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The Rap-Up: Kobe Bryant’s Legacy

The sudden loss of Kobe Bryant had a profound effect on this league and, while he’s no longer with us, his imprint in today’s game will be felt for generations to come!

NBA All-Star Game 2016, Kobe Bryant Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

I hated Kobe Bryant.

Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll confirm this to be true.

I hated that he mimicked his game after Michael Jordan (whether or not he ever admitted so). I hated that his Lakers were always in the way of “my” Kings (sidenote: Chris Webber is my favourite player of all-time). I hated that the more I hated him, the more he’d achieve success. I hated when he hit a game-winner in the dying seconds against the Raptors on March 9, 2010......then again on February 12, 2012.....then again on March 8, 2013. You can take a wild guess how I felt about January 22, 2006.

Here’s the thing about death. It truly puts things into perspective.

Kobe’s sudden and tragic death, along with his daughter Gianna and seven other passengers, has left an indelible mark, locally, nationally, and world-wide. As was known during his time with the Lakers, Kobe Bryant often took his helicopter to games as a means of avoiding L.A.’s famous traffic. While taking Gigi and six others to a travel basketball game, his helicopter caught fire and crashed. There were no survivors — both inside the aircraft and, subsequently, outside the aircraft.

The world has lost a legend in Kobe Bryant. Everything I hated about him is exactly what made him the superstar that fans and players alike idolized. His competitiveness inspired many of today’s stars in their own pursuits of greatness. He expected nothing less than perfection from himself and his teammates, and achieved the ultimate goal on five separate occasions.

Over the next few days / weeks / months, various tributes will show Kobe’s amazing highlights. You’ll relive his 81-point game, re-watch his final game where he managed to score 60, and re-visit the countless buzzer-beaters he amassed over his 20 seasons.

If there’s any perspective I gained, it’s that people and perceptions change. The moniker “Playoff Kyle” changed from a negative descriptor of Lowry to the ultimate compliment. Norm Powell has turned things around and removed the “in” in “inconsistent”. Just as our favourite Raptors have changed, I should have been more cognizant of Bryant’s change.

He transformed from a young, arrogant teen who only looked out for his own stats, to a championship-winning role model who continued mentoring, long after he retired.

In this week’s Rap-Up, when examining the Raptors’ upcoming opponents, I (almost) found a game-winning or game-tying bucket that Kobe scored against each of them. If there’s a consistent theme with every team he faced, it was his ability to come through in the clutch.

After Kobe retired, I assumed he was done breaking people’s hearts. I was wrong.

January 28 vs. Atlanta Hawks

Imagine if the Raptors suffered a ton of injuries at the same time (yes, not hard to imagine at all), leading Nick Nurse to starting Oshae Brissett. Now imagine that Oshae led the Raptors to a shocking victory over the Clippers!

Well, that just happened to the Hawks last week. Brandon Goodwin, born in Norcross, Georgia (20 minutes outside of Atlanta) stepped up last Wednesday for an Atlanta team missing All-Star point guard, Trae Young. Goodwin had the game of his life, scoring all 19 of his points in the 4th quarter. He led Atlanta to an improbable comeback over the Los Angeles Clippers and surely guaranteed his two-way contract would get converted to full-time status.

Fun Kobe Bryant Video That May Only Interest Me

Prediction

As we’ve seen all season long, if you face Raptors more than once within a month, Nurse will know how to game plan around you in the rematch. It happened in Boston, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio. Another Powell scoring outburst may not be needed this time around, but it surely wouldn’t hurt if it did! Toronto blows out Atlanta, 124-102.

January 30 @ Cleveland Cavaliers

Odd as it sounds, this will be the first time Alfonzo McKinnie, who signed a 10-day contract with Cleveland last week, faces the Toronto Raptors since last year’s NBA Finals. He did not play in either visit to Toronto this season. The former Raptor, who just signed his second 10-day contract, was terrorized by Toronto throughout the Finals’ series. You could make an argument that he deserved a championship ring more than Jodie Meeks!

Fun Kobe Bryant Video That May Only Interest Me

Prediction

The Raptors have played the Cavaliers this season without Fred, and another without Norm, Pascal, and Marc. In both situations, Toronto came out with 20-point blowouts. Cleveland currently has a 7-game losing streak, including three straight home losses to New York, Washington, and Chicago. If that’s not tanking, I don’t know what is. Toronto sweeps the season series with another 20-point blowout, defeating the Cavs 125-98.

January 31 @ Detroit Pistons

Take a look at Detroit’s depth chart, specifically the starters, and this is what you’ll find. Reggie Jackson is slowly working himself back into game shape after missing 43 of the team’s first 47 games. Luke Kennard is out with a knee injury until, at least, the All-Star break. Tony Snell is likely to miss his third consecutive game on Monday with the flu. Blake Griffin is out for the season. Andre Drummond is the only healthy body, but by the time you finish reading this sentence, may be traded.

While the return of Jackson might elicit some hope in Detroit, the fact of the matter is that they’re currently three games out of a playoff spot with one of the toughest post-All-Star-break schedules. They’re without their best player, while their next two best players (including Derrick Rose) are on the trading block.

Fun Kobe Bryant Video That May Only Interest Me

Prediction

Since this is the prediction section, it certainly looks like Detroit is headed to the lottery, so expect to hear their name in a lot of trade rumours. Say what you will about his gaudy numbers, but if you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking, Drummond doesn’t interest me for the Raptors. As for the actual game, this has the makings of Knicks-like outcome. The Pistons will crash the boards, pick up some extra possessions, and get to the line. However, the positive of Toronto playing at full strength, is that they have a number of breakout candidates who can carry them to victory. Siakam is averaging 28 points and 4.5 threes(!), while Serge Ibaka has averaged 22 points and 9.5 rebounds over the two games against Detroit this season. Toronto takes down Dwane Casey’s Pistons, 123-109.

February 2 vs. Chicago Bulls

It bears mentioning every time these teams face each other, but this is easily one of the weirdest rivalries in basketball. From 1997 to 1999, the Bulls won 8 consecutive games against the Raptors. That was immediately answered with a 16-game win streak between 1999 and 2002 in Toronto. Chicago ended that streak by starting their own 15-game run between 2002 and 2006. Fast forward a few years, from 2014 to 2017, the Bulls ran off an 11 game win streak. That ended in March 2017, where the Raptors have not lost to the Bulls ever since — currently, an 11-game win streak!

Fun Kobe Bryant Video That May Only Interest Me

In my brief research, I did not come across any clutch buckets against Chicago. However, this truly wouldn’t be a Kobe tribute, without referencing one of his game-winners against Toronto.

Prediction

The Bulls have lost their last nine games against teams over .500 by an average of 10 points. Throw in a decimated front court — Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter, Wendell Carter Jr., and Daniel Gafford are all out — and even die-hard Raptor fans don’t have to worry about Raptor killer, Thaddeus Young, leading the team to an upset! The Raptors wrap up another perfect week, winning 103-92, lock up Nick Nurse as the East All-Stars coach, then sit back and enjoy the Super Bowl!

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Last Week’s Record: 4-0

Season Record for Predictions: 32-14