At the Basketball Hall of Fame induction, Vannesa Bryant recalled asking Kobe why he refused to sit out games. Kobe's response? "What about the fans that saved up to watch me play just once?"
And that simple message should be hung in every locker room around the NBA, whether anyone ever reads it.
In an era where "load management" is accepted we should be reminded of what Kobe said. And yet, to many of the game's biggest players, it is no big deal. They money is so huge in today's game and the "be healthy for the playoffs" mentality is the biggest reason that it's ok to take a game or many games off.
It is sad that the biggest stars of the game don't see it as an obligation to play as many games as possible because there may be one or hundreds of fans who came to see them play.
I get the "have them healthy for the playoffs" view but players today forget that they are entertainers. They are paid to perform every game and not just in the playoffs and not just to focus on winning championships.
On a night that might be the third game in four days, there may be a father who has saved up money for months to take his family of four to watch a superstar play. His kids have waited for weeks for the chance to witness that star in person. And when that night comes, the star may have a "load management" day off and think nothing of it. But yet, that father has to explain to his kids why that star is not playing.
Here are some of the biggest names in the NBA and the amount of games they missed this season because of injuries or scheduled games off:
LeBron James 27
Anthony Davis 36
James Harden 36
Kevin Durant 38
Kyrie Irving 19
Kawhi Leonard 20
Paul George 18
Jimmy Butler 20
CJ McCollum 25
Joel Embiid 21
While some have dealt with injuries, many simply took nights off.
Yes, the league squeezed 72 games into a tight window to play the 2020-21 season but missing games for rest has become an accepted excuse. And while playing three games in four nights can be taxing, think of what Kobe said.
Do you think for a second James Harden or Kevin Durant think about the family of four who saved to make it to that one game? Sadly, I don't think they think about that family. I wish they did. I can explain the basketball reasons why but I don't have to like it.
Players today forget about fans too often. It is easy to say they are brands that need to be healthy but they forget about the people who marvel at their talents.
The pitcher who "has to come out" after 100 pitches. The basketball player that can't play that third game in four nights. It has become the accepted schedule for stars but it doesn't mean we have to like it.
Which brings us back to Kobe. He started just seven of his first 150 regular season games when he was18 and 19 years old. After that, there were five total games he came off the bench. How many games did Kobe miss as a healthy scratch? None.
I wish more players would adopt Kobe's position about playing every game. They won't and many basketball people will justify load management. But it doesn't mean we have to like it.
Another reason to miss Kobe Bryant.
Final thought: Kobe Bryant spent most of his childhood in Italy. His dad played pro ball in Italy and didn't move back to the states until Kobe was 14 years old.
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