Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Kobe of the Disco Era

Henry Abbott passes on this excerpt from Mark Kriegel's biography Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich is jarring in that it could be written almost word for word about Kobe Bryant right now:

Pete responded to the ball movement critique on a November night in New York. The score remained close, despite the fact that he declined to put up a single shot in the fourth quarter. After the game, a fifth consecutive loss, an anonymous teammate took him to task in the press for "not making sacrifices."

"If they want me to sacrifice, I'll sacrifice," said Pete, who went 4 of 5 while handing out 15 assists in the next game, a win over Seattle. Then, a couple of nights later, he was back to his old self, scoring 39, including the game-winning basket with 15 seconds left on the clock.

To pass or to shoot? Given Pete's excessive nature, these pendulum swings can be seen as his attempt to find some balance in his game, and his life. As ever, Pete was a creature of contradictions. On one hand, as if bent on proving his critics right, he had taken to wearing a pendant with the emblem "ME 1st." On the other, his reputation for generosity among teammates was unrivaled.

The problem, at least as it manifested itself on the court, was that ever since high school, the best way for Pete's team to win had been for Pete to shoot. He took all the shots, just as he took the pressure. He had been on his own for so long he had to learn how to play well with others. "I don't think it was ever a question of Pete being selfish," says Baylor. "He just felt more confidence in his own ability to get the job done than [in] the others'. But I kept talking to him and talking to him and talking to him, and finally I got him to play in a way that was beneficial to the team. He was getting his teammates involved, not taking burden so much on himself, not trying to win games on his own."

As Henry notes:
Haven't we also watched Bryant stare down his critics with stretches when, just like Maravich, he refused to shoot? Isn't that quote from Baylor something we've heard reiterated in various forms a hundred times by those around Bryant?

I know Pete Maravich and Kobe Bryant are different players from different times. But I also know that Bryant and Maravich wrestle with some of the same demons.

I have not read the book and had not drawn the parallel between the two players, but it makes perfect sense now that I think about it. And it makes me want to read the book.

Now to find my leisure suit, gold chains and coke spoon, it's time to go dancin'!

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