Kobe Bryant needs no introduction to a basketball fan. His legacy though far from complete, has been fraught with more ups and downs than your quintessential superstar.
And while the Greatest-Of-All-Time debate in any sport is perennial fodder for heated arguments, Bryant might (if nothing else), be arguably titled as the greatest of his generation. Accepting such a premise makes our understanding of his legacy far simpler.
Jordan’s six rings are far from being the most by an NBA player; but with no disrespect to Bill Russell, the reason why “By acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time,” is partly because his two hat-tricks of NBA titles possessed unmistakably alluring characteristics.
They were accompanied by elevated performances under the weather, courageous performances under emotional duress and above all, clinical performances when the game finally went down to the wire. In leading a Lakers team to yet another championship, Kobe will have inched closer to Jordan.
His five rings (which may become six or even seven), will never have that indescribable aura of a Jordan ring but make no mistake about it, Bryant's achievement will have its own uniqueness that will serve as a strong enough foundation to carve out an entirely different legacy.
Secondly, Jordan aside, Kobe will have succeeded in distancing himself from the other contenders to the greatest-player-of-his-generation crown. He will have one ring more than Shaquille O’Neal and one ring more than Tim Duncan, which is a lot more than most players can claim.
In doing so, he will have proved that (although he still has an extremely talented big man), he could win without Shaq and more importantly, he could win consistently.
ELSE IF the Lakers lose the next two in Boston and suffer a shocker at the Staples Center then Kobe will have fallen short in the finals yet again.
My guess though, is that is hunger will not cede. He would have reached another Final and still have wanted to win just as badly as he always has. The competitor in him would likely force him to go back to the drawing board and make himself more effective as he enters the twilight of his career.
His disputably phantom reputation for not getting the job done might receive a slight boost but it would in no way damage it as much as a Championship would improve it.
Legacies (if not dealt with cautiously), can end up being nothing more than capricious judgments on a lifelong career.
And while Kobe Bryant may deserve your criticism, his legacy does not.