Clearly there’s no rhyme or reason to the order we release these wallpapers. Last week, we gave you Dwyane Wade beside the Biscayne Bay, a photo from Lang’s Ish 127 cover story. It was quite timely and relevant–Wade has only bolstered his MVP case since All-Star. But while looking through the cue of unreleased walls, it occurred to me that the Kobe “Face Off” wall was waiting for weeks, gathering virtual dust as we cranked out issues. Issue 128 is about to hit newsstands, so it’s high time we gave you this one.
The idea for this is simple: Kobe is the only person who can stop himself. He has the third most points of among active players (soon to be first, as Shaq will be around for one more season, and Allen Iverson isn’t as buckets-productive as he once was). He’s mentally tough as a samurai (What honestly, do you think would throw Kobe for a loop now?). He’s as focused on that championship as he’s ever been. He’s a complete iron man (Kobe’s played every game possible in the past two seasons, including four Playoff rounds and the Olympics).
He’s 30 and seven months, yet he’s showed almost no signs of slowing down or frustration. Will it ever kick in? Will being the NBA’s model of on-court excellence and consistency ever become too much? Will there ever be that “This is just too damn much!” moment, where Kobe breaks down and takes a step away from basketball? It sounds sort of familiar. It sounds like only Kobe will know the answer… — Ryne Nelson