There is no clearer time to view guard Kobe Bryant as a player and as a person. The comparison has been done a thousand times: Bryant vs. Jordan, who is the greatest player of all time? However, there is so much more to that question than who holds records for points scored, rebounds, and assists.
To be garnished with the title of the best NBA player who ever lived, I believe a player should be equally legendary off the court. A player with that title should be an ambassador of the game, a reminder for players, fans, and followers that to be truly great, one must be great in all aspects.
I can't remember a time when Jordan refused to take shots, complained about the diminishing roles of his teammates, or broke up a dynasty while complaining of not receiving touches of the ball.
Kobe certainly has an impact on the NBA and his team, the numbers speak for themselves. Bryant has tremendous power at his fingertips, with the ability to change the face of a single game and a season. Evident last night, Kobe didn't take a shot until a few minutes into the second quarter and his team was down by double digits.
What was the purpose of the lack of shooting? It may have been a nagging injury that No. 24 doesn't want extra attention about, or maybe it was something deeper.
Is it possible that Kobe Bryant was sending a message to teammates and doubters about the importance of his shot selection? After the Game Four loss to Oklahoma City, Bryant was repeatedly put on the spot about his shot selection and leadership on the court. Perhaps the most influential player in today's game took it upon himself to make a statement, showing the series could be in the hands of one man.
Where one man uses his power to make statements, another lets his abilities on the court make a statement in another way. Michael Jordan used dominance to make statements. When his doubters came around, he silenced them by playing through a stomach flu; showing leadership on the court and heart for his players and fans.
Now before you think I am turning Kobe in to a villain, it is undeniable that the Lakers owe a great deal of their success to him. The Lakers and Bryant are champions, and the evolution in Kobe's game is ever-present in the spotlight. However, Kobe still has growth to do as his game declines.
Bryant has had his struggles off the court, as the pressure of constantly being in the public eye crept in and got to him. After all, the common man has no concept of the pressures and powers of being in the limelight. But when did Jordan make headlines for his indiscretions? Now that is truly greatness.
Once again, Bryant is in the spotlight as his team competes for another title. Again he has the chance to prove he deserves the comparisons as the best in the history of the game. Now is the time to be a leader, an ambassador, and a legend.
A message to Kobe Bryant: Instead of proving the doubters wrong, prove the believers right. When the time comes to shine on the court, take advantage, and when the time comes to show you can be a legend, let your reputation off the court speak louder than your scoring average.