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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. Ted - Jun 19, 2010 at 2:01 PM

    This was a very good article! To think that the NBA players are stronger and more athletic now in Kobe’s era than in Jordans, Magics, or even Wilt’s time and the numbers that he puts up every game and in the clutch when the game is on the line is Amazing! Face it, Kobe is facing stronger, faster, and more athletic opponents than Magic or even Jordan did! There was nobody to really to rival Jordans abilities and leadership during his time. Ok there was Dominique, and Clyde, but those guys didn’t play defense. If you compared all the stars now in Kobe’s era thats in the NBA to those players during Jordan’s time, you’ll see that the players now are stronger more athletic than the past. theres no comparison. Just my thoughts…

  2. Zeke44 - Jun 19, 2010 at 2:23 PM

    “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.”
    This is a ridiculous statement. One cannot, by definition, be happy that Kobe and the LAKERS beat the CELTICS if one is a Celtic fan. It is a contradictory statement that makes no sense. Either you “cheer for” the Celtics and HATE Kobe and the Lakers, or you “cheer for” Kobe and the Lakers and HATE the Celtics. There is no middle ground. For example, when Bill Russell, arguably the greatest complete player ever – with 11 rings to show for it – was introduced at Staples to present the MVP award to Kobe, the crowd appropriately booed him. That is because he was a CELTIC, and repeatedly crushed the hearts of Laker fans back when the Celtics dominated the playoffs. He is a nice man, and time has passed, but he is still a hated Celtic.
    So, make up your mind – you can’t have it both ways. Celtics/Lakers, one or the other – no middle ground.

  3. Zeke44 - Jun 19, 2010 at 2:28 PM

    “How’s that English as a second language class coming?

  4. jonnymac - Jun 19, 2010 at 3:24 PM

    It’s hilarious how the the anonymity of the internet has brought out all the nuts, race-baiters, race-resenters, and MJ fellatio artists.
    Kobe was never convicted due to the fact that the prosecution dropped their criminal case when 3 different sperm samples were found on the victims panties. If you don’t like Kobe just say so…instead of trying to play internet lawyer with a high-school education. Kobe will always not be MJ because of his indiscretion, and rightfully so perhaps…The nice part was that after the game it appears he has succeeded in repairing his relationship with his wife, which ultimately is the most important thing. And trust me if you think MJ wasn’t sleeping around during his day, you’re naive….it’s just that back then loose women kept their mouths shut.
    MJ was a superstar for his time yes, why?…beacuse it was after the league had basically started to die ratings-wise. MJ was a marketers dream and they exploited it to the hilt. Why do so many people love MJ?…same reason so many people eat at mcdonalds…or saw Avatar….marketing. To say that the defenses of back then were tougher than today…child please. It’s just that because he as so different they didn’t know how to play/guard him…and please before he won a ring…MJ ball-hogged ALL the time.
    Kobe may not have had a great game 7….but he had plenty of great games all season that lead his team to the playoffs and home-court advantage. And trust me when Kobe gets the seventh ring all you internet-warriors wil have to give props where props are due….he was not the greatest….but was pretty damn good!

  5. MM - Jun 19, 2010 at 4:45 PM

    Congrat!! Kobe.. You are the best player at all time. I don’t care what people say or whatever. You are still the great one. Kobe is kobe not MJ so please do not try to compare. Kobe can built his own legacy and repeat the next champions 2011 for sure!! Go Kobe and the Lakers Team!!

  6. Anonymous - Jun 19, 2010 at 5:54 PM

    If the didn’t want to be compared to MJ he should keep his damn tongue in his mouth. I think Kobe is a foolish player, but incredibly skilled and I love watching him play.

  7. UncleJunior2 - Jun 19, 2010 at 7:08 PM

    I’ve never been to L.A. — but I know GREATNESS in sports when I see it, and I’ve been seeing it for quite a few years now in Mr. Kobe Bryant! It was a GREAT game seven… even though the offense was struggling as if in a dream when you need to RUN, but can’t… But they made up for it on defense. Both teams played awesome defense. It was a very interesting game, even though a low scorer. Gasal is a gem… a gamer… I love the whole team. And Michael Jordan can step down now. I say he ISN’T the “greatest of all time”. It is Kobe Bryant.
    And before I end this, the GREATEST coach of all time, BY FAR, is Phil Jackson: calm, intelligent, brilliant at communicating and strategizing. Just the best!

  8. UncleJunior2 - Jun 19, 2010 at 7:20 PM

    Johnnymac:
    I agree with everything in your post! At last, someone who sees things exactly as I see them. The marketing with Jordan… the way his other great team players rarely get mentioned — and the coach he played for, The Master of all Coaches… Phil Jackson… that’s something charles Barkley never had….and I loved Barkley. Jordan knew that he was his “competition”.. and Barkley defied all gravity in those days, coming down with most rebounds at only 6’4″ with the body of a football player, and scoring 25, 35, 45 points a game plus all the rebounds. Barkley was the BEST. Too bad he was wasted for 8 years with unappreciative, cheap and pedestrian 76ers.
    But now back to your post: It was great. Thank you.

  9. Anonymous - Jun 19, 2010 at 7:24 PM

    I agree with everything in your comments. You are 100% correct in your observations and opinions…. Too bad majority of people don’t realize they have been systematically brainwashed by the media and with marketing and commercialism. Thanks for posting.

  10. ocgunslinger - Jun 19, 2010 at 8:31 PM

    You are a F749ing IDIOT.

  11. SFWA - Jun 19, 2010 at 8:40 PM

    Obviously you’re a Celts fan. But seriously…you have the nerve to say that crap when all your punk-ass players do is jump full speed into their defender to try to draw a foul, flop by flying backwards like they just got hit by a train to draw a foul, shove the opposing players in the back when they jump for a shot or rebound, grag the opposing players uniform or arm or whatever’s available, etc. etc. etc. You Boston people are a bunch of gripping cry babies man!

  12. ralph - Jun 19, 2010 at 8:52 PM

    yeah all you celtic fans take pride on your team being physical, but please dont return the favor, in 08 gasol was tagged as being a whimp and thats why they lost, so this time around the lakers were determined to be just as physical as the Cs and you start whinening how come you look the other way when laker players are being knocked around silly ? the calls went both ways.

  13. Uncle - Jun 19, 2010 at 9:37 PM

    That was a terrific comment(#120)you wrote, on a few levels of subject. Thanks for posting.

  14. P - Jun 19, 2010 at 10:29 PM

    I am glad to hear someone finally tell the truth about KB, you should go to ESPN and school them

  15. P - Jun 19, 2010 at 10:32 PM

    AMEN

  16. P - Jun 19, 2010 at 10:38 PM

    Amdn, Kobe is a fraud and the NBA marketing machine has brainwashed the TV viewers to believe he is special???? He’s not, he does not respect his team and uses a separate locker room!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. C.T.F - Jun 19, 2010 at 11:09 PM

    All you Black and White are still talking bout racist? If you all dissappeare from this planet maybe we won’t have this problem anymore. So shut the F@#$, before the Chinese and Japanese and the Asian World take over this country. There’s no comparison between Kobe and Jordan, there both a competitive athlete in a diffierent era. And beside all the championship rings that both superstars colleted, do you think they can really fly like Lebron James does. He’s the future Man in the his era..
    Super Freaks

  18. c.t.f - Jun 19, 2010 at 11:47 PM

    Whether anybody like it or not he’s a supertar you idiot!~!

  19. fireletterman - Jun 20, 2010 at 12:13 AM

    kobe is a RICH rapist.

  20. supporting act - Jun 20, 2010 at 1:18 AM

    A well written article about a topic many find interesting. And many thoughtful reader comments. Unfortunately these thoughtful comments have to be searched for in a sea of considerably less thoughtful statements, reducing the reading pleasure. I find that forums that filter comments (anything with all caps, multiple exclamation marks, hate speech, etc) are much more fun to read. With all the energy NBC spends on its NBA site, why not install filters?

  21. john - Jun 20, 2010 at 4:48 PM

    Kobe did not rape that girl but regardless of whether he raped her or not, what does that have to do with being one the greatest or 1 of the greatest BASKETBALL players?

  22. Solomon - Jun 20, 2010 at 8:42 PM

    Dave you are a racist. The way you just grouped many black people together in your statement, shows the contempt within your heart for African Americans. These other groups you mentioned didn’t have 400 years of slavery and 150 years of unequal treatment in this country. These other groups did not have their family members sold and their wives raped by their master in front of them. Even-though, times are much better, people like you show why blacks need to be vigilant and continue to speak out when racists show their ugly heads.

  23. nick - Jun 22, 2010 at 1:27 PM

    How about we focus on how well Artest and Gasol played in this series. They were the reason why the Lakers won. Kobe shot 6 of 24, turned the ball over 4 times which didnt include numerous broken plays where he dribbled into double coverage, only to realize that there’s nothing there.
    Kobe was a liability in game 7. He didn’t defend Ray Allen. Ray Allen sucked in his own right – his missed jumpers were mostly open. He wasnt being defended well, he just couldnt hit anything.
    Rondo wasnt defended well either – he just couldnt play well b/c he cant shoot from beyond 10 feet. He usually is still able to be effective by driving the lane, but with the Laker bigs, that didnt work either.
    This Laker win was all about Artest’s heart and energy (he played like 45 minutes in this game), and Gasol’s remarkable offensive skills. Let’s give credit where credit is due, and stop wasting editorial space on Kobe’s supposed legacy. Had Artest not stepped up with incredible defense and timely scoring, the Lakers would have lost, and Kobe’s 6/24 performance would have been a stain on his career. Now we’re talking about how he’s the greatest ever. Does that make any sense?

  24. juswunderin?? - Jun 24, 2010 at 6:45 PM

    is it just me or did anyone else catch a glimps of some unknow white funk on the corner of Paul Pierce’s mouth in the 4th qtr?? Just wondering cause that is just plain straight out gross!! Wipe the corners of your mouth bra..!! Your not that bad lookin, but white funk on the corner of your mouth, looking like you done got bit by Kujo is not cool honey, total turn off..!!

  25. Smoots - Jun 24, 2010 at 6:58 PM

    WARNING; I think this cat Robert isn’t black at all but only here to rouse and incite people to visit racist thoughts. Get a clue its 2010 people. Either way he is winning. Think about that. On Kobe-Rape: I was his biggest fan till the Denver incident. It ticked me off that he would put himself in that position. She was and is trash and he could have simply closed the door. Cut to C. Barkley’s commercial “I am not a role model” In this day and age we shouldn’t expect any athlete or actor to be one they are just human praise them if they end up champion’s hero traits. Now home girl had multiple Semen DNA in her drawls folks. This chick had Noah’s ark in her panties. I don’t think her raped the girl… Jordan-Kobe different eras in the evolution of the game. Jordan never lost a finals… Multiple MVP’s… Scoring titles “Never got 80 in a game that is just amazing”… Jordan avg is like 30 points in the play offs. Kobe is just the closest thing we will see to MJ a very close 1.2 to Jordan’s 1.0 and I hated Jordan while he was playing…

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