The last month has afforded us some deep insight into the psyche of a city scorned. Cleveland may have some bitter resentment or even a tinge of murderous rage towards LeBron James. Trouble is, they created him.
Before “The Decision”, James was, in many people’s minds, the best player in the NBA. While the past month’s events may have initiated a questioning of that fact, it only takes a brief look into the person closest to his skill set to see the argument against that theory.
Magic and Bird were compared, Jordan to them, and Kobe Bryant to Jordan. It is a cycle that will never cease. Since the moment LeBron James took his talents to the NBA, he was measured up against the best. Here are ten reasons why Kobe Bryant holds the title of best player in the Association, and why LeBron remains comfortably in the number 2 spot.
10 Kobe is a champion –
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Championships are the measuring stick we use in American sports. It is why Michael Jordan is still making underwear commercials. Would we all be so interested in his “airness” if he did not rattle off two three-peats in his career? I will make it easier: would we laud Robert Horry with so much praise if he didn’t have the jewelry that he does? No, he would just be a great role player that played for various teams. And sort of looks like Will Smith.
9 Kobe stayed –
This is a rarity nowadays. You almost can never purchase a team jersey. Then you’re “that guy” walking down the aisle at a Dodger game with a Steve Finley jersey. Kobe tested the waters of free agency. I remember. Los Angeles was losing their collective minds like it was rainy season. No one knew what to do or say. Church attendance was at an all time high. Then came his “decision.” He said he would come back. He had a press conference. And then went to work. Yes work, not Tao.
8 Kobe has a closer’s mentality –
This is perhaps everyone’s favorite trait to expound on an athlete. He is a killer. Although I am sure it is not as if Kobe Bryant and Mariano Rivera are out big game hunting with a pocket knife and floss in the off-season. There is truth to this mentality, though, and the success it lends to the athlete.
LeBron James has now fled the harder of scenarios for much greener pastures. The champagne is flowing before he has won anything in Miami. Which is fine when you consider this is the party LeBron enjoys. No pressure.
7 Kobe has no friends –
Now there are those that like Kobe, hell, even love Kobe. But you do not have the kind of relationships on the court that you might have between, let’s say, Magic and Isaiah Thomas. You will not find The Black Mamba kissing his opponent before a game. Kobe barely shakes hands before a tip-off. Why congratulate your next kill. That would just be rude.
He does, however, have enemies, those that irritate him. These are people we would normally try to avoid. But things are a bit different when you are chasing titles. Kobe welcomes the pushes and shoves. So much so that sometimes these enemies become allies. Take for example, Matt Barnes, whom a few months ago was trying to bounce a ball off of the Mamba’s grill.
Now Bryant is welcoming him to Los Angeles. Matt Barnes, a recent Laker acquisition, relayed, "He told me anyone crazy enough to (explicit word) mess with me is crazy enough to play with me." Kobe loves winning so much he will do it with his enemies.
6 Names –
Kobe is the best tasting beef you can get in the world. It is made from cows that are fed on beer and little cow dreams.
LeBron is, by my best guess, a French term for someone who has the pre-disposition to take his talents elsewhere.
5 He wants the ball –
Better yet, he craves the ball. No, no, that won’t do. He demands the ball. But this seemingly bad trait has become the epitome of what people now want in their athletes. By people, I mean Cleveland and by now, I mean since LeBron tanked in the playoffs. Kobe has had his detractors but no one can deny that he wants the ball at all times.
4 Defense –
LeBron has turned the corner on defense. He has received honors for NBA All-Defensive first team in 2009 and 2010. This is a new trend and is not indicative of his whole career. LeBron only recently has showed the tenacity it takes to be successful on the opposite side of the ball.
Kobe Bryant is an eight-time first-team and two-time second-team All-NBA defensive selection. More importantly is his insistence at times to lockdown the opposing team’s best player, as he did recently with Rajon Rondo in the 2010 NBA Finals.
3 He knows who he is –
When describing himself as a leader, Kobe has no qualms telling people that Derek Fisher is the nurturing one and he, well, is not. He knows his role. He understands that some people hate him and that some people expect the world from him. It is the latter that gets him up in the morning for workouts.
When James left Cleveland, one thing became very clear. LeBron James does not mind not being the man. The wear and tear of knowing the city’s hopes were on your shoulders was too much for him. Yet he wants to be a global icon, a champion, a ringleader. The dream is counter to his lackluster drive. He has been told time and again he is the king but he has not realized that his actions have told us otherwise. He would much rather hold court alongside others than lockdown the throne himself. The king would very much like to be the jester on a winning team.
2 He has been through the Fire –
You cannot have a ten-point article on Kobe and not mention Colorado. Taking just the sports angle here, you have to marvel at the extreme nature of the trial and what Kobe did. During the regular season in 2003 he went back and forth from Colorado. All the while he maintained his court edge, leadership, and gaudy numbers. He even came back in time to empty a buzzer beater on the Portland Trailblazers at the end of the season, giving them the Pacific division.
For years after, Kobe was vilified. He lost his credibility and sponsors. But here we are. Someone is actually writing an article on how Kobe is better than someone dubbed “The King.” It speaks volumes to Bryant’s tenacity and “win at all costs” nature. History will view him as a winner. A few years ago this was far from true.
1 Kobe is lucky -
I am not talking about his shots that fly through the net with regularity. You can chalk that up to skill and hard work. Kobe is lucky to be in Los Angeles. We can all wonder what would have happened to Kobe Bryant had he stayed in Charlotte, the team that originally drafted him.
The trade that sent Kobe to L.A. and Vlade Divac to the Hornets was in hindsight very fortuitous for Bryant. He was immediately placed on a playoff team with a superstar that could take some of the growing pains out.
Kobe wasn’t the best or brightest to start out. He has come to this point in his career through sheer sweat and determination, but it could have been worse. He could have been LeBron before LeBron.
LeBron James was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers, his home team. The tale could have been so sweet. You would have to disregard the fact that Cleveland is a championship-barren wasteland, a place where hopes go to die. But in his signing with Cleveland, you could see the end of the story. “Local boy comes to save the day!”
What is missing from all this is sports, in its precise moments and overall big picture, takes a lot of luck. You not only need to be good. But you also need a great team around you. You also need a great coach. You also need to be healthy…and so on. Kobe Bryant is a hardworking athlete that landed on the right team at the right time.