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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. fireplug - Jun 18, 2010 at 11:28 AM

    Why Kobe will never be the Best NBA player over Michael Jordan? Look at the pictures taken of both players right after a “special moment” in their play on the court. Jordan smiles with an assassin’s confidence and Kobe sneers at the camera with an “in your face” countenance…….
    The difference is in each player’s character during the game.
    Jordan knew he was the greatest ever, Kobe is only trying to be..

  2. joel - Jun 18, 2010 at 11:33 AM

    Good riddance Elmkid…go watch Dancing with the Stars instead moron…

  3. Foul Dwimmerlaik - Jun 18, 2010 at 11:37 AM

    Robert! Control thyself, man. Your emotions are waging a battle for your very existence inside of you and you must emerge victorious.
    Learn to master the demons that live within. Then, and only then, may you achieve great inner solitude.
    I remain, Foul Dwimmerlaik, King of The Hobbits.
    I bid you good day.

  4. Jerz77 - Jun 18, 2010 at 11:38 AM

    Kobe will MJ!! PERIOD!!

  5. Dave - Jun 18, 2010 at 11:51 AM

    Why you using the race card here? Why does many black people (like you Robert) use a race card in every sitution. “White Middle America” and “Wayne Brady Role”…Robert, you are the racist. It’s the “white middle america” that pays 90% the tickets to go to these games. You are just a bitter black man that has an excuse for everthing. Excuses, excuses, excuses…stop whining and using the race for everything that you do not agree with. It’s funny I only see black people complain and use the race card. I never see Asians, Middle Eastern, and other color people from arounf the world using the race card. Get a life Robert you piece of crap!

  6. GIHSP - Jun 18, 2010 at 11:53 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.
    22 – Fri Jun 18,2010 11:12 AM ET Reply
    Right on! How quickly they forget.

  7. Yo Yo Ma - Jun 18, 2010 at 11:56 AM

    Nicely written, but these Kobe vs. Michael legacy comparisons are silly. Different era, different time, different players.
    It’s like comparing blogger Matt Moore to author Stephen King. Gee, Matt, you’re a great writer and all, but you’ll never quite compare to Stephen King. Or, gee, you’re still no Anna Quindlen. I mean, really….
    And love him or hate him, people will say what they want about Kobe. But I’ll tell you one thing – if you heard he just got traded to your favorite team, you’ll be first one on board as his newest fan. We’ll see it happen with LeBron if he leaves Cleveland. We can quantify my theory in new season ticket sales.

  8. Chris - Jun 18, 2010 at 12:02 PM

    In my best robot voice, “My name is Kobe Bryant. I am the greatest basketball player that has ever played the game. Look at me, look at me. I now have one more ring than Shaq. Look at my stats, I rein supreme. I did not steal Michael Jordan’s fade away jump shot, I taught it to him when I was 12 years old. People say I am cold and arrogant, but I just like to win. Win at all costs, win at all costs. Must keep lawyer on retainer to pay off any future rape victims. Well, must sign off now and get my circuit boards checked. Please wait until after the parade before you burn more cars and break more windows.”

  9. Truthfully - Jun 18, 2010 at 12:03 PM

    The fact is that most people have not forgotten that Kobe is a rapist. But, here we are on a board talking about the NBA Championship and the Lakers won it. Of course, you are going to have mostly Lakers fans here who are going to defend the Rapist Kobe with their last breathe. Though, I will say, I have talk to some Lakers fans who agree that Kobe is a rapist, but they are fans of the team so what are you going to do? The NBA doesn’t care because the NBA sells jerseys and othwer crap just as much to ta thug/criminal portion of the population as it does to average middle class people. They are happy to have Kobe get some “street cred.” Anyway, I think that most people still do remember that Kobe is a rapist and they always will. It will come up in almost every conversation of Kobe’s “legacy” that there will ever be, just as it has come up here.

  10. Rollin West - Jun 18, 2010 at 12:08 PM

    Whoever wrote this article is an idiot, period.

  11. Flatlander - Jun 18, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    I was a broken hearted 16 year old when the Celtics beat my beloved Lakers, led by my boyhood hero Jerry West, in game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals.
    Fast forward 41 years later and it was a completely different feeling as the Lakers beat the Celtics in game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals.
    These Laker-Celtic NBA finals are one of the all time great sports rivalries. Both organizations have long and proud histories and it is something special to watch them battle it out for the championship.
    Congrats to the Celtics for a great season. The Celtics showed a lot of class and pride, fighting for all they were worth. Doc Rivers is a great young coach and he did a tremendous job with the Celtics this past season.
    Go Lakers — on to another threepeat next year!

  12. devenso - Jun 18, 2010 at 12:23 PM

    1. I have been hearing the loosers lament – ‘FIX’ – in the NBA since the ’72 Lakers beat the Knicks. Last night I thought the Celtics did much more ‘mugging’ – especially early! As is normally the case, the ‘ref’s’ did not decide the game.
    2. Greatness is measured in rings. This is why Bill Russell is the greatest player to ever play the team game of basketball. Jordan was an amazingly creative player (was he more creative than Dr.J?) but he only has 6 to Russell’s 11.
    3. New Rule. If a woman willingly, by herself, goes into a man’s hotel room after midnight she can NEVER claim rape.

  13. Rick92886 - Jun 18, 2010 at 12:27 PM

    This is why there is still racism in the world and not by whites.

  14. robert - Jun 18, 2010 at 12:28 PM

    Thank you dave for proving what most black people already know. It’s white racist like yourself who would like to play the “race card” who make sports so much fun for African Americans. Sports provides the one venue were racist like yourself cant hide behind ccmputers and microphones so we can prove what many of us already know. The majority of you are as “soft as drugstore cotton” and not half the man you claim to be. Take a look around Limbaugh dittohead. Either you shut your mouth and come out and compete or QIUT. It’s quite obvious you decided to quite instead of competing man to man. Go back to baseball you freaking nerds. basketball and football are for “real athletes”. Not punk@ss wannabe tough guys living off of a rep. aquired 50.60.70 years ago. It didnt take Jesse Ownes to prove Adolf hitler wrong, We knew he wasnt “superior and his “”race” was weak as hell

  15. Flatlander - Jun 18, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    LA is not a dump but I agree with you about the punk losers who feel they have to behave like animals when celebrating their team’s success.
    All of the people (a term I use loosely in this case) you saw setting fires and destroying property after the Laker’s victory did not actually attend the game; most of them probably have $8/hour jobs and could never afford a ticket to a Laker game. They are basically a bunch of low-lives who don’t know how to control themselves.
    However, don’t infer that they represent Los Angeles. I live in LA too and 99.9% of Angelenos would never engage in the behavior you saw last night.

  16. Foul Dwimmerlaik - Jun 18, 2010 at 12:39 PM

    Robert, I can feel your pain. While I am not black, I am King of The Hobbits and I, like you, suffer much indignation from non-Hobbit people.
    However, you must learn to control you anger that steams inside of you. Harness that energy and release in a positive manner. Do not let the arrows of ignorance force youinto a rash and unthinking response.
    Godspeed, Robert.

  17. Flatlander - Jun 18, 2010 at 12:41 PM

    You need to get a life, man.
    I agree with the other posters who responded to you — you come off like a bitter, angry black man who blames people of other races for your lot in life.
    Why do you call white people “nerds” because they don’t complete in “manly sports like football and basketball”. Are you out there playing either one of these sports professionally yourself?
    BTW, manhood isn’t measured by how well you perform athletically, in case you hadn’t noticed.
    Try leaving race out of the discussion — you’ll feel a lot better.

  18. Chuck D - Jun 18, 2010 at 12:54 PM

    Quite honestly, the only people who sound “bitter” are the racist calling Robert names. It’s true that Kobe will never be MJ because Kobe doesnt care about kissing the media’s butt or trying to “transcend” to people who dont care for you anyway for whatever reason. I love Kobe’s “screw the establishment attitude”. It’s 2010 not 1910, athletes today dont have to go “overboard” trying to accomedate those who arent “confortable in their own skin ” and hate people who arent “like them”. That’s what makes sports great. Being part of the “majority” doesnt mean a DAMN THING. You have to prove yourslef out on the feild and if you cant. You either quite or sit the bench. It’s like the ole Toyota commercial…”The game of life is about passengers and drivers……..looks like i am a driver and so is Kobe…put that in your meth pipe and smoke it

  19. devenso - Jun 18, 2010 at 12:55 PM

    Careful Robert – remember what talk like that did to Al Campanis and Jimmy the Greek.

  20. devenso - Jun 18, 2010 at 12:56 PM

    Careful Robert – don’t forget what talk like thet did to Al Campanis and Jimmy the Greek.

  21. Tony - Jun 18, 2010 at 1:02 PM

    Why are a bunch of baseball playerhating nerds posting comments on a NBA basketball blogpage? Dont you have a Rush Limbaugh show to listen too or something? Go away nerds, basketball is far better off without you. The ratings prove my point. Get lost losers..Go Kobe….screw haters like Matt and others….you have a ring and they have a job talking about what you do as an athlete. Talk about jock sniffers

  22. Joe - Jun 18, 2010 at 1:09 PM

    you must not be from the south

  23. Jon - Jun 18, 2010 at 1:16 PM

    I don’t think Kobe is the greatest, but I don’t think anyone else ever pushed his team, and I’m including the owners as well, to win as much.

  24. Jeb - Jun 18, 2010 at 1:29 PM

    I eat tacos.

  25. Foul Dwimmerlaik - Jun 18, 2010 at 1:32 PM

    Hazzah! Tacos are both nutritious and delicious!

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