In 1941, Boston Red Sox’ Ted Williams went into the final day of baseball’s regular season batting exactly .400. While he could’ve sat out – Boston was 17 games back of the first place Yankees, Williams understood batting .400 wouldn’t mean as much if put himself before the team. Williams went a combined 6-8 in the doubleheader (Game 1 Game 2) – on his way to the .406 batting average we haven’t seen since.
According to this story on ESPN.com, Bryant will sit out in the final game of the season against the Sacramento Kings tonight, forfeiting a chance to take home his third career scoring title. He needed 38 points to beat out Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, who played their final game of the regular season last night.
Kobe had the chance to smack ESPN in the face tonight. By scoring 38, he makes an argument he’s the best player in the NBA, not the seventh best according to a preseason rank on NBA on ESPN. Remember, this comes in the same season he had to adjust to a coach not named Phil Jackson and a Scottie Pippen not named Derek Fisher. He has not let his basketball stardom fog his vision of another NBA title – basketball’s ultimate measuring stick.
In today’s story with ESPNLosAngeles, Kobe said, “It’s not a challenge for me to score 38 points, you know? … We know I can go out and score 38 points. The most important thing is sending the right message to the group which is putting a championship above all else. That means rest. That means letting other guys play. That means us getting ready for Sunday (for the playoff opener).”
Yeah…Kobe is exactly right. We do know he can go out and score 38 at whim. He’s the only player in the league that can say that without a backlash of pseudo-news and debate on Twitter. Let me know in the comments if you disagree. LeBron could say it and be truthful, but we love hating LeBron too much to let a comment like that slide.
While Kobe could use father time to school the younger Durant, he didn’t. He showed class. He conveyed he’s not bigger than the game. It was refreshing, and I think it reminded basketball fans how special Kobe is.
When we look back on Kobe’s career, there will be an unofficial asterisk next to Kobe’s amount of scoring titles. In a sports era where asterisks are associated with negativity, this asterisk will reiterate how special Kobe was.
“Yes son, Kobe only won three scoring titles way back when, but he could have had a fourth if he decided to play in the final game of that 2012 season.”
Remember when Jose Reyes voluntarily sat out of last season’s finale to ensure his batting title? Yes he won, but sports fans partner his batting title with, “Yes, but he sat out the last day of the season to ensure he would win,” communicating he put himself before the team.
Rest up Kobe. A third scoring title doesn’t look as impressive as a sixth championship.