2010 NBA Finals: In Defense of Kobe Bryant

If the Los Angeles Lakers do not win the NBA Finals, Kobe Bryant haters will have a field day.

Bryant is one of the most divisive athletes in sports. Some people swear he is better than Michael Jordan. However, detractors dismiss him as a ball hog.

Regardless of whether you cheer for Kobe or root for him to fail, you need to respect his game.

First off, let me say that I am not in the "Kobe can do no wrong" camp.

I'm not naive. I don't think his desire to win stems from a deep sense of loyalty towards his teammates. I don't think he bought his wife a $5 million ring because he's generous.

Kobe Bryant is a flawed human, just like the rest of us.

The reason you need to respect Bryant begins with his infamous work ethic.

There may not be a harder working player in the NBA. He is never satisfied and is always trying to get better. Despite standing at "only" 6'6", Bryant enlisted Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon's help, to improve his low post game, over the summer.

(Just think if Dwight Howard was that dedicated. While the NBA is loaded with talent, it is short on dominant centers. Add some killer footwork to his athleticism and size, and Howard could be transcendent. Seriously, how is he not averaging 30 points per game by now?)

Praising an athlete for their work ethic is a sobering reminder of how so many great players lack drive. It also illustrates how so many fans begrudgingly accept athletes who are at many times indifferent towards reaching their potential.

Think about it.

In the world of business, shareholders expect CEOs to increase profits every quarter. In politics, voters expect politicians to never make mistakes. Teachers are expected to turn every student into a genius.

As a society, we even expect fast food workers to quickly deliver us our food the same way every time.

In sports, however, most fans care...

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