Friday, December 12, 2014

The Kobe Bryant Legacy

It shouldn't be a big deal. Not yet at least. Not while he is still playing and might take a shot at Karl Malone's 2nd place spot in the All Time NBA Scoring List. As I write this, the Lakers are going up against the Spurs tonight, and the Spurs would like nothing more but for Kobe to just jack up shot after shot and break any sort of team rhythm the Lakers have. Spurs win, Kobe gets to surpass MJ, win-win! But no! I am a Lakers fan first, Kobe fan second and to me, it is not a win-win! I don't have high expectations for the Lakers this season, not with an aging seemingly-lost Carlos Boozer as power-forward. But I did expect them to be better than their current standing and not be grinding it out down the cellar (or best case scenario an 8th seeding in the Western Conference! okay I maybe dreaming but hey!). Media is making a big fuss about this whole race-to-third because it's good ratings, and why not, it is after all still a history making event. But surely a divided emotion to the true Purple-&-Gold contingent who wishes the achievement is also riding a better season. The franchise is playing so poorly and I think the Hollywood approach is to just focus on Kobe's pursuit of surpassing MJ. In fact now, that is what I believe in (thanks to my Javita for keeping my mind focus! Visit for more info! Shameless plug I know LoL). There's gotta be something newsworthy to keep the buzz alive right? And why not throw in the MJ vs Kobe-Who-Is-Better argument in there. Sure fire blockbuster in the social media world.

Aaah! Who is it really? Is there really an end to the much thought-provoking, hate-driving, opinion-generating question in all of basketball? I wish there is but trust me I don't see that ending anytime soon. We'll probably have Skynet taking over the world already and they won't even think of destroying basketball archives to keep the debate alive. It's that itching. And like anything else I am blogging about, whether in politics, Claire Danes or sports, I am suppose to be putting in my perspective, my own tad-short Stephen A. Smith vocabulary-breaking and emotion-filled opinion. And so I will... Look people, those who were at their prime and watching 80s and 90s basketball would say that the Magic-Bird era is the best era of basketball ever! These same people have witnessed the rise and domination of a certain Michael Jeffrey Jordan. Basketball was never the same. As a kid during that time, watching the Bad Boys of Detroit, Dikembe's wagging finger, Lakers vs Celtics, the Rain Man Shawn Kemp taunting opponents and the really long wrist bands that Ewing wore, transformed my appreciation of the game. I never really liked Michael because he was just too darn good and I felt that the success he was having was too much for one individual. But you gotta give it to him. Nothing you can do but respect greatness. He is truly the best, hands down!!!

Now growing up a little older and they say wiser (I wish), I also witnessed the birth of the Kobe Bryant era, which may not actually be his era to begin with. Tim Duncan probably has a better grip to the "era" title because of his equally celebrated accomplishments (and the beat goes on...) But let's not drag timid Timmy into the mix. The reason why the Kobe-MJ comparison is obsessing is because Kobe is the closest thing to a Michael Jordan, and I mean it in the most flattering of ways. I mean the way he plays the game, the intensity, the moves. But I don't think Kobe has influenced or elevated the game of basketball as a sport over-all bigger than MJ. However, it certainly doesn't make him a lot less great. Kobe's achievements are amazing in itself, 62 pts in 3 quarters vs the Mavs, multiple All-Star appearances, second highest score in a single game (81) against the Raps, 5 NBA titles and now the 3rd spot in NBA scoring history at helm. But Kobe never started a fad like MJ did when he made bringing out one's tongue when making a hang time move in the air pretty cool. Nor did Kobe break any uniform decorum by having his basketball shorts two inches longer than the standard measurement like Michael did then, which by the way paved the way to the complete annihilation of the shorty-shorts (kudos to John Stockton who rocked it last and did it, I should say, with much gusto). So over-all, six championships or not, Kobe is only second to MJ, however in certain aspects equals him and even surpasses him (oh yeah).

Now now, before you Kobe die-hards explode in protest, listen. It is a question in itself why we keep comparing who the better basketball player is in the first place. We shouldn't because we would have to drag Lebron in and I'm never in the mood to do that, warranted or not. Comparing the two superstars is just a great argument and because that is what sports is all about. It is about breaking records and comparing stats or players which makes it actually relevant and worthwhile to be honest. It's competition and it would be such a boring field if both analysts and fans don't argue. Kobe did not want to be in the next set of superstars following MJ. It is in totality a such tough act to follow. But Kobe, by choice or not, took it. So inevitably the criticism and the perennial comparison is something Kobe is carrying, and that my friends is already a feat on it's own. I don't have a problem if the Kobe fanatics find their idol better than MJ. It's just like asking a Celtics fan if Magic is better than Larry and vice versa to a Lakers fan. There's never gonna be a right answer and no one will ever be better than the other. It is in the same concept why I don't hold a grudge on Clippers fans who think they own Los Angeles now. Yes, it is their time and they should cherish it but as long as the 16 NBA championship banners are hanging in the rafters, then this is a Lakers town, period (you didn't really expect me to just give my Purple & Gold a pass did you?) So Kobe fans, don't fret. We understand if you WILL always think that he is better than MJ. What is being a fan all about if you're not gonna stick to your guy or team anyway? Still there are those who views the game of basketball entirely different and would be able to provide an even plain field, opinion-wise. And if for just one minute you remove your Kobe hat (which I don't really see happening) and see it on a neutral perspective, then you'll probably find MJ's shadow side-by-side with Kobe's.

As a last argument on why Kobe took a huge amount of money (or why the Lakers paid for such) for two-years, well, here is my take. What a lot of analysts keep on forgetting is that Kobe is a marketing magnet. You invest on Kobe to fill in the seats, to take the heat of the Buss family on a constant basis and to have a daily story line to be significant if your expectations for the season and the next is not up there. Let's be real. It is not just the contribution that Kobe has given the Lakers that he is getting paid for, it is still the business he is gonna bring in as well. Could you imagine not having a franchise player on your roster and expecting to sell jacked-up ticket prices and fill the Staples Center? StubHub would have a feast. And the only reason why some Laker games still gets televised nationally even with a despicable record is because of Kobe. Okay maybe because the Lakers is the most popular team in the NBA but who they really watching... Kobe! They are not gonna air these games on TNT or ESPN if Kobe is gone and they have.. well.. Chris Bosh? Rajon Rondo? Besides, who best to demand dedication and passion from players to the Purple & Gold but him? And Kobe knows it. He is not gonna accept less than a cent if he knows the Lakers are gonna exploit his popularity and his drive to succeed, his no excuses attitude every single way possible. Remember, the NBA is a business first, sad but true and the Lakers need to stay afloat even on a bad season. And Kobe is their cash cow... and perhaps for one more year after this. So yeah, don't think Kobe is greedy for not wanting to get a pay cut to attract other quality players. What are the chances you agree to a pay cut from your job so they can bring in an overachieving Account Executive in the team? Probably not. That's Mitch Kupchack's problem, not Kobe's.

So this is Kobe's legacy. He is like Channing Tatum dirty dancing ala Magic Mike after Matthew McConaughey's performance. He is like the douche bag boyfriend who broke up a great love affair with Shaq and later on proving he was right all along (don't read into that too much now LoL). He is the the over-priced but seasoned IT Director who doubles as Marketing VP for the company just by being himself. He is no doubt decorated, arrogant to an extent yet very accomplished and inevitably the 3rd Highest Scoring Player in NBA history. Live with it or live with Jack Nicholson's voice haunting you at night telling you that you cannot truly handle the truth...

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