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My bucket list – see Kobe play

March 2, 2009

by Matt Kane

Ever since I watched Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in the movie “The Bucket List,” I’ve been thinking about what would be on my own bucket list.

I’ve always thought it would be awesome to visit all seven continents, and to shave my head when I crossed the equator by land or sea. As a journalist, I want to win a Pulitzer Prize, but just in case that doesn’t happen, I will settle for getting a photograph in, or preferably on the cover of, Sports Illustrated.

I’ve already been skydiving, and I’ve been to a World Series game — Game 2 in 1987 — so there are definitely a few bucket list-worthy items I could have crossed off by now.

Just over a week ago, I figuratively crossed off another list item, when I went to the Timberwolves game.

Oh, wait, did I say I went to the Timberwolves game? I meant I went to the Lakers game that happened to be at the Target Center where the Timberwolves play their home games.

With all the purple on the court and in the crowd, I had to remind myself I wasn’t at the Metrodome in October.

The bucket list item I crossed off was seeing Kobe Bryant play in the prime of his career.

There is something about watching the game’s (any game’s) best players performing on the stage right in front of you (about 100 yards in front of me, thanks to the free nosebleed tickets I used). Television gives fans an up-close, slow-motion, vantage point of that player, but being in the building lets the fan watch the player even when he doesn’t have the ball.

It’s difficult to keep your eyes off Kobe when he’s right in front of you. I was mesmerized by how athletic he is, and how much he leads that Lakers’ team, and I kept a close eye on him, trying to figure out what makes a player, like him, so much better than the other 10 on the same court.

I still can’t explain the talent difference, but all I know is that Kobe is a man amongst boys. He did everything on the court — slamming down a highlight-reel dunk, fading away on a mid-range, turnaround jumper, finding Pau Gasol with a no-look pass, and, ultimately, willing his team to win.

The Lakers held a slight lead over the Timberwolves for most of the game, but Minnesota made a late surge, took a one-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, and cut the Lakers’ lead to one point five times in the final four minutes.

But Kobe and the Lakers held on to win. Just like they have done (through Wednesday) an NBA-best 47 times this season.

I tend to despise players like Kobe, Labron James, and even Michael Jordan because they are so hyped up by the media. That despisement always changes to a reverent respect when I see such athletes in person.

Before I saw Kobe play, I saw Jordan in person, when he was with the Washington Wizards, and I saw Labron, when he was playing rookie scrimmages in Orlando.

For a guy who is far from being a big basketball mind, that’s not too bad, if I say so myself — and I do say so.

Don’t get me wrong – if Kobe and the Lakers make it to the NBA finals, again this year, I will probably cheer for the other team, just because it will undoubtedly be an underdog.

Growing up in Minnesota, cheering for the underdog is just a fact of life.

Another underdog? The probability of me setting foot on all seven continents. I’ve got six to go.