There have been many tales written about the life and times of Kobe Bryant. His story has been dissected and debated, with fierce loyalists lining up on both sides.
This is not a definitive story of Bryant, but a different perspective on how we form our opinions and the conclusions we garner from them.
Understanding Kobe offers a glimpse into the window of society as a whole and helps answer the question of how an American born star can be more famous internationally than in his own country.
Americans love to root for the underdog. It is something that has been ingrained in us since the beginning of time.
We love the story of a person picking themselves up from the dirt and achieving feats that are unfathomable in our own worlds.
This is true in all walks of life, but in sports it is magnified, because to succeed in professional sports is the ultimate testament to the physical acumen.
To overcome poverty, social indiscretions, and other burdens that the world throws at us, and be able to compete and succeed at a high level is the stuff that dreams are made of.
Kobe fits none of the descriptions above. In fact, he has never been considered an underdog, more like the antithesis of that very word.
Kobe came from a stable two-parent home and was groomed to be a champion of the hardwood. His father, Joe Bryant, was a former NBA star, and his status afforded Kobe comforts as a child that we can only imagine.
There are no hard luck tales, or stories of Bryant living in poverty, and that may be one of the reasons that people in general were slow to warm up to him.
He doesn't fit the mold of most NBA players, where their talents were seen as a ticket out of poverty, helping to provide a better life for their families and themselves.
As a child, Kobe didn't have to worry about many of the difficulties that plague and destroy our children today, and much of that is due to a stable family situation, which allowed him to blossom and flourish as a child.
He was able to thrive as a student, and had the privilege of living abroad and experiencing the different lifestyles and cultures of other people.
In the inner-cities opinions were formed on Bryant with the same tilt, but on a slightly different angle.
People recognized the amazing talent that Kobe was, but it was a lot harder to relate to him, because he had lived a life that most of us would never see outside of a book.
Abroad to us meant escaping the trappings and tedium of everyday ghetto life. Whether it be a movie or a sporting event, just anything to break the monotony and desperation of our neighborhoods.
As a child, many of my peers were absorbed with the "keep it real" mentality, and in their eyes, Kobe was doing anything but that.
They were never able to offer advice on how Kobe could improve in that department, but some of them held an irrational contempt for him nonetheless.
A player like Allen Iverson, on the other hand, was championed by ghettos and hoods across the country, because he looked, acted, and sounded just like them. He was a player whose struggles we could relate to.
This has all motivated Bryant, and helped him become one of the greatest players in basketball history, but it has left visible scars.
We all remember the all-star game in his native Philadelphia, where he was booed relentlessly after accepting the MVP award.
He stood there, in stunned disbelief, unable to understand why a city he loved so dearly was shunning him in one of his brightest moments. It was enough to literally bring Bryant to tears.
His legacy as a basketball player is complete, and only the most casual observers, or naysayers continue to deny him his place in history.
Two players who are often cited as being better than Kobe are LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, yet when they are asked who the best player in the league is, they both say Bryant.
When asked the same question, Bryant never says himself, but he doesn't defer to Wade or James either, because he may not quite be ready to relinquish the throne just yet.
Whether you agree or disagree, Kobe is the best player in the game today, and the opinions of his peers matter much more than the opinions of fans, pundits, and blowhards.
Kobe has achieved the acceptance in the NBA that he has never been able to receive from the general public, and this says more about us than anything else.
While we sit and debate where Kobe belongs, we are missing the fact that we are witnessing greatness personified. His feats, sometimes trivialized by us, will be lionized by future generations.
Kobe has persevered through a rape scandal, conflicts within the Laker organization and teammates, and doubts about his game and ability.
Through all of the trials and tribulations, Bryant has ascended to the pinnacle of the NBA, and there he stands, alone.