The 90's were a golden age for both fans of sports and music. The 90's brought us some of the greatest rappers and singers of all-time, from Mary J. Blige to Jay-Z to Biggie Smalls to the greatest of all-time in my opinion, Tupac Amaru Shakur.
Basketball fans were treated to the greatest of all-time at his craft as well, and it came in the form of Michael Jordan. MJ did things with the basketball that were considered impossible, and while he had been relevant since the early 80's, it was the 90's when he started his trek to superstardom with his winning of NBA titles and MVP's and the Jordan name being elevated from a name to a brand.
Kobe Bean Bryant is preparing to win his 5th NBA title in seven Finals appearances, and yet he's still considered to be miles away from MJ, who won six titles.
To anyone who was not fortunate enough to see MJ in his prime, Kobe is the closest they will ever get. Kobe has the will to win, determination, and ice water flowing through his veins much like MJ did.
But yet when it comes to the court of public opinion of Bryant, it's as though he is either loved by fans for being "The most clutch player since Michael" or hated for trying too hard to "Be like Mike". He can never get respect for being who he is, and in the words of Mark Jackson, that's "One bad man".
The Black Mamba has done just about everything in his career that MJ has done, but he will never get the respect that Michael got. Many will say that three of Kobe's four titles he got while playing the sidekick role to Shaq, who captured all three of the NBA Finals MVP awards during their 3-peat, but to them I say that the title that Kobe captured as the lead man last year is worth double any the titles MJ or Shaq won.
Others will point to his one and only MVP award and NBA Finals MVP award, but anyone who knows the NBA knows that the MVP does not always go to the best player, but the best player on the best team. Unlike Jordan and Shaq, who in the prime of their careers were on championship contending teams, Bryant was carrying the Kwame Brown's and Smush Parkers of the world to the NBA Playoffs.
Bryant has cultivated his game from a high-school phenom from Philly who shot two airballs in a playoff game in Utah to the games most cold-blooded assassin and best player, all while playing for arguably the most star-studded team in NBA History. When you think of the Lakers, you think of Magic, Kareem, West, Baylor, Shaq, Worthy, and the list goes on and on, but yet Bryant may have surpassed them all.
If Kobe wins his 5th title this year, and avenges his loss in the Finals two years ago against the Celtics in the process, then the comparisons need to stop. Kobe will have earned the right to no longer be compared to "the best looking girl dark-skinned girl you ever dated (Michael)" and start being looked at as "the best looking girl you ever dated", because before you know it, she too will be gone.