In the minds of many fans, analysts and observers, Bryant still lacks something that prevents him from surpassing or coming close to the throne of Michael Jordan. It's not statistical achievements, additional titles or even a burning desire to win at all costs.
It is those indelible moments in the postseason and Finals like Jordan had that we still vividly remember. You know like the switching of the hands layup against the Lakers in the 1991 Finals.
The six 3-pointers in Game One of the 1992 Finals against Portland. The shots over Bryon Russell, Craig Ehlo and Gerald Wilkins to end the seasons of those men and their teams. The 63-point masterpiece against Larry Bird and Boston in the Garden, and the Flu Game in the 1997 Finals against the Jazz.
That is why Bryant will never surpass Jordan no matter how many big diamond encrusted rings he slips on his fingers in the coming years.
Sure, Bryant has had some moments in the postseason where he has played the role of hero in the clutch. But not enough of them to move the mountain that is the legend of Jordan.
There was no Babe Ruth's called shot at Wrigley. Willie Mays's over the shoulder catch against the Indians in the World Series. Derek Jeter's walk-off homer versus the D-Backs in the 2001 Fall Classic or his relay flip to the plate against the A's in the ALDS.
Bryant has not had a history in the postseason of delivering a Reggie Jackson three-dinger game in the series clincher or helicoptering his way between tacklers like John Elway in the Super Bowl.
It is that stuff, the legendary hallmark moments, that Bryant is missing on his resume. That is why it is so hard for folks to remember the bad games Jordan had in the playoffs and Finals.
Those average or bad games are nullified by all those great moments he had.
Bryant has not had a string of moments where his postseason feats can be converted into tall tales by future generations. However, that should not be held against him.
Additionally, it is always harder for the next guy in line to follow the great player before him. No matter how good he might be, that athlete will never be able to do it first or even in a similar fashion the way Jordan did it, Ruth did it, Wayne Gretzky did it or Jim Brown did it.
Jordan for now is the undisputed greatest player in NBA history according to a host of players, coaches, fans, and journalists. But that does not mean there won't be a guy (Bryant or LeBron James or some other player down the road) who can't come close to, or be better than Jordan.
Yes, Bryant teamed with Shaquille O’Neal to win three championships. Yes, he cheated on his wife with a hotel maid in Colorado. Yes, he's arrogant and sometimes surly during the postseason. Yes, he imitates Jordan in almost every way.
But that does not take away from the fact that Bryant is one of the greatest players of all-time.
Magic Johnson never won a championship without Kareem Abdul-Jabbar by his side. Bird failed to win a title without the combination of Kevin McHale or Robert Parrish. Nonetheless, those men are held in higher esteem than Bryant although he was the main player on two Lakers’ championship teams without O‘Neal.
Not even Jordan, as great as he was, hoisted another Larry O'Brien Trophy without Scottie Pippen or a player of his caliber.
Jordan, Magic, and Bird are different because they provided numerous clutch moments when during a time when completing those tasks was still relatively new to the American NBA fan post tape delayed championship series.
Bryant needs more Game Six performances against the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals to bridge that gap. Working in Hollywood gives him a great set to do so.
Now he just needs someone to set the scene.
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