In a recent interview with Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant implied that his window as a professional player has been reduced to two years due to a dip in competitive nature, a strange notion considering the legacy he is chasing.
Berger's column mentions that Bryant has not only put a cap on winning another championship, but that he also has only two more years to match the immortal legacy of Michael Jordan.
Kobe is the closest thing I have ever seen to Jordan when it comes to talent, passion and fundamental skill, but two years will not bring Bryant any closer to Jordan as a player, in reality or perception.
Of course, Berger was referring to Jordan's six rings when making the Kobe comparison, but in doing so he only fed into the misconception that Bryant and Jordan are only separated by rings when it comes to the greatest players in NBA history.
I support many of the arguments that Lakers fans offer when confronted with comparisons of Bryant and Jordan, and some of the evidence reaches even the most ardent haters. But the only reason that Jordan and Bryant are even compared is because they are the only two players in NBA history at their position who even merit comparison.
The NBA has seen plenty of great shooting guards, but would anyone else put Clyde Drexler in the same conversation with Bryant and Jordan?
There have been many players who have been labeled as the "next" Jordan (Harold Miner?), but Bryant has been the only one to live up to that billing on the court.
Kobe's skill set, jump shot and motivation are all equal to or maybe even better than Jordan's, and as Berger mentioned, there is a chance that Bryant could equal or even surpass Jordan's ring total in the next two seasons.
However, even seven rings will not be a rallying point for Kobe fans when it comes to matching Jordan, because "His Airness" will still hold a statistical edge in almost every measurable category.
Jordan averaged more points, rebounds and assists per game during his career than Bryant, but what ends the debate for me is the efficiency of Jordan's game.
Bryant has never managed to shoot 50 percent from the field in any season, but Jordan shot 50 percent from the field for his career.
Some big men who spend their entire careers in the paint don't shoot 50 percent, and even when you factor in that Kobe is more of a perimeter player at this stage in his career, it's not like Jordan was ever living at the rim.
Regardless of what Kobe does in the next two years, he will not finish his career as a 50 percent shooter, and with the possible exception of rings he will still trail Jordan in every numerical category that matters.
Some people will still argue that Bryant is a better historical player than Jordan despite all the evidence to the contrary, but in the end, does it really matter?
Bryant doesn't need to be better than Jordan to cement his place in NBA history. His legacy and standing with one of the NBA's greatest franchises speaks for itself.
If Kobe does retire in two years, he may not finish as a better player than Jordan, but he will arguably be the best player in Los Angeles Lakers history, one of the top-three scorers in the history of the game and may ultimately join Jordan as one of the top-five basketball players of all-time.
Isn't that enough?
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