"Kobe Bryant will never be Michael Jordan."
That is a line often repeated by fans of Jordan, and to be honest, there is plenty of truth found in that train of thought.
Jordan was one of the most efficient players in NBA history outside of Wilt Chamberlain, and even if Bryant surpasses Jordan's number of championships won, it's unlikely he will ever scale the wall of public perception.
But should Bryant's own sterling legacy be held in a lesser light just because he doesn't measure up to the standard Jordan has set?
Most fans of Jordan, as well as anti-Bryant factions, consider it to be a large gap between Jordan and Bryant but doesn't that same chasm exist between Bryant and any current NBA shooting guard?
Some people feel Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade has a decent chance of eclipsing Bryant's legacy. Yet, Bryant has an edge in career points scored, assists, and rebounds.
And besides the assists category, it's not even close.
Granted, Bryant has played double the number of seasons as Wade, but is it fair to speculate on where Wade could end up without respecting where Bryant stands right now?
Bryant has amassed 25,970 career points, five NBA championships, two Finals' MVP awards, one league MVP, and eight first team all-defense awards, but some people still find room to argue his accomplishments?
I can understand fans of Jordan wanting to maintain a reasonable distance between the legacies of "his airness" and Bryant, but regardless of how much hate is thrown in Bryant's direction, his career speaks for itself.
One large point of contention has been the similarity in Jordan and Bryant's game, yet for some reason Bryant's success has been diminished because his skill set favors Jordan's.
The thing is, while observers are quick to point out the similarities in Jordan and Bryant's game, they also tend to forget that nothing is really that original.
Jordan admittedly incorporated aspects of David Thompson and Julius Erving's games; yet his thievery is lost in the annals of NBA history.
Every young player grows up idolizing one NBA superstar or another, and most things being done in the NBA today have been done before.
Bryant is often penalized for mimicking Jordan's game, but which holds more weight: the fact that he borrowed from Jordan or the fact he did it with so much success?
The main reason fans of Jordan probably hate Bryant is because he is the only shooting guard to ever play the game who actually has the career accomplishments to merit comparisons.
The fact that Bryant has a chance to surpass Jordan's number of championships won is a sore spot for some, but the thought that he may actually eclipse Jordan as a player is nearly unthinkable.
Bryant has nearly 26,000 career points with the opportunity to accumulate many more, and three more league championships are not that far out of the realm of possibility.
If Bryant does capture one more league title, he will likely be recognized as the greatest player in the history of one of the NBA's most storied franchises, and unquestionably the greatest shooting guard of this generation.
Passing Jordan in championships won will do little to sway the opinion of those who feel Jordan is already the greatest player in NBA history, but if Bryant does, where will it leave him?
Jerry West, Clyde Drexler, and Allen Iverson were all superb shooting guards, but does anything these players accomplished in their careers compare to Bryant?
Wade may be a better player than West, Drexler, and Iverson, but until he scores another 13,000 points, wins at least four more championships, and a few MVP awards, does he even deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Bryant?
I will agree that Jordan is the greatest shooting guard in the history of the NBA, and the numbers he accumulated and championships he won cemented his legacy.
But Bryant is unquestionably the second best shooting guard to ever grace the hardwood for those same exact reasons; regardless of what some fans may think, it is plausible that he can at least be compared to Jordan.
A person can debate potential, skill set, instinct, teammates, situations, and the will to win.
However, there is no debating this.
Jordan and Bryant are the standards by which all shooting guards are measured—the only reason they occupy the discussion of the greatest ever to play their position is because no one else deserves to be in the conversation.
Kobe Bryant will never be Michael Jordan, but Bryant has crafted a legacy which shines on its own merits. Bryant will be recognized as one of the NBA's top five players once his career is done.