You don’t want to get used to this, but it’s hard not to get used to. You know?
You’re Kobe Bryant. You’re 19. You’re the previous year’s Slam Dunk champion, playing in your first NBA All-Star Game as the L’s youngest-ever All-Star—at the World’s Most Famous Arena, no less—and you’re matching buckets with Michael Jordan, aka the World’s Most Famous Athlete, with a 360-degree dunk already in the books courtesy of an outlet from teammate and future Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal.
And here it comes again. A long rebound courtesy of the East, caught in transition. But you do the right thing. No need to take it all the way, not with a teammate open ahead. You push it up to TWolves forward Kevin Garnett, knowing what’s to come. A return pass.
And KG floats it perfectly, leaving the perfect photo op and coasting through the opposite side of the lane, wearing a smile the size of all of California, watching you rise with teenage ease, catching it with both hands and hammering it down with a combination of style, grace and pure physical domination. The announcing team of Bob Costas, Isiah Thomas and Bill Walton have seen untold hours of basketball, but even they pause to study the greatness unfolding in front of their eyes.
And you? You calmly turn back downcourt to play defense, understanding that this will not be your defining moment—that All-Stars will flock to play with you, that your talent will always be magnified by the presence of another. That this is only the beginning.
At 1:37 in the video below…