Driving in my car today, I had an epiphany. Outside of Lakers nation, the rest of the NBA is never going to give Kobe Bryant the full recognition he deserves. Never going to happen. Never. Ever. Eva.
For years now I’ve heard, “he can’t win a ring without Shaq” or “let’s see him win one when he’s the best player on his team.” Now that Kobe is about to win his fourth championship (listen to Lil Wayne wax poetic about that here), we should just go ahead and cue the next slew of asinine excuses not to give the man his due…
“Pau Gasol is as good as Scottie Pippen.”
“Kobe’s still not a great teammate, he just has a great team.”
“LeBron would have won with Kobe’s team.”
“He’s still two behind Mike, and Mike never had Shaq.”
But the one we can expect to hear the most…
“Kobe Bryant can’t win without Phil Jackson.”
I never in my life have heard anybody say that about Michael Jordan, but I’ll bet anything there will be blog posts and tweets galore echoing that sentiment. In fact, people usually say that it’s Phil who can’t win without either Mike and Scottie or Kobe and Shaq. Trust me; when Kobe wins his fourth title, desperate Kobe detractors will use the opposite as ammunition.
I could go on and on about the haters not giving Kobe his proper due. But they never will. He could win back-to-back titles in 2009-10 and people will still say LeBron is better. Forget that Kobe is a way better on-ball defender with a killer instinct LBJ doesn’t even have in his dreams. Doesn’t matter. The King without a crown (or any rings) has already had his coronation. Kobe could win this title and three more, topping Jordan, and the majority of people still wouldn’t compare him to his Airness, wouldn’t even want to put him in the same sentence. So instead of bitching about it, I’ve come up with a new way to frame the greatness of Kobe Bryant.
Kobe Bryant starts phase two of his career tonight. He is now playing to be the greatest Laker of all time.
Lakers fans are not going to give Kobe preferential treatment over George Mikan, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson or Wilt Chamberlain, and he has unquestionably passed every other Laker, even Shaquille O’Neal. If you’re never going to be considered the best player, either current or ever, then a good consolation prize is playing to be the greatest player in perhaps the most storied franchise in sports history. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Lakers are definitely in that conversation.
Meanwhile, let all of those who have been infected by the Kobe Beef hate. All of us in Lakers Nation appreciate it. It’s hard to keep the NBA’s best player its hungriest as well, but you continue to help make that happen. When Kobe has a handful of rings or more, and he will, we’ll have you to partially thank. Now go out and become the greatest to ever don the Purple and Gold, No. 24. Oh, yeah, I’m calling Lake Show in a five.