In the final scene of the movie "Whiplash," Miles Teller's character performs a masterpiece drum solo on stage in front of his crazed tyrant of a music instructor played by J.K. Simmons. The hyper-focused Teller sits in a pool of sweat as he unleashes a percussion tornado in front of Simmons, who nods approvingly at Teller -- the first time Simmons has done so in their countless hours of abusive tutelage.
With blood splattering onto the cymbals from blistered fingers, Teller looks up at the stunned Simmons and proudly nails the flourishing end of the solo. At that last slam of the drumstick, the movie ends. Cut to black.
The climax of the movie hammers home the overall theme: You cannot go too far in the pursuit of perfection.
As Bryant said in his famous Kobe System commercial, "Where do you go from the top? You go over the top."
This fits Bryant's legacy. In a statement on Sunday night, NBA commissioner Adam Silver cited "a relentless work ethic" among Bryant's career achievements alongside his Olympic medals and championships. Silver added, "whether competing in the Finals or hoisting up jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game."
But here's the thing: Bryant's greatest strength -- that relentless work ethic -- proved to be his ultimate downfall. Bryant put his body through the grinder, espousing a "no days off" mentality.
One unfortunate result of the "Whiplash" work ethic for Bryant: After his age-33 season, he never played another playoff game.
After he pushed it to the limit, Bryant broke down faster than every great before him.
Take heed, LeBron James.