Recently, ESPN completed its ranking of the 500 best players in the NBA. While the list certainly had many surprises, one of the most astonishing revelations was Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant’s placement at seventh on the list, behind LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Durant.
To many, Bryant’s place at seventh is a travesty, an insult, an absolute joke.
Let’s be honest. Did Bryant truly have as good a season as the players ahead of him, and is he still capable of contributing to the Lakers as much as the players ahead of him can contribute to their respective teams?
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade had monster regular seasons and they made it to the NBA Finals.
Dwight Howard is the biggest defensive force in the NBA, as well as the one of the most dominant offensive players. Chris Paul is the purest point guard in the league and he single-handedly led the New Orleans Hornets into the NBA playoffs where they challenged the Los Angeles Lakers.
Dirk Nowitzki had one of the most remarkable regular seasons and postseasons of all-time, as he carried the Dallas Mavericks to their first NBA title, and Kevin Durant led the league in scoring once again and made it to the Western Conference Finals with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant had a good regular season, but failed to carry his team in the playoffs because of his obvious physical deterioration.
But, does all of this really matter, especially at this point in Bryant’s NBA career?
Everyone must understand that ESPN’s list is based on who is the best today, not five years ago, but today; any subjective list of today’s best players doesn’t matter because it cannot successfully undermine Bryant’s achievement of greatness.
Take a step back and look at what Bryant has done.
27,868 career points, 25.3 PPG career average, two scoring titles, 81 point game, 11 all-defensive teams, 13 all-star games, five-time NBA Champion, and two NBA Finals MVPs.
These career statistics and achievements speak for themselves, and they are the reasons why Bryant is mentioned on all-time greatest lists with players like Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Jerry West, etc.
The same cannot be said for any of the players ahead of Bryant on ESPN’s list, or anyone currently in the NBA, for that matter.
Thus, an overreaction to Bryant’s place on ESPN’s list is completely unwarranted.
The legacy is what defines a player, not a single season. What Bryant has done over his career is monumental, and it will be extremely difficult for any list or current superstar to overshadow.