Kobe Bryant Is Not Michael Jordan; But Neither Is He Allen Iverson

Akshay MadhavanContributor IJune 16, 2009

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 14:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers smiles during the post game news conference after the Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic 99-86 to win the NBA Championship in Game Five of the 2009 NBA Finals on June 14, 2009 at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Why do grown men and women stop themselves from fully appreciating a quality athlete by being childish, immature, and dishonest about how that athlete compares with other stars in the game? And I am looking at both extremes here.

First, at some ridiculous Kobe fans who clearly have only recently started watching the game and think Kobe Bryant is already better than Michael Jordan. There is nothing they can tell you to prove this, but they simply believe it.

Just because MJ never scored 81 tells me nothing. Kobe Bryant is not already better than Michael Jordan, and any mature, honest observer of the game will tell you that.

Second, we have the equally ridiculous Kobe haters, who would have you believe that Bryant is an always overrated, petulant star who is as selfish and as good a leader as someone like an Allen Iverson.

These people, in their delusional world, believe Kobe is only a "scorer." Again, any mature honest observer of the game will tell you that Bryant is far more than simply a scorer.

Yes, I know Kobe is one of the most polarizing figures in sports, and I can accept that people will only either love him or hate him. But I believe this should remain in the realm of fandom alone.

Why are people so ridiculously biased either way? Why can't someone love Kobe and still understand and accept his many shortcomings? Why can't Kobe haters understand the greatness of the guy they hate? Is this asking for too much of grown adults who profess to love the game so much?

And I am talking here not just of casual fans, but a lot of TV analysts, newspaper writers, and scribes as well. The only people I see being honest in this debate are former players and the coaches in this league.

Almost all the people who are honest in this debate will tell you that while Kobe Bryant is not a Michael Jordan, he is not an Allen Iverson either. While he still has a ways to go to get to MJ's level, he's still a very great player and now, after his fourth Championship, one of the top 10-15 players to ever play this game.

He is NOT the best ever, nor the second best ever, nor the second best guard ever. Nor is he NOT in the top 50 or just another scorer and one of the most overrated players to play in the NBA.

He is a legitimate top 10-15 player of all time, but still has things to prove to further cement his legacy and take him to that Jordan-Magic level. All the honest observers I hear say the same thing.

Why can't casual fans learn a thing or two? And also ESPN's and Yahoo's analysts, who are so unbelievably subjective in their opinions sometimes for a large scale media organization.

Bill Simmons today said Kobe is not on Jordan's level because the same amount of people wouldn't look at Kobe in a room as they would Jordan. I mean, this is the level of journalism we've come to see in sports. It's absolutely ridiculous.

After such a feel-good story about the guy winning his fourth ring yesterday, all Simmons could get himself to do was bash the guy in a long diatribe and keep repeating ad nauseam the same old cliches of Kobe being selfish and petulant.

Simmons it seems couldn't "sense" that Kobe's teammates really loved him. I thought bloggers were to keep things honest.

I don't even need to recount the other side, that tries to prove that Kobe is better than Jordan, just because MJ's team won 55 games without him in the 93-94 season. This proves nothing.

Yes, he had a good team, so what? How does this in any way detract from his other achievements and make Kobe a better player? Yes Kobe had 81, good for him, Jordan had 63 at the Garden in a playoff game. Yes, Kobe once scored 12 threes in a game, an amazing performance. Jordan had six threes in a half in a Finals game.

Then we have people saying LeBron is greater than Kobe because his teammates like playing for him. Firstly, this very happy team of Cavaliers has achieved nothing as yet. Who cares how happy they are? You need to see which team is winning.

They can keep clicking all their mock photos all year long and have a ball, but if you don't win LeBron is going to be walking out of a lot of arenas looking like a poor sport.

The other side claims Kobe is a better teammate than Jordan because Smush Parker's numbers improved when he played with him as opposed to Scottie Pippen's whose also improved the year Jordan first retired.

Both arguments seem to come from seemingly brain-dead people.

Firstly, any normal players numbers will improve when you play with one of the best players in the league. And secondly, any second best player on the team's numbers will improve when the top guy is not around. Both are just silly arguments that tell you absolutely nothing.

When Kobe loses a Finals to the Celtics it is all on him and he didn't do well. When he wins, it is not simply because of him and it was a team effort.

On the opposing side, Kobe's teammates never showed up (even when he shoots at some 38 percent) and when they do it was all Kobe because he happened to have six assists.

I could go on and on, but you get the point. Both sides on this debate are sometimes perfectly ludicrous. Nobody seems to honestly appreciate this guy just for what he is, nothing more and nothing less. Kobe Bryant is one of the great players of this game, anything more and anything less is dishonest, for the time being.

Too sad we only have people like Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley and Pat Riley etc who are perfectly honest in their appraisal and in their criticisms of the guy.

We should all learn from the people who've played and coached this game before mouthing off ill-conceived and extreme viewpoints, even though they are about a very polarizing player.