This goes in turn with the previous slide, but there is much more to say.
Bryant has made huge strides to improve his leadership, i.e. his communication and relation to his teammates, as well as developing a certain ruthless demeanor on the court, full of grunts and fang-showing glares.
He has developed an aura of greatness, but not one of invincibility or awe at the highest level.
Other players and coaches have seen Bryant struggle in big games and definitely throw defensive tactics like jawing and frustrating physicality to disrupt him.
The problem is that Bryant's psyche is ill-prepared for certain environments. Those alway being the penultimate playoff game or the too-much-expectancy situation.
Often times, if you look closely, Bryant seems unsure in the most crucial moments: a face-tick here or non-chalant look there.
He needs the grunt-gadget—the Black Mamba-viciousness he's developed—likely because of the amazing regular season buzzer-beating bonanza of 2010.
The external character and aggression though isn't always the answer when you're good enough without it.
Look at Jordan in the '97 and '98 Finals, particularly, he is completely at peace with his game. At peace in knowing that he's visualized an succeeded, many times.
Jordan's fire in his championship seasons was always like a controlled burn, whereas Bryant's drive seems like a fire started by lightning.
Creating a persona is dangerous, especially in the playoffs, because much of the tightest moments are so fraught with drama that adding to the intensity can push you unsafely over the top.
Meaning Bryant seems to try to hard in the biggest games, bringing out all the strike-first Black Mamba-attitude, that is great for the regular season, but unnecessarily added to the motivation-laden playoff atmosphere.
It's too easy to be unhealthily trapped by a persona that you live up to enough to believe in but not enough to find peace with.
But peace is what Jordan found in the last years in Chicago and it emanated onto his teammates and his opposition.
Now, it should be said that the Bryant in question is 30 and 31 ('09 and '10 title teams), while the Jordan most often spoke of is the 34-and-35-year-old MJ.
This discrepancy is slightly tempered by the fact that Jordan retired for a year-and-a-half and his '93 campaign, during which he was 30, is comparable in subtle mastery to the second three-peat.
Jordan simply missed the years Bryant is now playing in.
That being said, Jordan found a peace in his game that needed no outside persona, besides a little tongue-wagging.
For that reason his state of mind will always have been better than Bryant, who, despite his two Finals MVP's, acts too much like a spoke when everyone expects him to be the wheel; game five and seven of last year are good measures of that.
Jordan never left any doubt of his greatness as a series wore on. His leadership became more integral. His communication became more succinct and timely. And, he never once doubted the outcome.
Bryant, scarily, plays like he wants to go down some nights.
Like the old myth of his letting weaker high school teams get back in the game just so he could dominate, his talent, to him, probably feels like a burden more than a blessing at times.
If you just watch Bryant at crucial moments he looks as if the weight of all the detractors of inexperience are resting on his shoulders. He's just got too much to prove, even at 32. Where's the assured-ness? By God, he's earned it.
The discrepancy here is that Jordan carried the "Greatest NBA Player" banner for a long time, while Bryant has had it thrust on him from time to time and he's developed trust issues not just within himself but from the league and even his fan base.
Suffice to say his 2003 rape charge and acquittal didn't help his peace of mind one iota.
Jordan did things on his own terms with enough maturity and grace that his adoring public had no reason to either turn a blind eye or reject the qualities of his character.
For these reasons Jordan could perform on the highest stage with absolute certainty to a degree that Bryant can not.
And that's the bottom line.