Kobe Bryant Fights Fierce Competitive Instinct in Battle Against ‘Old Age’

CHICAGO — It’s not like Kobe Bryant to let a moment pass him by.

That’s what happened Thursday…Bryant letting down his team, his league and all the fans. He surprisingly sat out the NBA’s Christmas showcase, never even donning the special first-name-on-the-back uniform that was a novelty practically designed for him.

It’s unnatural for him to step out of the spotlight. It’s even more out of character not to take the stage at all.

“I feel an obligation to play, [even] if I’m at the YMCA,” Bryant said about missing this game.

Yet with the world ready to watch, Bryant chose not to meet the obligation. That’s some wisdom coming with age, which he must apply these days. The best of Bryant has always been unwavering faith to his personal tenets combined with some touch with reality…balance, same as for us all.

For Bryant to flourish in this body—he said Thursday he’s “constantly experimenting” for new-age solutions to his old-age status—he has to find that balance more than ever.

There are plenty of Bryant’s supporters who hope he never changes, who depend on his fearlessness to inspire their own backstage lives and almost want him to be Al Pacino unabashedly going down firing in Scarface.

Bryant wants better than that. So he sat there Thursday night in his maroon jacket and patent leather dress shoes, chewing gum and holding steady as the NBA’s all-time leader in Christmas games played (15) and points scored (383).

“It’s really going against my nature, man,” he said. “I’ve got to be smart about this.”

What he saw out on the court was a Chicago Bulls team that—after quite a struggle even with lucking into drafting a hometown MVP in Derrick Rose—has finally moved on from the ...

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