Kobe Bean Bryant will never be Michael Jeffery Jordan.
Whenever any discussion concerning Bryant's legacy in the NBA is commenced, the debate will inevitably shift towards a comparison to Jordan, and how Bryant falls short in that respect.
Every child grows up trying to emulate the style and game of their favorite NBA heroes, and for the few lucky enough to realize the dream of actually competing in the league, their respect for said hero is displayed in their game.
The only reason Bryant and Jordan are so fervently debated is because Bryant is the only player who has merited the comparison, and he has also managed to craft his own brilliant legacy in the process.
I was attending a Fatherhood conference in New Orleans LA during the last two games of the NBA Finals, and in an atmosphere dominated by men talk normally drifted to basketball.
Most of the people I encountered were rooting for the Celtics to pull it out, and their reasons had much more to do with Bryant losing rather than Boston winning.
The amount of resentment directed at Bryant was immeasurable, and the mood of the hotel after the Los Angeles Lakers prevailed over the Celtics in Game Seven was predictable.
Most people seemed less concerned about the fact that Los Angeles had just clinched their 16th championship, and first in a seven game series against the Celtics, and more eager to defend Jordan's legacy.
The final game was sloppy on the offensive end, but from a defensive point of view, it was a basketball purist's dream.
However, few people wanted to discuss the dramatic fashion in which the Lakers overcame a 13 point disadvantage in a game which became an instant classic on ESPN.
In fact, the only word to describe the sentiment towards Bryant was hatred, and as is often the case with that particular emotion, the anger is usually ill-conceived and baseless.
The fans who are so quick to rush to Jordan's defense have failed to realize that Bryant doesn't need a comparison to Jordan to validate his career, because his accomplishments stand on their own.
Bryant became the youngest player to eclipse the 25,000 point mark, the leading scorer in Lakers' history, regular season and postseason, and he managed to capture his fifth NBA championship.
His thumb ring gives him the most of any active player, and his 28 point average during the course of the Finals' series helped him earn his second consecutive NBA Finals' MVP award.
Furthermore, Game Seven was a testament to Bryant's toughness, because even though he suffered through a horrible offensive game due to the Celtics' tight defense, he still impacted the game significantly.
He scored 23 points on 6-24 shooting but he did grab 15 rebounds, while displaying the natural instinct to exploit a Celtic weakness caused by Kendrick Perkins' knee injury.
His deferral to Pau Gasol and Ron Artest at the end of a tight fourth quarter was likely the reason Los Angeles won the game, and it shows an ability to realize the importance of the moment.
Bryant desperately wants to be recognized as one of the greatest talents to ever play the game, and despite the endless comparisons to Jordan, he is well on his way to realizing that goal.
Just because Bryant isn't Jordan doesn't mean that he can't be dually recognized as a great player in his own right, and the best overall talent since "His Airness" roamed the hardwood.
The argument on who the greater player is will never be settled, but it's silly to deny Bryant his place in history because one feels he doesn't live up to Jordan's standards.
Bryant's impressive career has given him the choice to craft his own legacy and it will live on, despite any comparison to Jordan, and it looks like he could add a few more chapters before he finally calls it quits.