The debate as to whom the best ever to don a pair of ball kicks reigns on. As the true fans of the game KNOW that the talk is just that…TALK. Most will agree that Michael Jordan ( aka: The Standard) is the greatest basketball player the league has ever seen. There were no weaknesses in his game and he was relentless at perfecting his craft.
The league searched high and low for the next “Air Jordan” and there were a lot of good players who would mimic the style and attire but would fall short of the accomplishments. But there IS one young man who is so close its scary. Its like looking back in time and seeing a young MJ. Kobe Bean Bryant (aka: The Black Mamba) of the World Champion Los Angeles Lakers is quickly closing the gap of becoming not only air-apparent but also air-successor. But could Kobe ever be called “The Greatest Ever”? Let’s explore a few reasons why wrestling that title away from MJ is impossible:
10) ORIGINALITY – When MJ came into the league he didn’t emulate anyone. Sure he took certain things from great players but he also brought his own swag. The baggy shorts, the tongue out, the waving of the legs on dunks, the wristband on the elbow, the list goes on and on. Kobe does EVERYTHING like Mike. From giving interviews, to the way he moves on the court, the celebrations after hitting shots, etc. You can’t surpass “The Standard” when you are wearing his shoes!
9) CHANGING OF THE GAME – When the “No-Hand-Checking” rule was implemented in 1994 it opened up the game for more offensive play. The NBA’s need for a more up and down running game was set in motion and many across the league benefited. MJ scored at a relentless pace on opposing defenses which were geared to stop him at a time when you could hit and hold him and no foul would be called. Not Kobe’s fault that David Stern created the wall of separation. Nevertheless, a distinct divide is present. What would MJ do in today’s league and what would Kobe do in the league of yester-year? HMMMMN.
8) THE BIG ARISTOTLE – In this ever growing feud of words and championship rings, Kobe is forever tied to Shaq. MJ was tied to Scottie Pippen but there was never a doubt of who was number 1 and who was number 2. Because Kobe will always be noted as being the character that pushed Shaq out of Hollywood, he gets no wiggle room. A blooming dynasty that could have won as many as they wanted, egos and stubbornness forced management to break up the dynamic duo.
7) THE RAPE CASE – Undoubtedly the one thing that made Kobe bow to humility was the Denver Rape incident. We all know that Kobe had consensual relations with that promiscuous young woman but its how he handled it that showed his character. He threw his teammate under the bus when questioned by authorities. Call it being naive or spiteful but in the eyes of the world he became a snitch. He lost more than a few endorsement dollars with this move. He lost respect and dignity amongst his peers. What took years to build came crumbling down in hours.
6) UNC CHAPEL HILL – This is the place where GOD would have gone to school if he was a basketball player according to Carolina alumni. And he did according to most fans who witnessed a freshman hit a go ahead bucket in 1982 giving legendary coach Dean Smith his first ever championship. There are many alumni and supporters within the NBA and with Kobe not even attending college, MJ’s legacy is rooted in a depth unknown to Bryant.
5) THE PHOTOSHOOT – OK. I had to throw this one in here. Did you see Kobe’s photoshoot from the LA Times? You know the one where he looks like a black Zorro? Do I have to say anything else?
4) PHIL JACKSON – When Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan hooked up for their first of 6 championships, the star studded Jackson was an unknown commodity. Michael’s brilliance on the court seemed to far outweigh Phil’s brilliance on the sideline. Fast forward to Kobe’s first championship where Phil already had six wins under his belt and was noted as being the determining factor who had the ability to mesh bulging egos and win. Also Phil’s book “The Last Season” talks about Kobe’s selfishness and him costing the Lakers a championship in 2003 and 2004 because of his unwillingness to pass. Then he wouldn’t sign his contract unless Shaquille O’Neal was traded.
3) CHAMPIONSHIP RINGS – Kobe has 5 and MJ has 6. I do believe Kobe will catch and may even surpass Mike if his team stays healthy. But the point is that MJ’s ring dominance is so amazing because he did it in 2 three-peats and after taking a year and a half off from the sport. I truly believe he could have won 8 or 9 straight championships if he would have remained in the game.
2) OVERALL DOMINANCE – I think the late great Chuck Daley who coached the Bad Boys to their back to back championships said it best when he said “this guy is so good he is an embarrassment to the league.” MJ is solely responsible for stopping Hall Of Fame players/coaches from ever winning a championship. From Ewing, Malone, Stockton, Sloan, Barkley, Karl, Miller etc, the one thing they all have in common is that number 23 guy in Chicago. And we have seen MJ retire 3 times, come back and still drop 40 points at 40 years old. He had people talking about the retirement of the number 23 around the entire league. MJ is recognized all over the world by the bald-head blacked out silhouette. He has ventured into many things and even is a majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. Kobe has yet to retire and his dominance is great and we will have to wait and see if he can still “be like Mike”.
1) THE BLUEPRINT – MJ wasn’t the first dunker or the premier scorer or the best 3pt shooter the league has ever had. He could do all those things but he dazzled us with style, flair and an insatiable appetite for winning. There weren’t any competitors who you could mention in the same category as MJ and he not make it a personal vendetta to dismantle that opponent. When he walked off the court he left you with no room for comparison. He publicly dismantled Barkley’s Sixers, Isaiah’s Pistons and Magic’s Lakers to win his first championship. He took more than a championship aura from them…He snatched relevancy. Now all the kids and players alike…”want to be like Mike.”…EVEN KOBE.