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NBA finals Lakers Celtics Game 7: Kobe Bryant and a legacy at war

Jun 18, 2010, 12:36 AM EDT

bryantcelebrate.jpgThat’s one for the thumb. 

Kobe Bryant won his fifth title in 2009-2010, nesting a clutch jumper and a series of icing free throws. The storybook ending was written, with Bryant further cementing his legacy as one of the truly great players in NBA history. His veteran leadership and indomitable will to win is second to none and tonight he proved that, finishing with 23 points and 15 rebounds. It was another season, another championship, in his long line of jewels in the crown of his career. 
Well, that’s one way of looking at it. How about this?
Kobe Bryant won his fifth title in 2009-2010, despite shooting 6 of 24 from the field, routinely taking shots out of the flow of the offense, and generally failing to deliver in the most important game of his career. Luckily for him, his teammates who were so often derided for their contributions,  stepped in to cover for him and delivered him his fifth title. Bryant had four turnovers, routinely dribbling into double coverage and failing to deliver as he heaved shot after shot in double to triple coverage. While Bryant clearly has his place among the legends, this performance even more clearly elucidates the difference between Kobe and Jordan.
No, that’s not right either. No, here’s the real story. 
Kobe Bryant once again collected an NBA championship ring behind a stellar playoff performance, while also fanning the flames of debate about what exactly his legacy is. 
There. That’s it. 
Kobe Bryant is, and has been for some time, the most divisive player in the league. Adored by his fans in an idealistic manner, and razed by his critics. He is simultaneously considered the hardest working player in the NBA, one of the hardest working in the history of the league, and one of the most unlikeable players. Players are on record calling him a certain term for an orifice. That’s the reaction he gets from people. Many of whom are his friends. He is considered arguably the finest pure offensive player of all time, and a selfish gunner that can hurt his team with his quick trigger. 
He is the hero, he is the villain, he is the warrior, he is the prat. Beyond all of that he is the champion, again.
This is the real legacy of Kobe Bryant. In Game 7, he forced up shots, and fought fiercely for rebounds, collecting 15. He foolishly handled the ball into traffic, and played stellar defense on Ray Allen. As always, Bryant lifted his fans to greatness and kept his critics’ cross-hairs squarely on him.
And that’s who he is. The player who manages to constantly keep us all talking about him. His life, his attitude, his behavior, his game, his future, his place in history next to the greatest of all time. 
When the buzzer sounded and Bryant collected the ring that pushed him ahead of Shaq, (which he mentioned in the post-game presser), Bryant gave us another chapter to marvel at, and debate, to defend and attack. Jordan was idolized, universally loved. It’s not hard to reach out and grasp the concept that he may have been a more heartless personality than Bryant, and yet Jordan never faced the scrutiny and passionate distaste Bryant has. Kobe has been the lightning rod for the ring. He is still considered the anti-LeBron. His legacy of raising the interest of the league is not the product of his play or the jewelry on his fingers. It’s the product of those rings and the way in which they accumulated. 
To say that Kobe doesn’t care about his critics is a lie. He’s propelled by the same obsessive desire to crush those who doubt him that Jordan was. It is the single strongest thread between the two players. Kobe’s stats don’t rack up, But his attitude and willpower does. Just the fact that he’s compared to Jordan is a huge compliment in and of itself, and yet it’s treated as a derogatory comment. As if “not as good as Jordan” was some sort of bad place, which the rest of the basketball playing universe occupies. 
Bryant’s legacy is build upon the fierce debate he has created in the sports world. He holds something for everyone, even if that something is a deep despise for his every move. And the more the world rallies behind him and throws stones at his glass house, the more he feeds on it and continues his quest to be the very best he can be. 
And that’s what he wants his legacy to be. 
170 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. Neil Is An Azzhole - Jun 27, 2010 at 2:57 AM

    Hi Neil, you old bitter Celtics fan.
    Too bad, your team loses and you decide to call black people “monkeys”, typical of a Boston fan, but hey look at your team…hmmmm, all black except for Scalibrini…LOL
    Go back to the 1950s, you racist pig. Better yet, stick a corn cob up your ass. I am sure that isn’t the only thing that has been up there recently.

  2. Jim Wants Kobe Badly - Jun 27, 2010 at 3:04 AM

    Hi Jim, I think you would love to have Kobe rape you…anyone who obsesses on this whole Kobe is a Rapist subject (after all, the event occurred almost 6 years ago now) must indeed have a desire, a lust, a hunger to have Kobe in his butt.
    Jim, enjoy your fantasy, but I don’t think Kobe wants you. Sorry to say. :(

  3. Jim - Jun 30, 2010 at 8:34 AM

    Kobe is not even close to Jordan or other “great” players. Great players play great in the NBA Finals more often than not. Kobe has underperformed consistently in the Finals. He has been in 7 (impressive) but shot 41% in those and only once shot over 43%. Thats not great no matter how you spin it. Shaq was clearly the Finals MVP on the first 3 titles, and one could make a very good argument that Gasol was the best and most consistent Laker in the last 2 Finals. I know I will get all of the “you’re a Kobe hater” emails from the under 30 crowd that have no clue. Tell me another great player who has shot so poorly on a consistent basis in the Finals, you won’t fine one. Now everyone including the media wants to annoint Kibe as the greatest Laker, that is hilarious. Magic, Kareem, even James Worthy were much better Finals performers. Yes I know Worthy’s complete numbers don;t match, but he didn’t choke in the Finals…

  4. luffy - Jul 1, 2010 at 5:35 AM

    FU dude! Ok, we understand, you’re a rape victim who sued and didn’t win so putting all the hate to Kobe… Ok, ok, fine, Kobe will not be the greatest ever, satisfied? Pity you, such a hateful creature…

  5. FDJLakers - Jul 1, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    This is for you, “Truthfully”, and all of those who accuse Kobe of that of which he is not guilty.
    A long time ago, Kobe was clearly unfaithful to his wife in Colorado. But he has repented of his unfaithfulness to his Lord and to his wife. His wife forgave him because she could see his heart, not because of the “rock” he gave her later. Remember: if she was interested in money, a divorce under the circumstances surrounding Kobe at that time would have been extremely beneficial to her. She would have gotten so much more than a diamond ring if she had chosen divorce! But she didn’t sue for divorce. She chose to believe the repentence in her husband’s heart. She chose to believe in something that escapes you and your hateful kind: she believed in love, forgiveness, and her marriage.
    Kobe and MJ have had temptations from thousands of women that you can only dream about. This is certainly not to suggest that we should succumb to temptations……but it is nevertheless very difficult to ignore them under pressure and when they present themselves to you over an over again. MJ chose to have an affair with a woman while he was married and playing for the Bulls, but paid her to keep her mouth closed while he was actively playing BB. Perhaps if he had not paid her, then she might have cried rape in order to make millions. That last sentence is suppostion only, but the affair and his payments to keep his little extra-marital affair secret is very real.
    Kobe did not pay the woman to keep her mouth closed. Instead, she had sex with her boyfriend just an hour or so after she had been with Kobe, got beaten by her boyfriend after he found out about her being with Kobe, and then schemed to make money off of a rich basketball star. Eventually, she admitted there was no rape.
    Let he who has never made a terrible mistake in life cast the first stone at Kobe Bryant. Kobe has stumbled, asked forgiveness, received forgiveness from his Lord and from his wife. If you cannot accept that, and if you cannot give up your condemnation of this man, then do not expect to be forgiven of your own trespasses. You are doomed, and deserve every ounce of the condemnation you will receive for your own sins, mistakes, and errors.
    Kobe is a good man. He is not evil, nor is he above anyone else in his daily walk in life. But as far as basketball is concerned, he is the greatest basketball player of all time!
    GO LAKERS! THREE-PEAT IN 2011!

  6. MtyQuinn - Jul 2, 2010 at 9:31 PM

    I agree 100%. Kobe has been in the league 14 years and have reached the NBA final 7 of those 14 years. Who else can clain such BBall success?

  7. Finally Said - Jul 4, 2010 at 12:08 PM

    Why does everyone assume Obama is smart. He’s the only president who’s college transcripts are kept secret, as well as his Law thesis, it a pure joke. Talk about a puppet for George Soros. Obama is a clown, and America is not going to stay silent on this fool much longer. Peaceful protests only will do though.

  8. Nicklwilliams@aol.com - Jul 6, 2010 at 5:40 PM

    The Kobe hype is bizarre to me. Even some going as far as Michael Jordan. Sorry, not even close. Kobe may have won the finals MVP, but he didnt play great, he didnt play like Jordan. The closest player to look like Jordan on the biggest stage of basketball was D-Wade, who in his one finals looked better than all of Kobe’s five finals combined. Kobe has looked great on some of basketballs lowest stages, such as a regular season game against the Toronto Raptors. Kobe’s a great player, a hall of famer, but playing for Lakers has been good to him. I dont think Kobe has been the best player in the NBA at least for a few years now. The LA hype machine has delivered for Kobe IMO.

  9. Stallion John - Jul 6, 2010 at 10:08 PM

    Kobe = Un-evolved Hype and Glamour
    Jordan = Substance, Bruises, Awards, and Accolades from the TOP 50
    Rings don’t make or determine who the greatest player of all time is.
    They just start the debate about who the nominees are.
    The bottom line is that when –
    multiple players from the Top 50 Greatest of All-Time defer to you as the GREATEST,
    you have more Finals MVP’s, and
    have won them with ” decent BUT NOT OUTSTANDING players such as Horace Grant, Bill Cartwright, and Toni Kukoc,
    When Larry the Legend Byrd says he saw GOD score 63 points against his team, and
    when Chuck Daley and the Pistons have to write an ENTIRE BOOK ABOUT HOW TO DEFEND A BASKETBALL GOAL AGAINST 1 PLAYER.
    Then you might- JUST MIGHT -be a contender for Greatest of ALL TIME.
    Kobe’s been BLESSED to be on some very good and sometimes great Laker teams for the majority of his time in the NBA.
    Jordan didn’t have that luxury. It took 5-6 years before he had a true supporting cast.
    Not to mention-
    Kobe has been mostly a perimeter player who could get HIS shot off most of the time for most of his career. That hasn’t really changed over the years. He hasn’t had to and he’s only got 4-5 years to make up the dicrepancy in FINALS MVP awards. After that he’ll be a bench player.
    Jordan was not. MJ was a slasher -take it to the rim, in your face, dunk or be mugged player. His points were harder to make, involved more pain and muggings, and after several years of this punishment he changed his game. From being mainly a slasher/ scorer -Jordan became much more. He was a good defender for years -BUT HE GOT BETTER. He developed a BETTER jump shot in order to EVOLVE as a player. He adapted – and overcame everything that was thrown at him-
    including –
    THE JORDAN RULES.
    Kobe can’t put that on his resume.

  10. loungefly - Jul 7, 2010 at 3:00 PM

    well…both are great players. kobe does not need to be jordan. Jordan was a killer with ice in his veins. I’m saying Kobe is in the same mold…
    Okay, lets break down what you said:
    Un-evolved hype & Glamour? Kobe has gotten better thru the years. Kobe doesn’t throw big lavish parties and such so I don’t know how you get glamour.
    bruises? kobe plays with broken fingers. the guy is tough. you have no arguement. Players are also tougher, stronger, and faster now than the days of Jordan. That goes for ALL sports athletes.
    Hmmm…didn’t Magic and West call Kobe the best Laker ever? I think they may know something or two.
    The Jordan rules were about his pre ring days…and didn’t the piston’s logic work? Yes. they shut him down. Lets talk about the quality of the league. The League is WAY more loaded now than ever. Why? International Stars. Its a global game now.
    I laugh you didn’t mention Pippen or Rodman as part of jordan’s team. The lack of mentioning them makes your statement less credible. I mean really? come on! be better than that. jezuz…
    The perimeter shot is tough to master. Look, Kobe is a better shooter (including 3’s)…oh..and Kobe can go to the hole anytime though jordan was a better slasher, granted.
    Kobe is a great defender as well. Both are. Both ALL NBA Team.
    Look, I’m not saying Jordan isn’t the best. He probably is! Heck, I loved watching MJ. I’m 36 years old so I was able to see both of their respective careers. My point is…they are both champions and the best in their eras. Just making the argument like the article says is a compliment to Kobe. Kobe is Kobe. He doesn’t need to be Jordan.
    Let’s also remember…Kobe still has 4-8 years left on his career. The Lakers are loaded right now. He could win a couple more titles. Will that change anybodys mind about his legacy? ( It should but I doubt it…don’t hate the player, hate the game!)

  11. Nick - Jul 7, 2010 at 4:16 PM

    Kobe shouldnt even be compared to Jordan. Kobe cannot goe 1 on 5 against a finals team and take the title home. Kobe has needed his teammates, none of that more obvious than these past NBA finals. I sure didnt see anything close to Michael Jordan playing in that series. Kobe has rode the LA hype machine and monstrous LA bandwagon to the perceived top. Pau Gasol should be getting as much credit as Kobe right now. But the LA fans will keep buying and selling the hype.

  12. loungefly - Jul 8, 2010 at 7:58 AM

    Tell me one player solely responsible for winning a championship? Don’t say MJ, he had Pippen & Co…Jezuz..your comment has to be one of the dumbest ever. Basketball involves 5 guys playing together. Kobe has won 5 rings. The guy is good. Get over it, fool.

  13. stem - Jul 10, 2010 at 2:01 PM

    in all the blather of this silly debate, can anyone name me one thing kobe does better than jordan?
    it’s certainly not defense.
    it can’t be scoring
    it can’t be assists
    it can’t be rebounds
    it can’t be leadership (though that is improved over the last 2 years)
    maybe 3 point %…but that’s with a closer 3 point line.
    kobe does have one up on mj: he managed to lose twice in the finals. MJ never figured out how to do that.
    you can’t compare russel and jordan. the era’s are simply too different. Jordan and Kobe’s eras are compatable

  14. Bret - Jul 12, 2010 at 2:20 AM

    This clown that wrote this article comparing MJ to KOBE is a FOOL…first off..Jordan never played a finals matching up with 3 Hall Of Famers with 2 MANGLED FINGERS ON HIS SHOOTING HAND…Jordan Matching up with MORE BUMS THAN A HOMELESS SHELTER IN THE FINALS ISN’T IMPRESSIVE…let’s take those BUMS that Jordan matched up with ala UTAH’s Bryon”8ppg” Russell, Shandon “4ppg” Anderson, and Jeff”KOBE WOULD MURDER ME BLINDFOLDED” Hornacek…or THE LAKERS Terry “WHACK” TEAGLE, Tony “4ppg” Smith, and Byron”I’m just the 4th best player on my team”Scott..AND REPLACE ANY OF THESE WHACK CUPCAKE TRIO’s that Jordan went through and put them in the place of RAJON “TRIPLE DOUBLE THREAT” RONDO, PAUL”HALL OF FAMER” PIERCE, AND RAY”HALL OF FAMER”ALLEN…IF KOBE EVER HAD THE FORTUNE OF MATCHING UP WITH THE CUPCAKES JORDAN FACED ALA BRYON”8PPG”RUSSELL, SHANDON”4PPG”ANDERSON, JEFF”WHACK”HORNACEK INSTEAD OF RONDO, PIERCE, AND ALLEN..KOBE WOULD AVERAGE 40-45PPG BLINDFOLDED AND THE LAKERS WOULD’VE WON IN A SWEEP…KOBE LEADING THE LAKERS BEATING A TEAM THAT FEATURES 4 HALL OF FAMERS IS REMARKABLE…KOBE IS THE GREATEST SHOOTING GUARD TO EVER PLAY…PERIOD

  15. BRET - Jul 12, 2010 at 2:32 AM

    Did it ever occur to you that Jordan got better numbers because he’s matching up with WEAK COMPETITION?…Jordan going through and matching up with BUMS ala Bryon”8ppg”Russell, Shandon”4ppg”Anderson, and Jeff”WHACK”Hornacek is CUPCAKE COMPETITION Compared to Kobe going through and Matching Up with ALL-STAR TRIPLE DOUBLE THREAT RAJON RONDO, PAUL”HALL OF FAMER”PIERCE, AND RAY “HALL OF FAMER” ALLEN Shooting the Ball with 2 MANGLED FINGERS…Now ask yourself this question…If Kobe had MATCHED-UP with Bryon”8ppg”Russell, Shandon”4ppg”Anderson, and Jeff”WHACK”Hornacek instead of Rondo, Allen, and Pierce…HOW MANY POINTS A GAME WOULD KOBE AVERAGE?…Keep in mind that KOBE averaged Nearly 30ppg going through Rondo, Pierce, and Allen…If Kobe is doing this against Future Hall Of Famers what the hell do you think would happen if he’d faced those CUPCAKES Jordan Faced?

  16. loungefly - Jul 12, 2010 at 9:29 AM

    Great argument Bret. I think a lot of people are just not realizing the talent of the NBA as a whole has stepped up big time.
    I have no problem with people saying MJ is the best ever…what I do have a problem with is these same people calling Kobe a chump/loser just because they feel threatened.

  17. kev - Jul 15, 2010 at 10:02 PM

    if you suggest kobe gets away with murder, lebra gets away with chainsaw massacre as well as other supers like wade nash and dirk…a lot of kobe’s fans like him because for some unusual reason, he gets treated like a rookie more often than not

  18. kev - Jul 15, 2010 at 10:17 PM

    huh? i know its not flattering, semi insulting depending on how you view kobe…but not straight garbage

  19. kev - Jul 15, 2010 at 10:22 PM

    luvin it

  20. cannamation - Jul 16, 2010 at 3:05 PM

    Congratulations to Princess Lebron for winning his second straight NBA MVP Award just like Steve Nash. Now Princess Lebron can put his focus on winning a NBA Title with Wade and Bosh.
    Follow him on his journey to winning that elusive NBA title that eludes the true Kings of the NBA…(sarcasm)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JSfre74_gY
    Lebron is hard at work on his next music video and will be premiered very soon. About his gay relationship with D Wade and Bosh is the real why they have teamed up for the Miami Heat.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JSfre74_gY

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