Kobe Bryant : an egocentric legend
2015-2016 has been the best NBA season ever seen : after the Golden State Warriors’ record of 73 victories in the regular season (beating the last Chicago Bulls’ record of 1996), the championship caught by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, even if the Warriors leaded the 3-1 serie (first NBA team to realize this tough performance), it was also the last season given by three basketball legends : Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant. But does the last one deserve to be considered a NBA legend ?
A selfish player
Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett have always shared the ball with their teammates. They sacrificed their game time to let the rise of LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard or Karl-Anthony Towns at the San Antonio Spurs and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Kobe Bryant was a selfish player : he was keeping the ball to build his own glory. With collateral damages : during the 2004 NBA Finals, with his Los Angeles Lakers team, he shot at…35%. His selfishness cost them the NBA title against the Detroit Pistons. Kobe Bryant argued that no matter how many MVP trophies of regular season he got, his ultimate goal was to win as many championships as possible. He obviously forgot his philosophy during the 2004 NBA Finals. By the way, what a huge performance to lose with famous teammates like Shaquille O’Neal, Karl Malone or Gary Payton.
During his last season, Kobe Bryant leaded the Lakers’ attack (with blessing of Byron Scott and Mitch Kupchak, coach and general manager of the Lakers). And his statistics were an waking nightmare : 35.8 for FG%, 28.5 FG 3pts%, for 17.6 points per game. Meanwhile, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett gave up their game time and statistics for the benefit of their teams.
NBA applauded Bryant when he passed Michael Jordan to become the third better scorer of the league (behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone). But Jordan played 15 seasons when Bryant played 20 seasons. And Bryant also leaded NBA for the amount of missed shoots in a carrer. A revealing individual trophy.
« Black Mamba » or Black Diva ?
Several injuries wasted Kobe Bryant’s ending carrer. But « Black Mamba » chose to have a glorious end : in a vain letter he announced to Lakers fans his decision to stop his career. If he wouldn’t have, Bryant would never had been selected for last All Star Game in Toronto with such low individual statistics.
Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett choose a decent way to announce the end of their glorious careers.
Bryant’s rivalry with Shaquille O’Neal incited the Lakers to let O’Neal joined the Miami Heats and finish a dynasty with three NBA championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002. It’s definitely the biggest waste in the history of the NBA : 21.5 points per game for O’Neal, 24.0 per game for Bryant during the 2003-2004 season… What else ?
© Los Angeles Times
Bryant consumed ten coaches during his career, and even the « Master Zen » Phil Jackson, fed up with Bryant’s capricious behaviour.
Fans have a short memory. Basketball is a team sport. Bryant was the undeniable hero of the Lakers back to back in 2009 and 2010, but Dereck Fisher, Lamar Odon, Pau Gasol or Metta World Peace brought their efforts to polish Kobe Bryant’s legend. And from 2004 to 2007, most people forgot that, after Shaquille O’Neal’s leaving, the Lakers became an anonymous team, no matter their soloist’s highlights.
Most often, a legend is also a model of humility and altruism. Kobe Bryant was not that kind of player.
Furious finisher and unreachable shadow
Kobe Bryant’s last game was more of an Hollywood movie broadcasted at the Kodak Center than a NBA event.
During his last game, Bryant scored 60 points (record of the 2015-2016 season) ! A performance balancing three horrible last seasons. Indeed, Bryant was not anymore the Kobe brilliant he used to be. And his nice sunset hid a reality : during his entire carrer, Byrant had a model : Michael Jordan. Bryant was a Michael Jordan clone and it was a pleasure to watch them on a basketball floor. But Bryant didn’t get as much NBA championships as Michael Jordan (5 for Black Mamba, 6 for His Airness).
Michael Jordan was the ultimate winner : six NBA Finals…and six rings ! Bryant lost two NBA Finals in 2004 and 2008. Wanting to « Be like Mike » is a comprehensive will for every player in NBA, but also a desperate quest, even for LeBron James : Michael Jordan’s individual performances seem impossible to catch up with, or to overtake. Except for a robot maybe.
For Kobe Bryant, « Be like Mike » is now a missed opportunity.