Saturday, May 16, 2009

Kobe vs. LeBron, the final word

Is this even a contest? (check out this ESPN roundtable to see what all the fuss is about) Here's how you can make it more interesting. If we're to look back rather than forward and ignore now, then we can build a semi-solid case for the most polarizing athlete in the NBA (Bryant). By any metric, right now: statistically, athletically, as a locker room presence LeBron owns Kobe; the only exception where the self proclaimed Black Mamba beats out The Chosen One is with his three championships . That is by no means an unremarkable accomplishment, but in a sport where Michael Jordan redefined greatness and transformed the way we assess excellence using individual brilliance as a measuring stick rather than team play (basketball is the most individually focused team sport possibly ever, but that is probably due more to marketing than what actually takes place on the court ), then with Shaq aka The Diesel aka Big Aristotle aka The Emperor of the Bling Dynasty (circa 2000-2002), aka Kazaam spearheading the acquisition of said championships, well this knocks Kobe down a peg or two because he wasn't The Man on the team, he was a co-star. Ever since he got top billing the Lakers have won as many titles (and made as many finals appearances) as the Cavaliers have (they're both 0 for 1).

When Jordan was a scoring machine and championshipless all the naysayers said he'd never be Magic Johnson or Larry Bird, turns out they were right but not in the way they meant. Jordan wasn't any of those guys he was Jordan and he was better than everyone else. The wrap on Jordan was that he was an amazing athlete but he'd never won any championships so he would never be in the same league figuratively as the aforementioned players (sound familiar?). Then he went and won six. This is what happens when athleticism meets talent and determination: championships. This year LeBron will win his first (this is hardly a bold prediction, it's something like saying the sun will rise tomorrow) and certain experts will start to acknowledge greatness after the fact. Why wait though?

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