Kobe Bryant has been one of the most polarizing figures in all of sports and as such, comes with both a positive and negative charge. He is an athlete that has faced constant adversity and controversy over the entire length of his NBA career, and the media blitz on the Blackmamba seems never ending.
Millions of people love Bryant and yet, many more hate him.
Bryant fans love his tenacity, intensity, and off the chart talent that enables him to be considered as one of the top ten players to ever play the game. His accolades and accomplishments from both an individual and combined team perspective have only fueled their fire.
Haters, on the other hand, can’t stand his arrogance. They can’t stand the comparisons to Michael Jordan. They can’t stand the smugness of his look.
But like it or not, Bryant’s career parallels that of Jordan’s in more ways than one can count, and both of their “me first personalities” have undeniably also been intrinsic to their winning ways.
It takes a man and not a mouse to win multiple NBA championships and MVP awards to go along with a Fort Knox sized treasure chest of awards and achievements.
It takes a man to win both off and on the court, and only a man can man-up to the most difficult situations.
And you can’t be a man without the ability to man-up in the face of intense pressure.
Wiktionary.org defines “man-up” as the ability for a man to "be a man about it; to do the things a good man is traditionally expected to do, such as: taking responsibility for the consequences of one's actions; displaying bravery or toughness in the face of adversity; providing for one's family, etc.”
Bryant has had to man-up by doing these things many times during his career, and as the head honcho of the L.A. Lakers, he has generously provided for family and extended family—this includes both his immediate family, as well as his gargantuan NBA family (team and fans).
For the most part, Bryant’s choices during his career have helped define his man-up moments, and in so doing, have effectually put him on the path of an overachieving winner.
And you simply cannot argue with five championships with a sixth baking in the oven.
From the moment he took his first step on an NBA court, the stage for his career was set, the orchestra started playing, and Kobe Bryant began to put on an incredible show.
So what are the ten most underlying man-up moments of Kobe Bryant’s career?
You will have to click to find out.
In the beginning, before the star lit sky of the NBA, Kobe Bryant flourished as a high school player for the Lower Merion Aces in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The boy began to show his man-up abilities by playing all five positions for his team and leading them to a 77-13 record over the final three years of his high school career.
This included a state championship in his senior season where Bryant averaged 30.8 points, 12 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 4.0 steals, and 3.8 blocked shots. That year the Acers had a record of 31 wins and only three losses.
Bryant surpassed Wilt Chamberlain by scoring 2,883 points and became Southeastern Pennsylvania’s all-time leading scorer.
According to Wikipedia, “Bryant received several awards for his performance his senior year including being named Naismith High School Player of the Year, Gatorade Men's National Basketball Player of the Year, a McDonald's All-American, and a USA Today All-USA First Team player.”
You can see that Kobe’s arrogance began taking shape while he was a boy. Some would argue that the perceived arrogance Kobe showed even then was misconstrued, because his ultra superfluous confidence in his own abilities is the real thing of substance.
The 1996 NBA drafted presented an opportunity for Kobe Bryant to man-up on multiple levels. The questions that must have been going on in his mind are the ones the rest of us could only dream about.
“Should I play college ball at Duke, or should I skip college and enter the NBA draft?”
Bryant decided to skip college and was picked 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA draft at the age of 17.
It was at this time that Bryant pulled a John Elway and made another significant man-up decision by refusing to play for anyone except the L.A. Lakers.
Who would argue that if Bryant had stayed with Charlotte, that he would still be contending for his sixth championship ring?
Kobe Bryant can have almost any beautiful woman in the world on any given night if he wanted, but he’s married with children—and tied down, so to speak.
And while that is a beautiful thing in itself, the temptation for him to wander must be incredible. It’s like holding a Hagaan Daz ice-cream cone in your hand and watching the thing melt as your taste buds salivate.
I’m not sure if the blonde chic in Colorado looked anything like super babe, Charlize Theron, but she must have been pretty damn hot.
And if a girl like Charlize Theron looked at you like that, would you run the other way?
Anyway, without getting into all the nitty gritty details of Colorado, it’s obvious that Colorado was indeed Kobe Bryant’s biggest blunder.
And how do you correct the biggest blunder of your life?
You have to have a man-up moment and Kobe facing the media with his gorgeous wife in tow, explaining his remorse and undying love, was absolutely significant.
They were the stars of the Lakers first ever three-peat. They are still the stars who are known to every single household on a first name basis.
The feud between Shaq and Kobe was corrosive to L.A., while they were both winning championships in Tinsel Town, and is well documented by the media. The long saga is arguably the most embarrassing episode in NBA history.
It divided fans of the L.A. Lakers and it divided the team itself.
Kobe and Shaq represented two alpha Batmans on the same team and neither willing to be the Robin, despite the Lakers’ previous success.
While Shaq was undoubtedly the Batman of the Lakers’ first three-peat, Kobe wanted to expand on his Robin role.
It was definitely not a situation that lends itself to calm, rational decisions, and a happy ending.
The immature behavior and mocking exchanges through the media that ensued between these two was anything but manly, but make no mistake, Kobe Bryant’s desire to become the Batman of the Lakers was a significant man-up moment for him.
A second three-peat is baking in the oven. How can you argue with that?
The Lakers' management sided with Kobe Bryant, who got his way as Shaq was shipped to Miami.
And while Shaq won a championship with the Heat, the Lakers became extremely mediocre, and this did not sit well with a winner like Bryant.
Kobe demanded a trade out of L.A. in another lengthy and embarrassing saga that had many fans feeling betrayed.
But in the end, it seemed to work itself out as the Lakers management quickly assembled a powerful team that included Pau Gasol.
Who would argue that without Gasol, the Lakers would have remained a mediocre club?
This Kobe man-up moment forced management to help him on his winning quest.
You’re just not going to be like Mike without those finals MVPs.
You need intensity, focus, and absolute drive to go along with ultra sheer talent.
You have to be the best man on the floor over a grueling seven game stretch.
You not only have to be the best individual player on the floor, but you have to help your teammates play better—sometimes helping them to surpass their own limits so that they realize higher potentials within themselves.
You must have that ability to put your team on your back during momentary lapses.
And all that means nothing, if you don’t man-up and will a win by grabbing the title.
Kobe Bryant has manned-up and won the NBA Finals MVP twice.
The finals MVP award won by Kobe Bryant in 2008 made him the most meaningful recipient in the prize’s history.
Simply because it was more of a lifetime achievement award that recognized Kobe as the best player of his generation.
Scratching your head? Well consider this:
Chris Paul had arguably a better season than Bryant and no one would have been upset if he had actually won the award with his extremely rare double-double season, where he averaged at least 20 PPG and at least 10 APG.
But the powers that be felt it was time for the best player of his generation to finally win the MVP award that had bypassed him so many times.
He had a convincing case in 2006 when Steve Nash won the MVP, but unfortunately, the Colorado scandal prevented Bryant from receiving it.
Most other years, however, Bryant has not been the absolute best player throughout the entire season, but unlike anyone else, he has always been in the conversation.
When other players win the MVP award, they more or less drop out of the conversation within a few short years.
By staying in the conversation (including this year at the age of 32), Bryant may not have won a ton of MVP awards, but he’s made a tremendous career of it, and he is still labeled a superstar.
In fact, Bryant makes the regular season MVP award that recognizes the best player of a single season appear overrated.
It’s like a really hot company like the Cabbage Patch Doll Corp. that wins the best business prize in it’s first year of operations, and then quickly goes out of business. Compare this to XYZ Co. that wins the runner up award every single year and is still dominating the market, despite winning the big award only once.
The second scenario describes Kobe Bryant’s career perfectly.
Not too many players can boast of playing at an ultra high superstar level over 15 years, while at the same time, winning multiple championships.
Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kareem, Bill Russell, and Larry Bird are the only other ones that can.
Kobe Bryant is best known for his ability to put the basketball in the basket, and on many occasions, he has been able to do it at will.
In fact, Bryant’s ability to dial it in from all over the court is legendary.
On paper, Kobe Bryant’s career highlight would be his 81 point performance against the Toronto Raptors, but a closer look at that game would discount it. The Raptors were one of the NBA's worst teams and their best toothless defender, and organic vegetarian in the paint, was none other than Chris Bosh.
After that historic game, Bosh said grinning from ear to ear, “We just stood around and watched.” If anybody saw that game, you would know that not only was Bosh correct in his assessment, but none of the Raptors starters fouled out.
What in fact is a more remarkable achievement was Bryant’s 62 points in three quarters versus the Dallas Mavericks. Before the start of the fourth quarter, Bryant had by himself outscored the entire Mavericks team by a score of 62-61 and there was no Chris Bosh to sully that record.
Had Kobe played the fourth quarter of that game, there is little doubt that he would have eclipsed his 81 point performance.
But to find a Kobe Bryant scoring feat that outshines even the above exploits, you have to go back to January of 2006:
“For the month of January, Bryant averaged 43.4 points per gamethe eighth highest single month scoring average in NBA history and highest for any player other than Chamberlain. By the end of the 2005–06 season, Bryant set Lakers single-season franchise records for most 40-point games (27) and most points scored (2,832). He won the league's scoring title for the first time, posting a scoring average of 35.4. Bryant finished in fourth place in the voting for the 2006 NBA Most Valuable Player Award, but received 22 first place votes—second only to winner Steve Nash. The Los Angeles Lakers posted a 45–37 record, an eleven-game improvement over the previous season, and the entire squad seemed to be clicking.” (Wikipedia)
Clearly the MVP that year belonged to Bryant, but unfortunately, the bad smell of Colorado still lingered and spoiled his MVP ballot.
The abilities of Kobe Bryant to man-up by putting his team on his back, and by scoring his team to a win have been well documented.
What was Bryant’s best scoring moment?
Three legendary scoring examples are itemized above—take your pick.
Whether you admit it or not, unexpected fights are an exciting part of all sports, and basketball is no exception.
During hard fought games versus instigators and agitators, emotions can run high—sometimes to the point where they cannot be contained.
If Kevin Garnett calls you a cancer patient, you have to step up on a chair and look him straight in the eye—and man-up to the situation.
You definitely should not twitter about it after the fact and explain how mad you were in the moment.
Bryant is not a fighter, but he has had a couple of altercations during his career and unlike Carmelo Anthony (who ran away from Nate Robinson), Bryant always stands his ground—even if the instigator is a seven foot tall bully named Shaq.
So weather it’s Kobe vs. Matt Barnes, Kobe vs, Kobe vs. Chris Childs, or Kobe vs. George Hill—Kobe never backs down.
In all the above situations, Bryant manned-up to the situation. It would have been fun to see these situations explode had they not been contained by the refs and fellow players.
Kobe Bryant has built a towering legacy almost unmatched in NBA history, except for a handful of legends.
His legacy has been carefully built and woven together over 15 years in the NBA—from making his own decisions about where and when he will play, to deciding when he will be the team’s next batman, and to posting killer stats and winning multiple championships.
Haters can spend hours on blogs attempting to diminish his incredible accomplishments, but he still has tens of millions of fans that are willing to support him at every step.
He may not have accepted protocol, or followed the rules of etiquette, but he never said that he would.
Kobe Bryant is a true gladiator in the Coliseum. He won’t run and he won’t hide. He will only come at you with everything he’s got.
And as a boy who dominated high school basketball back in Pennsylvania, it was his decision to man-up and be the best. It’s that decision which has Kobe Bryant in the “best of the best” argument more than 15 years later.
That’s because the intrinsic killer dynamic between the teenage boy and the superstar who has grown into an NBA legend, has not changed.