The five-time champion has gone through a lot of adversity throughout his entire career.
Let's bullet point the different mountains Kobe Bryant had to climb to get where he is today.
- Coming out of High School, he was labeled cocky, arrogant and too immature to be an NBA superstar.
- His game quickly transitioned and became an excellent second banana to Shaquille O'Neal—winning three championships in a row.
- His rape allegations made him become one of the most hated men in all sports.
- O'Neal, Phil Jackson and Bryant could not coincide with one another. The first dynasty was finished. O'Neal was traded and Jackson resigned for a year.
- The team began to struggle, not making it out of the first round. Bryant asks for a trade, asks to trade other players.
- Bryant had a transition year 2007-2008 to become more of a leader, the trade for Pau Gasol and the growth of Andrew Bynum made this team contend again.
- The team fully develops chemistry, and wins the last two championships in a row.
Bryant's career achievements reminisce No. 23 and many other greats. Here's what Bryant has accomplished since entering the NBA.
- Five-time NBA champion
- Two-time Finals MVP
- One NBA MVP
- 12-time NBA All-Star
- Eight-time All-NBA Team
- Eight-time All-NBA Defensive Team
After his last fifth title, people really started to consider where his position is when they talk about who is the greatest of all-time. Most people have considered him as high as third behind Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan.
But what else can he do to establish himself as the greatest player of all time?
Before you go on, I want you to understand that I know what Jordan has done for the game and what his accolades are.
Yes he has gone six-for-six in titles, five times being named the NBA MVP. He has battled the Lakers, the Pistons, the Suns, the Knicks and the Jazz. All were great teams that could have won a title or two without Jordan being in the league.
Jordan will most likely be considered the greatest of all time. But what about Bryant?
Bryant has five rings, two where he was the best player on the team. He has probably five good years left of contending with the Lakers. However, he has also lost two NBA Finals against the Pistons and Celtics.
Last year helped establish his legacy as beating the Celtics in a Lakers uniform. His last challenge can (or will) create his ultimate legacy.
The Miami Heat.
Some analysts believe that the Lakers still have an edge at being the favorite because they are the champions.
Even as a Kobe Bryant fan, I have to disagree.
If you take two of the best three players in league and put them together as well as a top five power forward, it's hard to believe that they can be stopped. Others said it would be hard to create a full team with those three large salaries, but they took pay cuts to make sure they have the supporting cast around them to win.
They might not click the first year, but I seriously expect them to win a handful of championship rings at least. The big three on South Beach are going to have a lot fun the next decade.
Now where does Bryant in all of this? Sitting and patiently waiting.
Barring a major trade, there are only five teams that have realistic chances of making a run at the NBA Finals.
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Miami Heat
- Boston Celtics
- Orlando Magic
- Oklahoma City Thunder
The Trailblazers' youth and the Knicks possibility of creating another big three (Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Amar'e Stoudemire) are the only other teams in the foreseeable future that could contend as well.
I see the next season destined to have the Lakers-Heat clash in the NBA Finals. Bryant takes on Wade and James. This is where his next challenge he faces.
People know that in time the Heat will run the NBA, but can Bryant delay the future dynasty?
Let's say Kobe wins in game seven. His sixth NBA Championship. Will he be the best then?
Does he need to win seven? Eight? Or even nine to become the greatest?
To be considered along with Jordan, I believe he must do the following goals.
- Reach 35,000 plus points, very close of passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
- Reach 16 All-Star games (four-five more)
- Win two plus NBA Finals against the Heat or the Celtics (Bryant being MVP in both)
- Possibly another MVP?
As I said before, there will be no debate is this conversation for people who are sold on Jordan. What he did for this game is something that few players can ever do for a particular professional sport.
Keep in mind though, Bryant is still 32 years old.
He still has plenty of game to contend for championships for multiple years. As teams in the league sign free agents to prepare for the Lakers, Bryant will sit back and take all the criticism and use it for the rest of his career.
He knows better than anybody that this is the time where he will be truly remembered battling arguably the highest set of talent any NBA team has ever seen. I believe he can win two more. If he can do it against the big three, his legacy will just become that much bigger.
At the end, he will surpass Magic Johnson as the second greatest of all time. As for the greatest, we will have to wait and see.
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