2010 NBA Finals: Kobe Bryant Has a Chance To Further Cement His Legacy

Recently, I've been re-reading The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons.

In part because it's such a great analysis of determining what separated the good from the very good, the very good from the great, and the great from the elite...also because I have way too much time on my hands, and 700 pages of basketball is a good way to kill time.

One of my favorite chapters is about "the secret." He talks about how statistics and talent are overvalued when talking about NBA champions—teams win when players "know their role, ignore statistics, and value winning over everything else.

"They win because their best players sacrifice to make everyone else happy. They win as long everyone remains on the same page."

In further discussion on superstar players, Simmons goes on to create three groups:

"Elite players who made themselves and everyone else better; elite players who were out for themselves; and elite players who vacillated back and forth between those two mind-sets depending on how it suited their own interests."

It's pretty easy to target players in the first group. Guys like Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan thrived on not only pushing themselves to the limit, but their teammates as well.

In turn, their teams got better when it mattered.

You've got to do a little digging to get into the second group. The ideal example would be Wilt Chamberlain, and you could argue that someone like Allen Iverson or Rick Barry did the same.

And for a majority of his career, the player who epitomized the third syndicate would be Kobe Bryant.

There hasn't been a more polarizing figure in the NBA during the last decade or two than Kobe. People either love and defend him vehemently, or they have an almost irrational dislike of him.

The pro-Kobe camp will talk about how, in his younger days, he willingly played sidekick to Shaquil...

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