The Art Of War: Kobe Bryant

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The Art Of War: Kobe Bryant
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Let’s put this out there right now: a lot of people despise Kobe Bryant. Some people hate that he shoots too much, some people hate that he shoots just enough and some people hate the fact that he does not shoot often enough for their liking. These people just cannot be pleased no matter what he does. Hell, a lot of people are not fans of his responses during interviews (although I do love when they take the time to sit down with Kobe on off days to talk to him; you always learn something new about him and his game) conducted during games. But all of those things overshadow one thing: Kobe Bryant has mastered the art of war and that might result in him winning his fifth championship in the next two weeks.

There are several people in the world that excel in their respective fields and that are the best at what they do. And yet, I would gladly talk trash with anybody and everybody in the world that’s at the top of their game; regardless of their level of expertise except for two people: Kobe Bryant and Marshall Mathers. You know why? Because these guys would embarrass me. Indeed, Eminem and Kobe are more alike than we care to admit.

Eminem’s career has been filled with controversy surrounding the shots he has taken at his mother in his songs, the murder of his wife Kim Mathers on wax (Em made a song in which he described killing her), the tension between him and several other rappers (let me know when you find Benzino’s corpse somewhere please) and his drug addiction.

In Kobe Bryant’s case, he has been much maligned throughout his NBA career because of his inability to apparently play nice with Shaquille O’Neal, his inability to win enough championships, the sexual assault case, the break up of the Shaq & Kobe dynasty and the trade demand. Indeed, Kobe Bryant and Eminem have been at the top of the game but have faced issues that have made them quite controversial and that have at time overshadowed their professional successes.

And despite all those facts, you do not want to mess with either. It’s a bit more evident with Eminem because of his verbal taunts and lyrical assassinations, but do not sell Kobe short. How many people have crossed Kobe Bryant and lived to tell about it? Let’s briefly check:

-Ruben Patterson: The self proclaimed Kobe Stopper. Well turns out the only thing Patterson stopped was baby sitters (it’s a low blow I know; for those of you that are unaware, Patterson was traded from Seattle because he tried to have sex with one of his baby sitters that was a minor and thus was registered as a sex offender who was no longer allowed to enter the state of Washington). After getting torched a few times in the playoffs by Kobe, Patterson slowly faded into the abyss and we’re still wondering how this guy could have possibly ever thought he was a Kobe stopper.

-Shaquille O’Neal: Even though they played together and were successful, the Diesel always resented Kobe for whatever reason. Granted by their final season together, Shaq had a great reason (when Kobe snitched on Shaq to police officers) to hate the Boy Wonder. Once Shaq left Los Angeles, he kept trying to engage Kobe in a war of words as he took shots at him after winning a title in Miami and then once again after Bryant lost in the 2008 Finals. As some of you may recall, the theme a the time was “Kobe tell me how my ass tastes”, which was quite catchy and funny at the time, but where’s the Diesel now? Since winning his fourth ring, he’s been swept, lost in the first round of the playoffs (in five games), missed the playoffs and just recently got eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the same team that beat Kobe three years ago when Shaq was singing “Kobe tell me how my ass tastes”. Funny how things come full circle right?

As you can see, Kobe has extracted his revenge on a few players during his career (two to name a few). Granted, seeking vengeance on your enemies does not win you titles; but perfecting the art of war does. So what is this art of war that I keep referring to? Let’s have a look at it.

This is business, and it ain’t personal by Jay-Z & R. Kelly

I’m not knocking the guys that smile and try to keep things loose for their teams, but let the record show that LeBron James and Dwight Howard are both sitting at home watching the Finals. Kobe Bryant has been labeled as clueless, lifeless and as a jerk because of his refusal to smile or even let up during games. Bryant always brings a business attitude to the court and refuses to let his teammates get too casual. Kobe has that sense of urgency about him 24/7. Whether it’s game 27 of the regular season or game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, you really can’t tell with the Lakers star. He sets incredibly high standards for himself and makes sure to do the same for his teammates. Is there another NBA star that is as maniacal as Kobe is in terms of his attitude and expectations? Probably not.

I’m So Ambitious: Every deal I ever made set precedent by Jay-Z

I’m not sure that there is a better tone setter in the NBA than Kobe Bryant. No player leads by example as much as Kobe does. From the opening tip, he always sets the tone be it by his defense, his ability to facilitate the offense or by scoring. The way Kobe plays early is usually indicative of the type of game that he will have. A few years ago, Kobe would set the tone for himself, but he has since figured out how to get his teammates follow suit. When Kobe comes to play, so do his teammates. Other than LeBron James, no other player has as many responsibilities for his team. However, one of the differences between both players is that you never get the impression that Kobe is coasting during a game. For instance, if he’s playing a high volume scorer, he will put a lot of energy in preventing this said player from catching the ball where he wants it (example: when he plays Dwyane Wade), and he will force this same said player to shoot the ball from his least favorite spots on the court when he finally does get the ball (example: Michael Redd). If the former Lower Merion star is matched up with an average player, he will play the role of a roamer and disrupt his opponents offense by hanging in the lanes (like he did against the Thunder until he started guarding Westbrook). Kobe does everything at 100 miles an hour. He never settles, never takes a break or shies away from his responsibilities as the leader of the Lakers. In related news, the Lakers are playing in the 2010 NBA Finals.

The Boss by Rick Ross ft T-Pain

Check out the Successful Remix by Trey Songz ft Kobe Bryant.

Trey: I want the money…

Kobe: Yup, got that.

Trey: Money and the cars…

Kobe: And the chopper.

Trey: Cars and the clothes…

Kobe: Armani.

Trey: And the hoes…

Kobe: Shhh, keep it on the hush brother.

Trey: I just wanna be, I just wanna be successful…

Kobe: Four rings, working on five brother!

Let me be clear about this: Kobe Bryant will never be able to replicate Magic Johnson. Magic embodied Los Angeles like few others did. And yet, in a town that is just full of stars and celebrities, no one shines brighter than #24. Can you recall the last time a Lakers opponent (individual player) upstaged Kobe Bryant? The only time I can think of, is when Gilbert Arenas dropped 60 at the Staples Center back in 2006. Nothing else comes to mind. The reason nothing else comes to mind is simple: Kobe Bryant makes it his mission to be the best player on the court every night; and more often than not he is. Look at his 2010 playoff stats:

 

Season

PPG

RPG

APG

FG%

3P%

FT%

2009-10

29.5

5.2

6.2

0.481

0.407

0.827

 

The Black Mamba is literally doing it all for the Lakers right now. Scoring, rebounding, passing, shooting, sniping (made this one up, it derives from sniper; it’s basically the ability to make long range shots with accuracy), leading and avoiding Chris Rock’s funny jokes (in Game 1, Kobe completely ignored Chris Rock as he kept trying to talk to Kobe. Now if Rock had been seated next to a Caucasian female that worked at a spa, you think Kobe responds? I say yes). We know Kobe’s played great this postseason, but what about the rest of his playoff career? His playoff averages since entering the NBA:

25.0 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 4.9 APG, 45.0 FG% 

If we look throughout NBA history, only a handful of players have been able to average 25-5-4. To make sure we didn’t have anyone on the list that didn’t belong, I put in a requirement of at least 40 playoff games played. Check out the list (players who had the averages but have not appeared in 40 games are Connie Hawkins, Tracy McGrady and Elton Brand):

 

Player

PPG

RPG

APG

FG%

Michael Jordan

33.4

6.4

5.7

0.487

LeBron James

29.3

8.4

7.3

0.459

Jerry West

29.1

5.6

6.3

0.469

Rick Barry

27.3

6.4

4.3

0.448

Elgin Baylor

27.0

12.9

4.0

0.439

Dwyane Wade

26.3

5.3

6.0

0.482

Kobe Bryant

25.4

5.1

4.9

0.45

 

Kobe might appear last on this list (listed by scoring average) but he is second in one category: rings. Michael Jordan is the only player in this list who was won more championships than the Black Mamba. And it’s fitting really that MJ and KB get mentioned in this same conversation, because they both shared that same hunger for star power. Indeed, just like Jordan before him, Bryant always makes sure that you remember that one night when you got to see him play.

 By the way, while we’re here, I want to take the time to put an end to all this Jordan talk whenever a young up and coming shooting guard starts playing like he belongs. Before we start comparing guys to MJ, we should be able to gradually compare them to other players and have them work their way up to MJ. So here’s who we should use for our scale:

The Shooting Guard Scale

10. Vince Carter: talented but does not care enough to be great.

9.  Tracy McGrady: Amazing array of skills, but not mentally or physically tough enough.

8. Reggie Miller: Once was that standard by which we measured clutch shooting by a guard.

7. Clyde Drexler: Terrific franchise player but even better as team’s second best player.

6. Ray Allen: Same thing as Drexler except Jesus was better in the clutch.

5. Allen Iverson: Guy that kept defying the odds.

4. Dwyane Wade: Vince Carter with a pulse.

3. Jerry West: The logo.

2. Kobe Bryant: The guy that reminds us most of…..

1. Michael Jordan: The holly grail.

So from now on, if you feel like comparing a shooting guard to MJ, make sure you work the whole list before you get to him. 

The Takeover by Jay-Z

Stop me if you have not heard this before, but NBA legacies go hand in hand with contributions to a winning team. Well, in the last three years, the Lakers are 43-18 in the playoffs and have an astounding 10-1 win/loss record in playoff series (with the one series loss being in the 2008 Finals versus Boston). For lack of a better term, all the Lakers do is win. And that starts with Kobe Bryant’s refusal to accept losing. His past playoff failures have hardened him and made him appreciate everything that goes into winning. The Lakers superstar is like a crack dealer turned rapper; he’s grown accustomed to the lifestyle, the money, the fame, the houses and the legitimacy of it all; he cannot and will not go back to hustling on the streets.

That’s why the Black Mamba’s teams have been able to win at such a high rate for the past three seasons; their star does not want to go back to how things used to be. That’s why he wants to guard the best player on the other team and shut him down, that’s why he dives for loose balls, that’s why he yells at his teammates when they screw up, that’s why he takes every big shot for his team and that’s why he’s in the gym first before practice and last afterwards; because the man is obsessed with greatness. Ultimately, Kobe is probably the only player in the league that is this driven and this dedicated. He cannot and will not drink Pepsi, Coke, 7up, Sprite, Dos Equis, Porto wine or Crystal in June. Do you know why? Because none of them offer the same taste or satisfaction as championship champagne after winning the Larry O’Brien trophy. Kobe stays thirsty every year my friends….and that is Kobe Bryant’s Art Of War.

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