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

Jun 18, 2010, 12:36 AM EST

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. Josh - Jun 18, 2010 at 1:38 PM

    Robert is just another in a long line of angry black folks who cant compete intellectually with whites and asians and never will be able to. Fine, us white folks like to watch a bunch of brothers throw a ball into a hoop….but thats all you will ever be to us. Your not equal in any other way other than sporting abilities….every single other factor worldwide is controlled by whites and asians becasue we are intellectually superior and you know it all too well…hence the anger and instantly bringing up race when it had nothing to do with the conversation at hand. Im telling you, this PC bullsh*t and constant race baiting by every jealous black is going to explode in a powder keg sometime in this country, and it wont be long off. its going to be ugly…..we are sick of race being injected into everything. Im telling you the truth, 90% of white people feel exactly like I do….

  2. Tedrick - Jun 18, 2010 at 1:39 PM

    I hear you on attempting to check Robert with the race card however many of Roberts points were accurate. However i dont feel you can ask someone when and how they choose to use the race card which is studpid phrase. Unless you are a Black man (like myself) you probably have never faced the same obsticles that this person has faced and he cant be blamed if it has him frustrated. As far as you line about other races not using the race card. look what going on in Arizona im sure latin people are using it as well as they are being profiled stictly on there race. Also forgive Blacks for stil being bitter about Slavery and racisim those happened in this country against Blacks not these other races you mentioned.

  3. Kirk - Jun 18, 2010 at 1:41 PM

    For someone who should be in Jail, Kobe did a fine job. Although I think Basketball is a fools game. Boring and simple, it doesn’t take much of a genius to play it.

  4. Tedrick - Jun 18, 2010 at 1:49 PM

    Someone need to pray for you because you have some serious issues. Your mind is clearly still in a previous decade. Robert made a comment about one or maybe a few writers opinions. Now you are going to generalize that Blacks cant compete with whites. You need some help. Lets take a look at our past two leaders and believe me there are 1000’s of men that are white and are equal to Geroge Bush and there are 1000’s of Blacks that are equal to PRESIDENT OBAMA. Why would you stood to such childish levels with your comments. I thought this blog was about the finals. Please stay on topic.

  5. bowlrmark - Jun 18, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    jealous??????????????????????

  6. Treg - Jun 18, 2010 at 1:52 PM

    No offense Josh but you might be the worst example of “white excellence”. If anything you come across as some po trash redneck who voted for sarah Palin and wears a KKK teabagers hood. And by the way Josh, the black guy in office is alot smarter than you and the rest of your Klu Klux Klan family. One things for sure , Obama is alot smarter than dumbass Srah Palin…..there goes your theory right down the drain. Now lets get back to sports Josh…unless you are scared of black folks or your parents already convinced you you cant compete against black people because of the leftwing media. Thank you Jish for proving your own theory is BS. You obviously arent talking about yourself. You are a dumbass white person. What else you got? Guys like Josh are the reason i like boxing. I can see the fear in his face before he steps in the ring. Stick to hacky sac you goober.

  7. Tony - Jun 18, 2010 at 1:56 PM

    Actually Josh, i think you prove that you in particular are not a very smart white person. If anything you come across as a dumbass racist white redneck. Thank God sports have run people like yourself off of the sporting feild. Ask Rush Limbaugh? He left before he got his ass kicked for being a racist.

  8. reformer - Jun 18, 2010 at 1:57 PM

    I agree with you Tony. All this legacy crap is nothing but literary garbage! Kobe and the Lakers! that’s the real story..The team that bounced back…Legacy nonesense! Who cares about what the author is saying. The thing at the moment is the championship and Lakers has it! If the Lakers lost, all the more the writer will say Kobe has no legacy..such a nonesense!
    Lakers! Three-Peat! Grandslam Baby!

  9. robert - Jun 18, 2010 at 2:00 PM

    Yeah and baseball is for non athletic people who cant play basketball or football. Baseball is just as boring as lawn bowling…..go away nerd…real athletes play basketball and football…you strike me as a peron who likes male figure skating…

  10. Omnius - Jun 18, 2010 at 2:01 PM

    The only reason that Michael Jordan is considered the greatest player of all time is that too many are too young to remember Rill Russell’s outstanding play. As an old Laker/Wilt Chamberlain fan I used to hate Bill Russell for always winning rings against West and Baylor and Wilt. But if anyone should be considered the greatest player of all time it’s Bill Russell, and that’s tough for a lifelong Lakers/Wilt fan to admit. Jordan did very well and is right up there as one of the greatest of all time and now Kobe belongs in that club a little more so than Magic Johnson who had a better team around him during the 80’s when he won 5 rings. Last night Kobe couldn’t stop throwing up bricks, so he did what he had to do to win which was grab rebounds. No rebounds no rings and Kobe has a 5th ring because he remembered that sage mantra from Pat Riley. Air Kobe is right up there as one of the greatest players ever in the NBA and he has a few years left to enrich his legacy.

  11. Omnius - Jun 18, 2010 at 2:15 PM

    What a pathetic petty partisan political racist rant from some Neo-Nazi White Supremacist. As a white man I abhor your John Bircher garbage about White and Asian people being superior. You and your tea bagging white trash should go back to NewsWhine at Fox and Freaks and spout your racist hatred there where it will be received well by your Facist Racist Beckerhead pals. You are quite wrong that 90% of white people believe in your racist whinings, that would be 90% of the tea bagging Drag Queens Prancing around with their beloved Nazi symbology because they’re too racist to support a black man in the White House which by the way is not a white man’s only club. This is supposed to be about basketball, not a political blog. If you don’t have anything intelligent to say about the Finals then shut up little punk.

  12. [a] proxy - Jun 18, 2010 at 2:23 PM

    Sound it off Lakers fans! 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5! Kobe got that 5th cookie…LOL! Congratulations Lakers! Back 2 back champions!

  13. Aaron - Jun 18, 2010 at 2:29 PM

    Amen.

  14. mark - Jun 18, 2010 at 2:41 PM

    well said

  15. Emilio - Jun 18, 2010 at 2:43 PM

    Kobe has had much better team talent during his championships than MJ did. Sure MJ had Pippen, but then role players at every other position. Jordan made the others better no question. We saw what happen to the Bulls when Jordan retired. Take nothing away from Kobe, he is a great player, but he is no Jordan. Regardless of rings, here are the top playeres ever. MJ, Bill Russell, Kobe, Wilt, Magic, Jerry West. Jordan was so good, that ruels had to changed when he retired to keep fans seeing offense. (Defensive 3 sec. rule, hand check etc..) The man changed the game forever. Just like Ali changed boxing forever.

  16. Tom in MA - Jun 18, 2010 at 3:08 PM

    AH, a kindred spirit! Without any doubt, if willing is the measuing stick, Bill Russell is the greatest NBA player ever. For those of you too young to remember him, Russell has more rings than he has fingers! think about that for a minute! 11 in 13 years! Many at the expense of the Lakers!!! As a life long Celtics fan, I have to wonder about this year’s outcome had Kendrick Perkins been able to play. In any even, the Finals had the NBA’s royalty contresting for the championship. AS for Kobe, Id rank Russell, Oscar Robertson (triple double for a season) Jerry West, NBA logoman and gentleman, Wilt , a nearly unstoppable force and even Karl Malone, who dominated for over a decade—- all of these before Kobe! Just my (no so) humble opinion! :)~~

  17. j s - Jun 18, 2010 at 3:11 PM

    The girl was in his hotel room to “be with” a rich basketball star.
    Period.
    Wake up.

  18. Hate - Jun 18, 2010 at 3:14 PM

    I love how all these haters wanna be calling Kobe a rapist..Kobe didn’t do anything more with that skank than 100+ others before him already had. He had such great role models to look up to in the adultery dept. JORDAN,SHAQ, MAGIC, this list goes on. He wasn’t doing anything that 90% of all pro athletes are doing on a daily basis. Some just chose their women poorly & wind up in the legal system that forces them to legally “pay” for the tail! Pro athletes are no strangers to character flaws, many of the greats had them and still do. I personally was appauled at MJ’s HOF Acceptance speech.. he is so full of himself even still today. The biggest difference is that Kobe has to deal with the media & online message board frenzy at a pace that is far greater than any of his predecessors. He is THE GREATEST PLAYER of his generation & right up there with those of all time. As a society that must have a villian you all hate what you cannot have and will never be.

  19. Matt - Jun 18, 2010 at 3:27 PM

    I personally think that he is a good player…but not the best. 5 championship rings are great…doesnt make you the best. I think coaching has a great deal to do with that. I would say Phil Jackson is a huge contributer. There are other great players out there who I think have more talent, but just don’t have a good support staff or coaching. This is a team sport….kind of like football…you have different positions…cant say one guy is better than others because they need each other to become great.

  20. zephyr99 - Jun 18, 2010 at 3:32 PM

    The arrogant punk cannot hold Magic’s jockstrap (or Jerry West’s for that matter…and Elgin Baylor makes three).

  21. It's Me - Jun 18, 2010 at 3:40 PM

    Over “Lew” Alcindor, Jr., (AKA Kareem)? Over Earvin Johnson Jr. (AKA Magic)? Are you THAT stupid? Kobe Bryant is arrogant, over-rated, and over-paid.

  22. Cory - Jun 18, 2010 at 3:45 PM

    FYI- Tiger Woods is the first $1 billion-dollar athlete. At least until his wife takes half of what he has won before they married! I bet it is more than Jordan’s wife got!

  23. Mike D. - Jun 18, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    Wow Robert! Every time you post something you sound more and more uneducated. You were never an athlete were you? You really do not understand the business of professional sports do you? And you obviously think that all white people are racists just like yourself. Do you know the definition of racism? Do you know that if someone hates another race, they are racist? Based on your comments you sound like the one who is racist here. I really do not think that race has anything to do with basketball, baseball, football, hockey or golf. Maybe you should just relax a little bit and remember, professional sports is a business and it is only entertainment. Who the hell cares who the greatest player of all time is or was? The entire concept is up for debate and is completely subjective. That is what makes this entertainment. I think you are taking it way too far sir.
    I find it funny that you say that someone who is white would prefer figure skating. That is ignorant and just plain stupid. Have you ever played hockey? Do you know how difficult of a game hockey is? I would have to tell you that hockey is the most physically demanding of the major sports with football coming in a close second. This particular season was much longer for most hockey players due to them playing for their respective countries in the Olympics.
    Before you bash people, maybe you should get your facts straight and maybe you should sound less ignorant and racists yourself before pointing the fingers at others.
    Greatness is based on an era. Kobe may be the greates in his as Jordan was in his. Are you going disregard players like Russell and Chamberlain? That would be ridiculous.

  24. woodie - Jun 18, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    I think Kobe is the most EGOTISTICAL, SELF-CENTERED-POWER HUNGRY-IT’S ALL ABOUT ME” player in the NBA…I watched the interview he gave during the playoff’s & he was asked who did he look up to as his idols…he named Jabber, West, & a couple of other players…when he was asked about Michael Jordan, his comment was “oh I never looked/thought about MJ as one of my idols”…Kobe is a BOLD-FACED LIAR…MJ was the only player in the league who wagged his tongue uncontrollably at times going up/down the court when playing…not only does the LIAR, WAG HIS TONGUE LIKE MJ…HE TRIES TO WALK/TALK LIKE MJ…EVERY LITTLE PERK HE COULD PICK UP FROM MJ…HE DID…I don’t know why the Lakers hired Phil Jackson because Kobe thinks he is the coach…NO KOBE IS NOT A LEGEND, BECAUSE, WHEN ASKED, MJ said, “HE SPECIFICALLY SAID PATTERNED HIS STYLE OF PLAY AFTER DR. J, WHO WAS/STILL IS, one of the classiest player’s in NBA history…AND YOU KOBE, WILL NEVER BE A DR. J (Julius Erving/Michael Jordon)…you are a wannabe…& I am not a Celtics fan…if you knew how a whole bunch of people feel about Kobe, “kOBE, YOU ARE THE KIND OF PERSON that makes a person want to “UPCHUK”….THE REASON I don’t watch the NBA as much, because I get sick/tired of hearing about Kobe, when there are a lot og players in the NBA who deserve a lot more respect than Kobe….the “WANNABE”

  25. well - Jun 18, 2010 at 4:02 PM

    so who’s the next Kobe?

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