Kobe Bryant: Kobe's Career Defies His Critics and The Hype

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IAugust 6, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 17:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates as the Lakers defeat the Boston Celtics in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 17, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Honestly, there is not one single NBA player that deserves the accolades and acclaim that fans choose to impose on them, because even the best talents the game has ever seen have been flawed.

Magic Johnson never took the time to develop a reliable jump shot, Larry Bird was limited by his athleticism, and Michael Jordan's competitive attitude and will to win sometimes made him a distant figure to teammates.

Those three players were great because they were able to transcend their limitations, and highlight the other qualities that made them special.

Magic, Jordan, and Bird were some of the most hyped players of their time, but they equaled the hype by succeeding at the NBA's highest levels, and doing things on the basketball court that have never been seen before.

Kobe Bryant may be the most controversial, discussed, and hyped athlete of our generation, but has his performance on the hardwood lived up to the levels of hype he receives?

It's easy to chalk Bryant up as a casualty of hype, because he does have flaws in his game that are easily exposed under scrutiny.

Many observers feel Bryant shoots the ball to much, makes bad decisions when he presses, and his shot selection is constantly criticized.

There are merits to be found in all of those arguments, but do those outweigh what Bryant has managed to accomplish throughout his 14-year career?

What about Bryant's 81-point game, which stands as the second highest total ever accumulated by a single player? Is that hype or something we were all able to witness?

Wilt Chamberlain holds the record for most points scored in a game with 100, but unless you were in Hershey, Pennsylvania on that evening, it's highly doubtful you have any recollection of the event because it wasn't televised.

Bryant's 81 point explosion was replayed by ESPN on a consistent basis, and even though it stands as a historic NBA event, Bryant's critics still devalue it when discussing his hype.

Few Bryant detractors ever mention his 12-16 shooting performance from the three point line either, which stands as another NBA record, that Bryant shares with Donyell Marshall.

Those are just two of Bryant's historic achievements but when you combine them with his five NBA championships, MVP award, two Finals MVP awards, and numerous first team ALL-NBA awards, it's hard to say he hasn't lived up to the hype.

And that's not even counting what Bryant has meant to his Los Angeles Lakers franchise where expectations are always higher than anywhere else in the NBA.

Playing for a franchise that is accustomed to creating legends Bryant has become the Lakers' career leader in points scored with more than 25,000, and he has tied Magic for number of championships won.

It's extremely difficult to find the hype in those statistics.

To be fair, there are some fans of Bryant who are to young to have witnessed the exploits of players such as Jordan and Magic, and therefore are prone to naive claims of Bryant as history's greatest player.

But for Lakers fans fortunate enough to have seen Magic play, Bryant embodies the spirit of those times, and even though he straddles generations, Bryant's game has an old school feel.

When Bryant is held next to similarly hyped players such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant, Bryant is the only one who has the resume to actually match the hype.

James, Wade, and Anthony are all great players, but when compared to those talents only Bryant has amassed a career that is already worthy of legendary status.

If Bryant retired today he would be in the debate for one of the top 10 greatest NBA players of all time, but that image has been created by a real body of work, not hype.

There will always be critics of Bryant due to his polarizing nature and the amount of love that is thrown in his direction by legions of adoring fans.

Lakers fans will always be protective of Bryant, because he stands as one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA's most storied franchise, yet he is often treated as an ordinary player.

I understand the feeling that some have regarding Bryant's hype, but doesn't that same standard hold true for most of today's NBA stars, who have not had nearly the same type of career as Bryant?

In my mind, most of today's NBA stars are beneficiaries of hype they have yet to earn, but if anyone deserves the hype it's Bryant, and a career filled with achievements proves it.