Often in the past, I've used this space to express my appreciation for basketball star Kobe Bryant. As someone who gets to follow sports for a living -- as someone who gets to tell stories about games and the people who play them -- I've always been fascinated by his will to win.
I've often remarked that a person needn't be a Lakers fan to admire Kobe's desire to succeed or be intrigued by his freakish ability to compete at the highest level.
As I've noted before, I don't root. It's not my job to do so, so I don't make emotional investments in the players, coaches or teams I cover. But I do enjoy being entertained and I most definitely appreciate an interesting story.
So here I am writing about Kobe Bryant again.
I hadn't planned on doing this, but when he down with a ruptured Achilles late Friday night, the story became too compelling. First of all, the Lakers and Jazz are locked in a wonderfully competitive battle for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Secondly, whether you like him or not, Bryant's impact on the NBA is far too significant to ignore. The man is 34, and an MVP. He has played 17 seasons and more than 54,000 total minutes.
When he goes down with such a serious injury, it's a story.
The 2012-13 season hasn't been the best of Kobe's career, but it'll go down as the most interesting.
He recently got L.A. a game lead in the playoff hunt and despite Utah's best efforts to jump back into the No. 8 spot in the standings, Kobe seemed determined to once again crush the hopes of the Jazz and their fans.
More than an hour after the Jazz earned a tough home court victory over Minnesota on Friday, the Lakers picked up an equally tough victory over Golden State.
I was with some colleagues around 11 p.m. Friday, tucked away in the press room inside EnergySolutions Arena, scrambling to finish off a couple of stories from the Jazz-Timberwolves game.
Because we needed to know the winner of the L.A.-Golden State game, several of us gathered around a TV to catch the final few minutes.
At that point, all most of us needed was to know who won so we could update our stories. So when the game ended, we quickly went back to work in order to make deadlines.
And then came word -- via social media (which is a different story for another day) -- that Bryant had a possible ruptured Achilles and could miss the remainder of the regular season and playoffs, should the Lakers qualify.
Granted, there are far more important things in life besides basketball, but there's no doubt we all felt one of those "remember where you were" moments when we heard about Kobe's injury.
At best, he's known as one of the most competitive players ever to play the game and a future Hall of Famer who pushed himself and his teammates to greatness. At worst, Bryant is thought of as a ball hog and an overly intense, overly demonstrative jerk.
Go ahead, choose one ... or both. But if you're a Jazz fan, don't celebrate his injury. Be grateful he's out for the rest of the season and his absence may cost the Lakers their shot at the playoffs.
With two games left, Utah's best chance to make the postseason is to win Monday night at Minnesota and again Wednesday in Memphis. The Jazz almost must hope the Kobe-less Lakers lose to San Antonio today and/or Wednesday vs. Houston.
So, of course, root for your team, Jazz fans. The Lakers' misfortune is now a break for your guys. Cross your fingers and hope they can capitalize.
But there are two things I wouldn't do at this point: No. 1, I wouldn't gloat because it's unseemly and it might create some bad Karma, and No. 2, I'd never bet against Kobe Bryant.
He may be done for the rest of this season and out for the next six-to-nine months, but based on what we know of him, he's not going away quietly. He's not going out on anyone's terms but his own.
Bet against Kobe? I'd rather bet against the sun coming up tomorrow.