We knew this day would come. Much like MJ fans dreaded seeing their idol compared to those deemed “not worthy”, we knew Bryant would be subject to the same comparisons. Sure, our opinions are weighted with a considerable amount of bias. But our heads still see Bryant dancing around Toronto defenders, spinning past Maverick opponents, and leaping over Phoenix challengers. He was our superstar when few others wanted to don the purple and gold.
These reasons are why Lakers fans have such a quick trigger when their King is challenged. Few fan bases remained as faithful and committed to their superstar amid speculations of trade demands. In a modern era where players like Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard were crucified by their fans for holding a team hostage, the Lakers fans never turned on Bryant during his darkest days. And they were rightfully rewarded with not one, but two titles.
Ne’er a fan base defended their star as Laker Nation did when Bryant collapsed to the floor in mid-April. Media pundits, radio talk show hosts, and anyone with a Twitter account spoke of the Black Mamba as being “too old” and the injury being “too serious”. We don’t know what form of Kobe Bryant will return to the court, but his loyal fans don’t care.
As Kevin Durant continues his red-hot scoring pace, his hype train rolls on. Over a 14-game stretch since late December, Kevin Durant has lit up the NBA, averaging 36.5 points on 50.9% shooting. The train reached maximum velocity over the past week, which saw Durant go off for 54 points against Golden State and 46 points versus Portland with a 30-point outing sandwiched in between. Suddenly, the volume of people not only comparing Durant to Bryant as a scorer, but saying KD has eclipsed Kobe, has reached a level that can no longer be ignored.
Excuse my bias, but what first started as a knee-jerk reaction has now reached certified crazy talk.
Maybe it’s an audience too young to remember Bryant’s scoring exploits. Maybe it’s a new-age audience focused on “what have you done for me lately,” an argument Bryant has no footing in. Or maybe it’s an audience that refuses to accept that Bryant wasn’t as bad as popular opinion makes him out to be.
You see, what Durant did over a 14-game stretch is impressive, to say the least. But Bryant did that for all of 2005-06. Durant has topped the 40-point mark 4 times in that 14-game stretch. Bryant has had consecutive games of at least 40 points on SIX separate occasions. Oh, Durant scored 54 points? Bryant’s eclipsed 50 points 24 different times.
Forgive us if we’re not impressed.
Sure, Durant is a highly efficient scorer. Bryant was and always will be a volume scorer. Their numbers will always be hard to compare (even if Bryant shoots just 2% worse for his career than Durant). But to so quickly dethrone Bryant should rightfully send the Laker faithful into an uproar. If any could do it in the foreseeable future, it would likely be Durant. But that day has yet to come, and it will be a long time until it will.
Until that day comes, Bryant’s diehard fans will treat the comparisons in the same manner Jordan fans did to him. “He’s not worthy.” “He doesn’t have Bryant’s killer instinct.” “He hasn’t done it long enough.” And for the time being, they’re all true about every player in the league.
Durant is currently setting the league aflame. But to Lakers fans, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. So pardon us for defending the throne.