In light of Kobe Bryant’s recent injury, there is something that I need to get off of my chest: Kobe Bryant is the best player of his generation.
This is a realization that I have not come to lightly. I’ve wasted hours of my life backing Michael Jordan in the “MJ vs. Kobe vs. LeBron” debate. That said, it also isn’t exactly a controversial take. I suppose it has something to do with how one would define “his generation,” but for the sake of this post, let’s focus on the prime years of his career (1999-2010). Who else would we be considering? Shaq? Maybe. Duncan? Nah. LeBron? Not at that time. He picked up the torch that Michael Jordan relinquished; it just took us some time to realize it.
To be fair, there were some bumps in the road. His indiscretions during the 2003 offseason; you know, the ones that led to that tear-filled press conference sitting alongside his wife (nothing a $2M bling ring can’t fix, right?). Then there was the nightmarish 2004 NBA Finals series and resulting off-season, where it was perceived that Kobe forced Shaq out of LA and broke up the latest Laker dynasty.
But once the dust settled, and he was finally able to establish himself as the face and heartbeat of LA, he went on to have masterful performances, and add to his ring collection.
It’s easy to forget his 81 point obliteration of the Toronto Raptors (the post-Vinsanity years). Dude was hotter than Kelly Kopowski working a weekend shift at The Max.
When you take a step back and glance over both his personal and team-leading achievements, there really isn’t anyone that came close.
I already know what argument is brewing amongst you Baconites – LeBron James will be, when it’s all said and done, the greatest basketball player of all-time. I’m not disagreeing, but that remains to be seen. During this particular period, LeBron played second-fiddle to Black Mamba – and the rings prove that. Yes, LeBron put the Cavaliers back on the map, but he never got them over the hump. That’s where the argument ends, in my opinion.
I’ll never relinquish my stance that Michael is the greatest there ever was, or ever will be. Maybe that’s the nostalgia of my youth clouding my vision. However, Jordan slayed every beast in his path – a list that included Bird, Magic and the Bad Boys. But Kobe Bryant is an important link in the “Greatest of His Generation” lineage. When Bird and Magic got too old, Michael swooped in and sat atop the throne. And when Michael bid farewell to Chicago, Kobe Bryant led one of the League’s most storied franchises back to top-billing.
I just hope that this doesn’t prove to be the last time that we see Kobe Bryant slip on the purple and gold. You don’t have to like him, but you sure as hell better respect him.
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