When Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers went to the mat against the Boston Celtics for the NBA championship, the onus was on the Orange County resident to dig deep to help the Purple and Gold pull off winning their 16th league title.Well, Bryant dug deep, but wasn't able to pull change out of his pocket as he connected on just 6-of-24 shots from the field for the 23 points that he scored in Game 7 of the NBA Finals at Staples Center. But like the legendary icon he has become in the 20 seasons has played in the NBA, Bryant would re-invent himself in the moment to lead the Lakers to a nearly improbable win against the rival Celtics, and their Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Pau Pierce and Ray Allen…a victory adequately represented through his 15 rebounds. More importantly, it was Bryant's competitive fire that eventually drove home the Lakers' 83-79 Game 7 and series-clinching win. "You, know, I just wanted it so bad," Bryant said. "I wanted it so, so bad. On top of that, I was on E (empty). Man. I was really, really tired. And the more I tried to push, the more it kept getting away from me. I'm just glad that my teammates really got us back in the game. I was thankful that I was able to make one damn shot at the end of the game and made some free throws. But it was a tough one."It was Bryant's fifth title as he peaked into the twilight of his prime years. Unfortunately, it looks as if that may be the last calling card the Black Mamba makes in an NBA Finals appearance other than as a spectator, game analysis or as an executive. When Bryant and the Lakers clinched that 16th title, it was widely presumed that earning one more championship ring was not out of the question. The Lakers still had its core of players of Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom. But then the bottom dropped, and it's been tough sledding for Bryant and the Lakers since. The hit-and-miss business of trades and offseason acquisitions in recent years, have left the Lakers mired in mediocrity the past few seasons, therefore effectively denying Bryant a chance to come up with a sixth title. Such is the business of professional sports. You can be up one moment and become an afterthought in the next. A superstar in his prime eventually becomes an elder statesmen watching the young guys do their thing. Change. It is inevitable. Life happens in cycles.It is played out in sports as well. Bryant and the Lakers are experiencing this now. The era of "Showtime," still magical, but a distant memory and fueled by highlight clips now. The time capsule with Shaquille O'Neal and Bryant running Phil Jackson's "Triangle" offense to three championships, as great as it was, is in the past. Even the two titles that Bryant won without "The Diesel" seems like a long time ago. But what a run is has been for Bryant and the Lakers. It's been a marvelous one; two decades of joy, excitement and the thirst by many fans to see one of the all-time greats in living color. There will never be another Kobe Bryant. You would be doing yourself a disservice if you believe that.When Magic Johnson retired it was hard to imagine anyone coming behind this Hall of Fame point guard and becoming his equal, if not superior, when it comes to ranking the all-time list in Los Angeles Lakers annals. Bryant, with his threshold for the late-game heroics, the unrelenting will and the drive to be merciless to his opponents, gave the NBA and the game of basketball something to cheer for every night, whether you are a fan of his or not. Yeah, we can point to his 25.2 points career average and 33,00 plus points as a discussion about his greatness. We can take aim at his five titles to highlight his clutch jeans.Or we can examine the numerous accolades and awards, such as being the two-time NBA Finals MVP, as a way to cement his career. That simply would still fail to illustrate the clear magnitude of Bryant, one of the two best shooting guards that we have seen grace NBA courts. The other guy goes by the name of Michael Jordan. When we first laid eyes on Bryant, he was this afro-wearing kid with the infectious smile, the kind of smile that moms are proud of. That smile was like an invite for fans to see the light side of a happy teenager being drafted by one of the most storied franchises in the NBA.But hidden behind that precocious and warm smile that many didn't pick up on was the drive, the dedication and relentless ambition to be at the top of his game. We all have another side to us, and this is where the Black Mamba comes into play. Bryant is the Black Mamba: lethal at anytime, deadly if you think he won't strike. You don't score 81 points in an NBA game as Bryant did in 2006 against the Toronto Raptors-by being a nice guy. A hug and a smile won't pave the way for you to become the best player of your era as Bryant became. It is an era, any fan of the Lakers, wish they can have back. The sight of Bryant slashing and dashing his way to the basket down the baseline for a one-handed, tomahawk dunk over then Houston center Yao Ming, is an unforgettable memory.Dropping 65 points against the Portland Trailblazers in a 2007 matchup was typical of the Bryant fever that was easy to catch on to and root for. So nowadays when fans see Bryant they expect something magical to happen, whether it comes from his patented fadeaway jump shot or a familiar drive to the hoop for some sort of acrobatic layup, the kind he used to make routinely. At the age of 37, that's not going to happen too often for Bryant. But the good stuff is still there. The will is still intact. The fire still breathes through No. 24 nostrils. But as it is, Father Time catches up with even the great ones, even with Bryant.Every time he takes a shot, it feels like to you can hear a collective angst in the building as fans hope that this is another great Bryant moment for Bryant they can share with their family and friends. It is both agony and expectancy of elation as we watch Bryant dribble, rebound, run down the court and attempt a shot. In home games in December against the Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets, respectively, the energy of the Staples Center crowd, correctly reflects the position of anticipation of seeing Bryant doing something great. In the Lakers' 113-95 win against the Bucks, Bryant gave the crowd a little something to cheer for, going for 22 points and handing out six assists. He looked controlled. He looked energetic. He looked like the Black Mamba. Two days later against the Rockets, Bryant collected 22 more points and grabbed eight rebounds in a 107-87 defeat. He still looked like Kobe, especially with that one-handed dunk he elevated to when he took on Clint Capela at the rim. Take that for old age!He may not be the Kobe Bryant who won the league MVP in 2008, but he is still Kobe Bryant. He is still the Black Mamba. This season is history. Catch it while you can.