Where Would Ring Number 6 Put Kobe Bryant?
Kobe Bryant is without a doubt the most polarizing figure in sports today. You either love him or you hate him.
Most would agree that he's the closest thing to Michael Jordan that we have seen.
The "Lovers of Kobe" would say that Kobe is not only in the same conversation as Michael Jordan, but that he's actually better.
The "Haters of Kobe" would say that Kobe is at best a Top 15 player that doesn't even belong in the same sentence.
I am somewhere in between. I don't consider myself to be a lover or hater of anyone in particular. What I do consider myself to be, is a fan of great basketball and as such, a fan of Kobe Bryant.
Right now if I had to make a list of my Top 15 players of all time it would look something like this:
1. Michael Jordan
2. Magic Johnson
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
4. Bill Russell
5. Wilt Chamberlain
6. Larry Bird
7. Kobe Bryant
8. Tim Duncan
9. Hakeem Olajuwon
10. Oscar Robertson
11. Shaquille O'Neal
12. Jerry West
13. Moses Malone
14. Isiah Thomas
15. Elgin Baylor
Some may argue the details of my list, but I think that it's pretty sound and well-balanced. Kobe, with five championships, is ranked just above Tim Duncan, and just below Larry Bird.
Now here is where it gets interesting. If Kobe wins ring No. 6, he moves up dramatically. I'd have to move him past Larry Bird.
Although Bird is undoubtedly better is some areas, such as three-point shooting to name one, I consider Kobe Bryant to be better overall on both sides of the ball, and he will have doubled Bird's total of three championships.
Next is WIlt Chamberlain. He isn't really known as a winner, falling victim to Russell's Celtics on a regular basis. But what he lacked in hardware, he made up for in stats.
His statistics paint a very detailed picture of a monstrous presence in the game of basketball. Records like 100 points in a game, or averaging 50 PPG and 25 RPG in the same season, will never be eclipsed.
But taking into account the pace that the game was played back then, and the competition available for a 7'2" behemoth of a man back in the 60s and 70s, I have to give the nod to Kobe.
His 81-point outburst (shot 60 percent from the field) is at the very least equally as impressive as Wilt's 100, and having six championships to Wilt's two seals the deal.
A sixth ring would effectively put Kobe Bryant at fifth all time on my list.
Russell's 11 rings, even accounting for era played in, is hard to argue against.
The same can be said for Kareem's five rings, longevity, and most points scored.
Magic's five rings and revolutionary positional versatility still give him a slight edge on Bryant.
And Kobe's sixth would tie Jordan for rings but Jordan's laundry list of accolades still gives him the nod.
In case you were wondering, a seventh ring would put him at second on my list, with very legitimate arguments to be made for first.
At this point, ranking Kobe and Jordan would be comparable to ranking Wilt, Russell, and Kareem.
There's really no right answer; it would all be based on personal preference. Two opinions may differ, but you really can't blame the person if they rank them differently than you do. It's a toss-up.
Seven in the modern era of basketball would trump Russell's 11, much like Jordan's six-plus accolades did.
Kareem's longevity and career scoring wouldn't be enough to hold off Bryant if he secured ring No. 7.
I'm sure Magic would himself proclaim that Kobe was the greatest Laker ever if he won seven championships.
People talk about what would have happened if Jordan never retired. Many people speculate that he would have won eight championships.
As the saying goes, "that's why we play the game." Talking about "what if" is one thing. Someone actually accomplishing that in the modern era of basketball is another.
Accolades be damned, an eighth NBA championship would solidify Kobe Bryant as the greatest player the NBA has ever seen, hands down, bar none.