As this year’s NBA regular season winds down, the game will say goodbye to one of its all-time greats. Kobe Bryant will retire at the end of this season after 20 years playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. It marks the end of one of the most productive and incredible careers in recent memory. But as I begin to think back on Bryant’s career, I wonder what his lasting legacy will be after he leaves the game for good.
I believe that as time passes on, Bryant’s career will not age well. What I mean is that when the shine wears off, Bryant’s career will seem like an example of what could have been. He could have accomplished more than Michael Jordan, but failed to do so. At the end of the day, he is a fringe top-10 greatest player.
When I think of Kobe Bryant I think of the 81 points, the five championships and the influence. However, I also think of the relationship with Shaquille O’Neal, the selfishness and unfortunately, Colorado. I’m going to break it down into the good and the bad. I’ll start with the good first.
To start off, five NBA championships is nothing to scoff at. Kobe Bryant has more championships than Larry Bird, Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O’Neal. The only people that have more than Bryant is Michael Jordan and Bill Russell. Some players would dream to have just one like Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson. It shows that championships are not a guarantee in basketball. His impact on the game is also worth mentioning.
Not since Jordan himself have I seen a player impact the game of basketball quite like Bryant. Whenever there is a Jordan comparison, Kobe’s name is always brought up as one of the closest comparisons to him. When I was growing up, kids wanted be as good as Kobe. His impact around the globe is as big as Jordan during his playing days.
In China, he is bigger than Yao Ming. Watch any interview of people of this generation that plays basketball and nine times out of 10 they will say that Bryant was the player they looked up to. He has become a national and global ambassador to the game and set an example of what people want to be when they play the game. Now it is time for the bad and it all centers on his personality.
The one glaring negative on Bryant’s career is that he was a selfish player. Look at his relationship with Shaquille O’Neal. Before the two parted ways, they came off of three consecutive NBA championships, and were poised to win even more. But Kobe wanted to be the man and forced O’Neal out of town and it would be six years until he would win another. If Kobe had sacrificed his own ego for championships, he would have had one or maybe even two more to add to his legacy.
Just look at the whole thing with Dwight Howard. Say what you want about Howard but he would been as good as O’Neal if he and Bryant had worked. But like before, Bryant still wanted to be the man and essentially forced out Howard after one season. Bryant’s selfishness has hurt his legacy. He chased individual stats and boosting his own ego instead of sacrificing all of this in order to get more rings.
At the end of the day, Bryant will be a Hall of Famer and will be regarded as one of the greats. But in retrospect, he could have accomplished more. No this is not coming from a Celtics fan that hates Bryant (I’m a Heat fan by the way), this is coming from a fan that thinks he could have been equal or even better than Jordan. Championships aside, what makes him any different than Carmelo Anthony? Similar style of play, same mentality and they both played on a bad team, but Carmelo has no rings.