Why Do Debates About Kobe Bryant's Greatness Always Miss the Point?
It's become impossible to honestly debate Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant's place among NBA history's greatest players, because there are a large contingent of people who believe Bryant doesn't belong in that discussion at all.
Kobe's numerous critics bring plenty of ammunition to the table and are ready to fire away with a never-ending list of statistics and comparisons designed to shoot holes in the theory of Bryant as an all-time great player.
The use of obscure metrics is one way to define greatness, but what about seeing something done live that you've never seen before?
Kobe's 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors is not a record, as many people like to point out, but it may as well be since few people reading this article were alive to see Wilt Chamberlain set the record, and even if you were alive at the time you had to be there since the game wasn't televised.
However, I was able to catch Kobe's 55-point second half live on January 23, 2006, and it can be revisited anytime on YouTube.
That game was preceded by a 62-point explosion from Bryant against the Dallas Mavericks on December 20, 2005, and it was memorable because it took place over the course of three quarters.
Bryant does share one NBA record with Donyell Marshall for most three-pointers made in a game with 12, but did you know that in that game with Seattle on Januaruy 7, 2003 Bryant also hit his first nine treys before missing one?
Each one of those performances illustrate why Bryant is one of the greatest scorers in the history of the NBA, and they are singular events that in some instances will not be repeated.
Bryant's record for three-pointers will fall, but it's doubtful 80 points will be approached anytime soon, considering it's a rarity now that players score even 50.
At some point during the 2013-14 NBA season Bryant will surpass Michael Jordan as the greatest scorer of the modern era, and while Bryant is often criticized for simply being a volume shooter, does that really diminish what he's done?
Scoring is what Bryant does best, and whether you like it or not, that ability alone assures him a place among the legends of the game. Everything else is just icing on the cake.
It's easy to ignore the fact that Bryant regularly leads the NBA in assists at his position, or that he may be one of the most fundamentally sound basketball players of all time. Let's just label Bryant as a player who has never seen a shot that he doesn't like.
And you know what? That's perfectly fine.
Of course winning five championships to go along with all those points doesn't hurt Bryant's case, and while rings are a team achievement, it's hard to place a player who has never reached the pinnacle of his craft among others who seemed to reside there.
I'm not sure where I would rank Bryant on the all-time list of greatest players, but I do know that his prolific scoring numbers combined with his other career achievements will keep him squarely in the discussion for the top 10.
And that number could rise once Bryant finally decides to retire. After all, we never truly appreciate what we have until it's gone.
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