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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. rjlink - Jun 18, 2010 at 2:46 AM

    And posts like this are why Matt Moore is the best NBA blogger out there. Beautiful stuff.

  2. Drizzy Dre - Jun 18, 2010 at 3:54 AM

    That’s a good article, but can we stop comparing the two? Kobe is his own person. He has his own legacy to build. He’s not worried about Jordan’s legacy. He’s just a great player who wants to be the best “he” can be. Let him live.

  3. will - Jun 18, 2010 at 3:56 AM

    everything spot on but thats not what he wants his legacy to be. you just had to have a strong conclusion there, and ya know it.

  4. KJ - Jun 18, 2010 at 9:53 AM

    Wow…I’ve never left a comment here, but I feel compelled to compliment Matt on an astoundingly well-written article…good stuff…

  5. Foul Dwimmerlaik - Jun 18, 2010 at 10:12 AM

    Hazzah! I am inviting the Lakers to my Hobbit Kingdom for a celebration.
    I am in love with Phil Jackson and I can now pursue that relationship in the off season. I am, after all, the King of The Hobbits and he will certainly view me as desireable royalty!
    Hazzah!

  6. Katy 246 - Jun 18, 2010 at 10:24 AM

    This championship he got just goes to show that good guys finish last. It happens in games where the refs look the other way when he knees, pushes, shoves and generally does what he wants any time he wants. Shall we crown the KING for that wonderful sportsmanlike attitude? All Hail Kobe, the KING!

  7. Bobby - Jun 18, 2010 at 10:26 AM

    I’m with everybody else here Matt, this honestly, summed up everything people have tried to phrase about Kobe in a fantastic short, compact column that perfectly describes what his legacy is.
    I am a Kobe supporter and have been since he entered the league. I was cheering for the Celtics because I like the team more but was happy for Kobe that captured another ring.
    Comparing any basketball player to Jordan is just ridiculous. I am one of the few who despised Jordan when he played because he got a free pass from the media and refs. That being said, he is the greatest basketball player to ever play and that isn’t changing now or when Lebron retires.
    Kobe has been polarizing but that is why I have always liked him far more than Lebron. Kobe is the anti-Lebron because Bron’ cares about two things, A)becoming the first $1billion athlete B)winning. You can’t care about both equally and succeed. Kobe cares about winning and winning only. He doesn’t care at all about putting together a mock image to sell sneakers, gatorade, auto insurance etc…Lebrons ego is no smaller than Kobe’s. He isn’t more humble, he has held the entire Cavs organization hostile with his ridiculous free agency, and obsession with getting a college coach hired instead of a proven NBA coach.
    Kobe lives and dies by each victory and his work ethic and toughness are unmatched in this sport and would be tough to counter anywhere.
    He won’t go down as the greatest ever, maybe not even the best Laker ever, but he is still a Hall of Fame player and one of the best of his generation.

  8. David - Jun 18, 2010 at 10:28 AM

    When will the show the thugs outside celebrating by burning cars and smashing windows? L.A. is a dump!

  9. marineman - Jun 18, 2010 at 10:44 AM

    I thought the Lakers won the title???? Who were those other guys out there??

  10. CD - Jun 18, 2010 at 10:46 AM

    I agree with you a 100%. There are two different people with great basketball skills.

  11. kimba felix - Jun 18, 2010 at 10:49 AM

    hi i am a trinidadian and i was in every game and live in every game that kobe played i love his leadership towards his fellow teamates when times are hard he never gives up i loves how he plays with hunger and determination and with a attitude like that will always be a winner i also adores phil jackson,byum,fisher,brown,artest,odam,pau,farmer,viachat,and the rest of the teams all hales to the champions la lakers kobe u are the king.

  12. robert - Jun 18, 2010 at 10:50 AM

    The only reason Kobe is the “anti Lebron” is because Kobe doesnt care about kissing Matt’s @ss and the white media’s @ss to get to where he needs to go. Whiteboys like Matt are the same people who love for the NBA to “transcend”. And we all know what “transcend” means. It means making people like Matt and others in “white middle America” feel confortable watching black millionares playing a sport white America only dreams about once they stop watching boring @ss baseball. Get a clue Matt. Jordan is retired and you guys are going to have to find another non threatining black NBA player to play the “Wayne Brady role”…..this article is straight garbage

  13. Wormburner22 - Jun 18, 2010 at 10:53 AM

    Time has enhanced Jordan’s position as it will Kobe’s. Jordan wasn’t “universally” loved when he was playing. There also were players during Jordan’s time that called him derogatory terms as well and some complained about him getting every call from the refs. Some of it has to do with jealousy, some because of their intense desire to win at all, take no prisoners, cost.
    I still rank Jordan as the all time best but both he and Kobe have the same effect – You have to watch them play especially when it matters most.

  14. Anonymous - Jun 18, 2010 at 10:53 AM

    True, he doesn’t have to be the next Jordan…he’s the first Kobe!!

  15. Anonymous - Jun 18, 2010 at 10:59 AM

    The Wayne Brady role…..LMAO. funny stuff (from an old white guy)

  16. Erik - Jun 18, 2010 at 11:00 AM

    Ya know, I was amazed at the possibility I might make it through a page of comments after a blog without someone being a negative jackass. I almost made it, until you, Robert. Thanks for pushing your negativity on an otherwise good article and positive reception.

  17. Foul Dwimmerlaik - Jun 18, 2010 at 11:01 AM

    Kobe once tried to rape my true love, Phil. It was not successful. For in the end (so to speak), Phil pulled out (in a way) a glorious victory.
    I believe we need to focus more of the attention on my lover and soulmate, Phil Jackson and less on the one they call Kobe.
    Hazzah to My Phil!

  18. Erik - Jun 18, 2010 at 11:01 AM

    Ya know, I was amazed at the possibility I might make it through a page of comments after a blog without someone being a negative jackass. I almost made it, until you, Robert. Thanks for pushing your negativity on an otherwise good article and positive reception.

  19. mia - Jun 18, 2010 at 11:03 AM

    Yeah for Kobe and the Lakers….Huh! did his wife play last night because she was all up in the mix!!! love them anyway, your man Kobe is a keeper!

  20. wtf - Jun 18, 2010 at 11:05 AM

    oh my god robert, that has to be one of the most bigoted comments a person can make, i am not black or white im american indian and i will tell you people like you are worse than the racist on the corner cuz im sure your the type that looks a wma in the face and smiles because you dont have teh stones to tell him what you really think so you sit and bag on a writer like moore, you may not agree with him but he is doing his job, and although i dont agree with everything he says he made valid points …so what have you done with your life oh thats right your sitting on your @$$ whining…and one more thing moron not only does kobe not kiss white media @$$ he doesnt kiss BLACK media @$$ either, and for the record black journalists bag on kobe just as much as any other race of writer…dude your a racist loser …..congrats kobe and the lakers

  21. Elmkid - Jun 18, 2010 at 11:09 AM

    I did something last night I have never done in 45 years of life. I turned off the championship game of a major sports championships with 5 minutes to go. I did not turn it back on. I did not care what the final score was. I am not a Celtic or Laker fan. The NBA is a sham of a game, and I for one will not be watching next year. Two things happened last night to make me concretize my decision. One, last night did not look like ANY regular season game – and I mean any. There was defense last night. It was not the high-flying, any touch on the offensive player gets a foul NBA. It was blood and guts. Who wants to watch a game that is different in the playoffs than the regular season? I’ll pass.
    But the second reason is the most egregious in my opinion. It was obvious with 5 minutes left who would win. Oh, the Lakers only led by 4, but after you’ve seen Gasol mug a Celtic every time down the court, and Celtics getting called for phantom fouls. I’d seen enough. Good-bye NBA, will look for the Wrestlemania channel, where at least the sham is out in the open.

  22. jim - Jun 18, 2010 at 11:12 AM

    How about this for a legacy? A rich spoiled athlete that rapes a woman in a hotel, gets lucky and beats the rap, buys his wife a huge rock in an effort to apologize, and gets rich playing a game.

  23. Randy - Jun 18, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    Kobe doesn’t need to justify his greatness. He’s already one of the top 10 players in history along with Jordon, Kareem, Wilt, West, Baylor, Magic, Russell, Bird, and Oscar. Kobe is still working on his legacy and one or two more championships is within his grasp. Most of the hate is envy. Any fan would love to have Kobe on their beloved team – yes, even the nice folks in Beantown.

  24. Papagallo - Jun 18, 2010 at 11:23 AM

    I am a Jordan-is-the-king fan. I am also a Kobe-is-about-to-dethrone-Jordan fan. In the end it is about winning championships.
    There are many other great players in the league and there have always been. The difference between a Jordan or a Kobe and the rest is that they keep the level of play going through the entire season and then through the entire playoffs until they WIN!. They play through injury, they play through adversity, they play through criticism, and they play to win.
    And if you didn’t notice, all his teammates were happy to win another one WITH Kobe. You can’t win consistently in this league unless you are a great individual player, a great team player, and a great leader of great players. And whatever else you say about Jordan or Kobe, they both have these attributes.
    Its not about being a great player, its about being a WINNING great player. That is greatness. 5 rings? Only 30 years old? There is more Kobe left than his critics care to admit and surely at least a couple more rings.
    Congratulations to Kobe, to all the Laker players, and to the greatest coach of all time Phil Jackson.

  25. robert - Jun 18, 2010 at 11:24 AM

    Hey Jim or should i say hey IDIOT, Kobe didnt rape the girl and girl admitted she wasnt raped. It’s the reason she showed up to the hospital wearing the same panties as the night before after she had sex with her boyfriend. She only complained when her parents found out a black guy named Kobe recked the booty. Get your facts straight or STFU

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