Why Kobe Bryant is the NBA’s real “King.”
by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
I can’t count how many times I’ve been called a “Kobe Lover.”
In fact, the actual number of times would probably be considered ridiculous if there were a way to count them all up. What’s funny is that for the people who’ve given me that label as a diss–a diss that I’ll gladly accept anytime–what they don’t know is that for a long time, I wasn’t a big Kobe Bryant fan. I liked him when he was at Lower Marion and when he got drafted in 1996 I think I may have been a fan for maybe his rookie season, but that was it. After that, I became very critical of him and stopped liking him for a very long time.
I can’t exactly remember when it all changed and I became one of the biggest Kobe Bryant fans outside of Los Angeles, but knowing me, at some point I came to the realization that this guy was the second best player to ever play the game and hating on him would only make me look stupid in the long run. By the way, we all know who the first is. The guy that people say Kobe’s been a clone of since day one, Michael Jordan.
That’s actually one of the reasons why people–myself included at one point–tend to dislike Kobe. The other reason has something to do with that thing that “allegedly” happened in Colorado that one time; emphasis on allegedly. But I’m not going to get into a moral discussion here because I don’t care about any of that stuff. I’m a basketball head to the bone, so the non-basketball things doesn’t matter to me anymore.
Unlike a lot of people, I’ve learned that in order to truly appreciate Kobe, you must use a filter. You have to filter the MJ copycat stuff out, his perceived arrogance, and the incident in Eagle, CO. Once you’re able to get rid of all of the things that are inconsequential and focus strictly on the basketball aspects, it makes it that much easier to see and accept the fact that Kobe Bryant is a bad mother…excuse me. But you get my point.
So I’ve come to the conclusion that hating on Kobe makes you a hater of the highest order. It puts you right up there in Silky Johnston’s HHOF (Haters Hall of Fame). Even worse, from here on out, any hating on him shall be cause for openly questioning one’s knowledge of basketball. Yeah, it’s that serious because realistically speaking, when it comes to this game, Kobe Bryant is hater proof. For real.
Beginning Thursday, he’ll be competing for his fifth NBA Championship. If he wins, he’ll have the most championships of any active player making him tops amongst his peers, if he even has any of those anymore. He’ll also be playing in his third straight NBA Finals series. That’s right, three in a row. That hasn’t been done since Shaquille O’Neal was playing in La La Land. Remember when all of the talk was that Kobe couldn’t win without the “Big Everything”? Well, you can throw that right out the window. Whether he wins or loses this series, Kobe’s proven that he doesn’t need Shaq. And Shaq’s proven that he’s old.
Kobe’s life mission as it pertains to basketball is to be the greatest ever. Not just in word, but in deed. He’s chasing the greatest player we’ve ever seen in the modern era in Michael Jordan (nothing wrong with that), and it’s scary to think that had things unfolded a different way, he might already be there. Think about it for a second.
This is Kobe’s seventh NBA Finals, the most among any other active players and one more than Jordan played in. Had he not lost to the Pistons in ’04 and to the Celtics in ’08, he could be tied with MJ right now and looking to surpass him in about a week or so. I know what you’re thinking, ‘Well, if MJ hadn’t left to play baseball, he’d have won eight titles’. To that I say, you’re probably right. But either way you look at it, actual or hypothetical, like it or not, Kobe is right on MJ’s heels and he got there by setting a goal and doing whatever it took to achieve it. He’s the epitome of what it means to “aim high.” He doesn’t care about anything else, only his legacy and his place in this game and I hold the utmost respect for him because of the work that I know he’s put in over the years to get where he is today.
Whether you choose to accept it or not, he’s the person that today’s players judge themselves agains. Kobe is the player that everyone is trying to be better than now. Not MJ.
And should he one day pass Michael Jordan in the championship category, Kobe will still never be as loved and revered as Jordan was (and still is). Actually, it may even make him that much more hated by the masses. The love and admiration that is typically reserved for those who win has for whatever reason gone to LeBron James who hasn’t won anything, but real hoop heads know what’s up when it comes to KB24. He is “That man.”
So even if you don’t like him as a person, don’t let that blind you and keep you from admitting that Kobe Bryant is probably your favorite player’s favorite player. Don’t let it keep you from acknowledging his greatness. Don’t let it keep you from admitting that he’s the best basketball player in the NBA. There’s a big difference between being the best basketball player and the best “athlete” and once you can differentiate between the two, it might change the way you view things.
Kobe Bryant works harder at his craft than probably 99.9 percent of the entire League. He leaves nothing to chance and the results speak for themselves. We’re supposed to honor those who show a commitment to focus, greatness, excellence and hard work, not hate on them. He doesn’t deserve that.
I’m not writing this to try and change anyone’s mind because it’s futile. It seems that once someone has decided to hate on Kobe, that’s it. There’s no going back for them. They’ve drank the Kool-Aid that says that winning is unimportant and a player’s greatness is determined by Sportscenter highlights and shoe commercials and not on anything tangible like Larry O’Brien trophies, championship rings and banners. The haters may not want to admit it, but with a straight face they can’t say that Kobe Bryant sucks at playing basketball. So why even bother?
Still, to the Kobe haters, hate if you must. But know that if you do, when it comes to a debate about his greatness and his place among the best ever to play this game, you’re going to lose that argument every single time. His body of work speaks for itself and one thing has nothing to do with the other anyway.
Kobe Bryant is the best.
End of discussion.