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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. Pierce this - Jun 18, 2010 at 4:07 PM

    I’m a celebrating Laker fan! But last night’s performance by Kobe wasn’t good at all… Glad his rebounds made up for it.
    I didn’t like his comment about having one more ring than Shaq. Shaq on the other hand openly said that he’s the best Laker, and it’s not the first time I’ve heard Shaq make good comments about Kobe. Kobe should just let it go and be nice.
    To the Celtic fans:
    “Pierce my A55!”

  2. Schae - Jun 18, 2010 at 4:12 PM

    Hey Robert, the ONLY reason why Kobe wasn’t charged was because he PAID HER NOT TO PRESS CHARGES. Also, wasn’t Kobe’s wife BARELY LEGAL when he married her? As I recall, she was a HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR.
    Kobe Bryant is the most SELFISH player in ALL of professional sports and the NBA is a league full of egotistical thugs who think they can do what they want and get away with it because of MONEY. Kobe, LeBron, and the list can go on. I don’t care to pay attention to the NBA because anybody can run up and down a court. If you want to talk about a real sport, let’s talk HOCKEY!

  3. ORB - Jun 18, 2010 at 4:23 PM

    Kobe’s legacy will remain that he used his millions to buy his way out of a rape conviction – not that he’s the first or last sports celeb to behave badly off the field. So as a role model he will be a dud. Who would want to teach their children that if you have money you can get away with anything?

  4. Don Loves NBA - Jun 18, 2010 at 4:33 PM

    The Celtics deserved to win in 2008, but the just ran out of gas in the 4th quarter this year. This was a series of the two best teams. Boston taught the Lakers how to win when the demolished the in 2008. Championships are won with rebounding and defense. The ref’s had nothing to do with the Celtic’s loss in game 7. The team with the most rebounds won every game in this series. Trust every Laker fan thought the ref’s were on the side of the Celtics, and every Celtic fan thought the ref’s favored the Lakers

  5. ahmed - Jun 18, 2010 at 4:48 PM

    michael can and will beat kobe, there is no comparing at any think.
    if michael was still playing he would dunck it in kobe face. but, hes in hall of fame living his live.

  6. Bill Sanders - Jun 18, 2010 at 4:59 PM

    Kobe single handedly delivered the Lakers to the Finals. He worked miracles throughout this playoff run. And just because his shot was off doesn’t mean they would have won without him. His rebounding along got them the win. I’ve never been his biggest fan, and never will be. But no one can question his abilities. He is amazing.

  7. Chet - Jun 18, 2010 at 5:01 PM

    …….as your are Robert boy…as you are

  8. Brian - Jun 18, 2010 at 5:06 PM

    Chris. I did not know that MJ “invented” and can lay claim to the fade-away jump shot. Granted, I only started following and watching basketball as an avid fan since ’88, so maybe MJ did invent the fade-away. Really?? Your st*pidity knows no bounds. Kobe has even openly come out and says YES, ALL HIS MOVES ARE RIP OFFS OF PAST GREATS!!!! So will you rip LeBron’s game like you rip Kobe’s game because Lebron shows many facets of Magic Johnson’s game? No I’m willing to be you won’t. I’m also willing to bet you’re a Kobe Hater with the root of your jealousy being that he doesn’t play on your team. MJ was the greatest ever. The mere fact that haters and fans alike utter Kobe’s name in the same sentence with MJ’s is itself quite an accomplishment. Let’s just enjoy the ride NBA fans while we get the chance. Kobe is the greatest to play during his era. I’m sure Kobe can sleep just fine at night knowing that. Problem is, many of you don’t seem to be able to. But like Colin Cowherd says, “thats a YOU problem, not a ME or US problem.”

  9. Howard - Jun 18, 2010 at 5:13 PM

    The only part of the story that caught my attention was the reference to MJ being universally loved and Kobe not. I’m from Chi-town and I can assure you that MJ was not as loved by all as the writer would have us believe. His ego was every bit as big as Kobe’s and possibly even bigger. He showed his hand at his HOF induction ceremony. Took a dig at everybody but his mother. Hard to believe his wife left him if he was such a great guy.

  10. Jim, Santa Cruz - Jun 18, 2010 at 5:16 PM

    Elgin Baylor was the prototype of the modern ball player and the “greatest”. Check out some old film.

  11. Drew - Jun 18, 2010 at 5:18 PM

    I don’t know why making a Kobe-Jordan comparison is automatically a “derisive smear” on Kobe. It’s fun to compare and, quite honestly, fair to compare them. Kobe is still a top 10 player of all-time regardless of whether he’s better than Jordan. In my mind, Jordan is still the superior player even if Kobe posts 3 more championships.
    I also don’t think it’s just about winning championships. The consensus is pretty strong that Jordan would almost certainly have won at least two more titles in the years he left the league in his prime, plus whatever other titles they may have won had the Bulls’ management not broken up the team after ’98. Not only that, but Jordan’s miraculous play was accomplished with pedestrian big men at best, while Kobe has shown he hasn’t been able to win unless there is a dominant big men alongside him. Every game in the finals in which Kobe posted big scoring numbers, the team lost. In every game they imposed their size and strength inside, they won.

  12. Lakers4Lyfe - Jun 18, 2010 at 5:23 PM

    In the end, not Kobe, not LeBron … no one will ever transcend MJ. Kobe’s jersey will, however, eventually be hung from the rafters of Staples Center with only a select few Lakers. The Lakers don’t hang many jerseys: Elgin, Kareem, West, Magic, Worthy, Chamberlin … only the best of the best go up there. Enjoy his moments of basketball brilliance while you can, because age is a cruel thing, and even Kobe will eventually face that in the next few years. Kobe needs one more championship to surpass Magic as the greatest Laker of our generation. At 31, he has only a few more good years to cement himself as the greatest Laker in the last 50 years. It’s going to be both heartbreaking and fun to watch. Age is a cruel, cruel reminder that we are only human. I can only hope he goes out at the top of his game with one more championship under his belt.

  13. Nolan - Jun 18, 2010 at 5:41 PM

    My first thought is (Please use spell check people) why oh why are all these comments about things other than what the blogger wrote about BASKETBALL! All you people who insist on calling Kobe a rapist should ask your self why so man offspring from first generation African slaves so light skinned? Why are there even today so many African Americans with complessions so pale that they could pass for white? It most certainly is not a result of black man white woman interactions. Seriously, we all need to let it go and concentrate on basketball for this blog and talk about race on a blg site that is dealing with race.

  14. Brian - Jun 18, 2010 at 6:09 PM

    I can’t really say why I dislike Kobe so much, but I do and have since he entered the league. Regardless, he is a great player. But “the greatest Laker?” Have we forgotten Kareem? Magic? Wilt? Jerry West? Kobe has earned a spot among the best, but I don’t think he tops that list.

  15. Anonymous - Jun 18, 2010 at 6:14 PM

    Not the greatest. They could not have won without the co-play characters of Pau Gasol in particular. Although, near the end of the game, the refs, i believe, gave him a call he did not deserve. He charged into Wallace, knocking Wallace to the floor. Foul call on Wallace. The outcome is always in the refs hands, not the greatness measurement of Kobe.

  16. File_This - Jun 18, 2010 at 6:16 PM

    Not the greatest. They could not have won without the co-play characters of Pau Gasol in particular. Although, near the end of the game, the refs, i believe, gave him a call he did not deserve. He charged into Wallace, knocking Wallace to the floor. Foul call on Wallace. The outcome is always in the refs hands, not the greatness measurement of Kobe.

  17. I.H.Castilleja - Jun 18, 2010 at 6:18 PM

    Kobe the greatest player only in his wildest dreams.

  18. MB - Jun 18, 2010 at 6:23 PM

    You’re an idiot. Seriously.

  19. Radrlord - Jun 18, 2010 at 6:31 PM

    Dude, go watch horeshoes are something, y’know, That was one of the greatest defensive games ever. period. Obviously by your own admition, you didn’t get it. Refs allways let em play in 7’s. Every one knows about homecourt advantage, the more aggresive players get the calls, the one’s that get caught out of position or who react to a move get called. How many times did Boston go to the line in game 6 in 2008, The disparity was unreal. Bone up on your B ball, I here ther’es some good badminton games on.

  20. Camy - Jun 18, 2010 at 6:35 PM

    Thanks Bobby you said most of what was on my mind. I can’t stand Jordon nor Lebron. Kobe is a CHAMP in every step of the way. He loves the game and the passion stays with me the fan long after the game. I am from DC and I was glad when the wizards fired Jordon. Doug Collins was also a terrible coach and let Jordon do whatever he wanted. In the locker room Jordon would play the coach role instead of a team mate. Jordon might have been good, but compare to the league now MY 2ND LOVE aside from God is KOBE. To me during Jordon days the league wasn’t anything like now. We have SUPERSTARS on each team and great ones. Jordon was an adult playing with kids and that’s not fair. I LOVE KOBE THEN AND MORE NOW SO ALL YOU HATERS OUT THERE BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ OFFFFFFFFFFFFFF.
    As for Lebron he sold his soul, the fans and the City of Cleveland for what? His Mommy sleeping around. Grow up Lebron.
    MI CAMY.

  21. Thomas - Jun 18, 2010 at 6:36 PM

    The Finest Offensive Player of All Time- give me a break. Just a good player in a watered down league.

  22. G Jamal - Jun 18, 2010 at 6:39 PM

    Agreed. I have been telling people for years that most all professional sports are rigged. People it’s for our entertainment. If you listen closely, they often let it out of the bag the year before in regards to who will be next years champion. It’s sad, but again, “it’s all for our entertainment.” I applaud you Nolan, because you’ve done what some many people can’t do. YOU’VE OPENED YOUR EYES AND YOUR EARS. I am a fan of basketball, not a particular team, but I am sadden by what I have found it to really be a racket. MOST TIMES IN ANY SPORT THE TEAM WITH THE MOST SELLING POWER WILL WIN! If you are a name and you can generate tickets, tv deals, endorsements and etc., you’re favored to win. The people who control this circus make the decisions well in advance on who next years winner will be. Open your eyes and ears people.

  23. Aiulu Faasua - Jun 18, 2010 at 6:42 PM

    Thank you. That was very well said. End of discussion.

  24. ShutupyouWhiner - Jun 18, 2010 at 6:55 PM

    Hey Elmkid. Here’s some cheese to go with your whine.

  25. georgio - Jun 18, 2010 at 6:56 PM

    KOBE! Congrats to the Lakers, well earned back to back belly to belly titles. Enjoy this guys, well earned!
    Stop crying about the officials, if the Celtics wanted to ‘get some calls’ they needed to finish the regular season with a better record. They played the Nets and Knicks enough times where they should have been able to accumulate more wins than the lakers did in the tougher western conference.
    These same officials gave the celtics a 38-10 FT advantage in game 2 of the 2008 finals and won them that game. When you have home court, these types of things happen. Get home court next year and you won’t have to worry about any of it.

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