Los Angeles Lakers: On Competition and Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant has entered the legacy stage of his career, and the talk around the barber shop and on ESPN's Page 2 these days centers on where he ranks all-time, top five, or top 10. There are a few I'd rank over him—Michael, Magic, Russell, Kareem, Oscar, Wilt, Larry. I'd estimate him somewhere in the same strata as Elgin, Hakeem, West, Shaq and Duncan, although he's nowhere near finished. When its all said and done, he will end up somewhere between 3 and 8, with Jordan and Russell out of reach and the rest a slight possibility.  


I've been a defender of Kobe Bryant since his 2002-2003 campaign, after the Lakers had just won three championships in a row. That was when he started to raise eyebrows around the league, and the hate was just beginning. I wasn't participating in the Kobe vs AI debates, as the pattern hadn't emerged to me yet. I thought it was just a Philly connection. But it got pretty heated when Vince Carter entered the picture. 


Kobe vs Vince—remember those days? The human highlight reel certainly had his proponents, yet I kept telling the folks who would listen: It ain't about the highlights, it's about the skill set and the decision making. Vince surely had his moments, but he would never be as consistent and reliable because he didn't have a counter to every move.

It's not even about the heart—that's too abstract—it's about understanding the game, understanding the opponent. Basketball isn't about pre-deciding what you are going to do, but rather, it is about reading the defense and reacting in a split second whether to go left, to step back, or to raise up. It took a while, as Vince is in his own right a hall of famer, but time caught up and Vince faded from the argument. 


Next up: Kobe vs T-Mac—now those were the days! T-Mac is the most complete offensive p...

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