, no matter how bad your team gets, the fans will fill every seat. It used to be different: in some sports games from a few years ago, your seats would get emptier as your team got worse, and it was on you to get better and win them back.

I assume they cut this out at the behest of the leagues in question for brand-image reasons, but I'm happy that 2K Sports seemed to find another, and perhaps better, way of expressing, "God, your team is so shitty." In this world, fans will bury their heads in their hands for 30, 45 seconds at a time. Sometimes you'll see an entire row of them doing this. And yet, they come back for every single game. I guess these games are The Reaping or some shit.

At some point, I think Old Kobe began to see the writing on the wall.

Oopdiss_medium

He's right there, calling for the ball, but he's invisible to Taylor. It was actually kind of striking: these players were clearly choosing a side, and that side was Young Kobe's.

The Lakers lost to the Clippers, 92-56. Young Kobe finished with 29 points, and Old Kobe 16. The troubles had only begun.

II. THE KOBE V. KOBE FEUD.

The end of Old Kobe's career was rife with indignity. His younger, more eager, more naive, more hyperactive, and yet somehow more successful self had completely surpassed him.

Off the court, it was a story of two incompatible personalities.

**Online Host**
Welcome to LakersChat!

YoungKobe

k0b3_NEO_THEMATRIX_2OOO: Hey

YoungKobe

k0b3_NEO_THEMATRIX_2OOO: Hey wer are in the same hotel room.

Hey look I dont even have any chords plugged into my computer.

OldKobe

kobebryant: yes, i know. we have wi-fi.

YoungKobe

k0b3_NEO_THEMATRIX_2OOO: What is wifi. I can run around the room with my computer & and still be on the W.E.B.

Look watch. What is wifi? Nevermind look watch. I can run around the room with my L4PTOP and still chat with you;

OldKobe

kobebryant: please don't do that. if you'd like to talk to me, i'm on the bed six feet away from you. please do not abuse your web privileges.

YoungKobe

k0b3_NEO_THEMATRIX_2OOO: OK here I go watch

IKESO AM CHSDVHATING WITH YOI ON MYY COMPUTfwe

WHEEEEEEEEW

This is a list of things in the hotel: beds, a chair, soap for free. What is wifi. I bet that I can toutch the cieling of this room.


**Online Host**
Welcome to LakersChat!

YoungKobe

k0b3_NEO_THEMATRIX_2OOO: Coatch says he'll will give me 48 minutes the next game!!!!

OldKobe

kobebryant: i spent all night shooting 2,700 free throws. then i filled a bag full of rocks and hit it with a sledgehammer 760 times

then i did burpees until somebody called the fire department

i am getting 8.1 minutes per game

YoungKobe

k0b3_NEO_THEMATRIX_2OOO: I think i'ts neat that: since me & you are the same person, quantum mechanics require us to be within 1,00 feet of each other always.

Hey what is the song that goes like "doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo"

I searched kazaa for "doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo lryics" but It did not work. Viruses


**Online Host**
Welcome to LakersChat!

OldKobe

kobebryant: i'm going to need to ask you to remain at the top of the key when i set up plays. please stop jumping into the stands in the middle of the play. you did that four times tonight.

i realize that coach d'antoni laughs whenever you do it. do not strive for his attention. he is a fool and a coward, through and through, and deserves neither your time nor your attention.

YoungKobe

k0b3_NEO_THEMATRIX_2OOO: Where the Ninja Turtles black people.

OldKobe

kobebryant: no.

**Online Host**
Welcome to LakersChat!

YoungKobe

k0b3_NEO_THEMATRIX_2OOO: Heyyyyyyy why do I got hair & and you are bald. Is it because your are like the Krang robot.

Hey are you there.

I've have wrote a rap song that is just about YOU!!! Here it is

**Online Host**
You have been blocked by kobebryant.

YoungKobe

k0b3_NEO_THEMATRIX_2OOO:

Uh, what do I live for?

Basketball, beats and broads.

From Italy to the US, yes, it's raw.

I'mma search for the one that make my wealth feel poor.

Who can ignore the spotlight life of Grandma

YoungKobe

k0b3_NEO_THEMATRIX_2OOO: Can you explain the grandma part I dont know why I put it in the song.

**Online Host**
You have been blocked by kobebryant.

YoungKobe

k0b3_NEO_THEMATRIX_2OOO:

Oh

:-*(


III. THE CONCLUSION.

The Lakers finished the 2013-14 season with a 1-81 record. The year after, Old Kobe's minutes fell to zero per game. He refused to re-sign, so when he signed elsewhere in the offseason, the Lakers simply traded for him and returned him to his permanent place on the bench.

He was furious. He was powerless. And yet, the man just would not retire.

And this is how it ended for Kobe and Kobe:

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