Kobe Bryant has been a polarizing figure, to say the least, over the length of his illustrious career. He has almost as many haters as he does adoring fans who worship the very ground he stands on (I am a card carrying member of the Kobe fan club by the way). In all honesty, the aforementioned haters make some fair points when they criticize the Black Mamba. The many criticisms range from taking too many shots, being a difficult teammate, copying Michael Jordan, to driving away Shaq and ruining what should have been the most dominant duo in NBA history.
While, yes, some of those are fair criticisms (I’ll get to the bogus one in a bit), Kobe has done plenty to earn the love and respect of basketball fans everywhere. First and foremost Kobe is a winner, evidenced by the five championship rings in his possession. He is also one of the best scorers to ever play the game. He just always found a way to put the ball in the bucket, be it launching a three with a hand in his face, slashing to the rim and dunking on some poor fool, or that patented turn around fade away jumper. With his arsenal of offensive moves Kobe put on maybe the most impressive scoring performance in NBA history, when he dropped 81 points on the Toronto Raptors (which also happened to occur on my birthday). I can hear you now yelling at your computer screen while reading this saying, “how can scoring 81 points be more impressive than Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points?” My reasoning is that I’m more impressed with a guard scoring with midrange jumpers and contested threes than a seven footer dominating the paint, but that’s just my humble opinion. That reasoning also ties in to another aspect that draws people to watch Kobe; he is just so darn entertaining to watch. The degree of difficulty of his shots is astounding. The majority of the shots he takes are actually bad shots, in that they usually taken with a hand in his face and he is turning while shooting, fading away, or a combination of the two. But he is Kobe after all and makes those shots (or made those shots, I should say, because at his current age he doesn’t hit those with anywhere near the same regularity). So you’re left sitting there in amazement, thinking how on Earth did he make that shot?
Earlier, I alluded to a bogus criticism of Kobe, and of course I’m referring to the fact that people like to bash Kobe for copying Jordan. First off, it’s called inspiration. Kobe grew up watching basketball and at the time, Jordan was the best player on the planet. So, of course Kobe was inspired and influenced by MJ. It’s sort of similar to how MJ has said he was influenced by Dr. J. That’s how sports and life in general works; someone who is very successful in a given field, be it basketball, music, acting, or even politics influences and inspires younger people to be achieve greatness as well. Just as Kobe was influenced by MJ, the current young stars of the NBA were influenced by growing up watching Kobe.
There is another bogus criticism that kind of piggy backs off of him copying MJ, which is that Kobe is not as good as MJ, as if not being as good as the greatest of all time is some sort of failure. Yes, I can admit Kobe didn’t quite reach the heights of MJ but no one else did either. Many were dubbed “The Next Jordan” (such as Harold Miner, Tracy McGrady, Jerry Stackhouse, Penny Hardaway, and Vince Carter) but Kobe is the only one to get close. He did so by creating highlight reels, putting up gaudy statistics, and of course, most importantly, winning championships.
Love him or hate him, the NBA was better off with him in it. It is sad to see an all-time great retire and no longer grace us with his talents; but it is also sweet to see him receive the respect and adulation he so thoroughly deserves.
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