On March 24, 1962 Emile Griffith beat Benny Paret to death at Madison Square Garden during a championship fight. Griffith at the time was a closeted homosexual, and during the pre-fight weigh in Paret called him a faggot. As much as Griffith wanted to be champion, Paret’s taunt took him to a darker place, a place not about titles, accolades or legacy, but simply one man beating another.
A few days ago I shared a Mike Wilbon piece on Kobe Bryant that spoke of how Kobe will not allow torn ligaments in his wrist to take him away from the game, and how a recent poll calculating Kobe as the 7th best player in the league drove him to a stunning spree of 40 point games. Bryant, a five time NBA champion and Olympic Gold Medalist, has long secured hall of fame and all-time great status, but plays today in his 16th season like an old West gunfighter waiting to find someone to make him second quick at a duel. It is exactly what distinguishes him from Lebron James at this time.
Michael Jordan once refused to talk to his coach (pre-Doug Collins) for over a month after the coach made Jordan switch teams with a 9-1 lead in a scrimmage to 10. Jordan led his new scrimmage side back to win 10-9, and the silence descended. Jordan eviscerated Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley and Karl Malone in NBA finals after they were given league MVP honors over him.
Last night my team killed itself against an inferior, but game opponent by shooting 18/60 from the field and 6/19 from the line. We settled. We accepted. We lost. We must find that killer instinct that will drive us through adversity. To give us the resolve and will in the face of poor shooting, sloppy play to say “NOT TONIGHT”