HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Just so we’re clear on who is and is not worthy of comparison among the greatest of the all-time (or soon-to-be) greats: Michael Jordan says Kobe Bryant is the only player, apparently past or present, that has earned the right to be compared with his Airness, as relayed by Roland Lazenby (who is working on a Jordan book) via Twitter over the weekend:
Kobe’s ultimate competition is MJ. That’s why MJ watches him. MJ made people think what he was doing wasn’t human. Ditto the Kobester.
I never said Kobe was better than MJ. MJ just told me Kobe’s the only one to have done the work, to deserve comparison.
And Kobe says that Chris Paul is the only player other than reigning MVP Derrick Rose that possess the same drive and desire to be the best of the very best that he does:
“He’s a dog. He’s going to fight to win, and not too many teams can deal with him. Chris Paul is really the only other guy in the league, other than Derrick Rose, who also has that competitive edge.”
Is anyone else sick of all of this? So now MJ and Kobe get to decide who measures up, who is on their level?
Well fellas, I can think of several guys who could and should be included in the discussion. Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal come to mind.
Funny, you never hear Russell, Magic or Bird yapping about who is on their level. In fact, I don’t remember any of them spending much time engaging in the G.O.A.T. conversation at all, when all three of them certainly could make a claim.
If we’re going strictly by jewelry, I don’t think there is any doubt that Russell is the runaway winner. And if we’re going for impact and transcendent talent and ability, both Magic and Bird qualify easily.
My bigger issue with the entire discussion is that MJ and Kobe even bother entertaining the topic, be it in the form of a question or a conversation they’re having publicly.
They know they’ll go down as two of the very best to ever play the game and arguably the two best in the eyes of many. There’s no need to talk about it. There is a level of humility that should come with being the very best at what you do. Did you ever hear Michael Jackson talk about Prince being the only other artist on his level?
I understand that the one thing that separated Jordan from his peers and Kobe from his is that they seemed to lack that humility. And that’s fine when you’re in the heat of the competition. But when those days are over, it’s OK to step back and take a more measured look at the history of the game and your place in it.
The respectable thing to do would be to pay homage to those who came before you and respect the guys going at it now and be secure in your place in the game, wherever that is, and let it be.
If MJ and Kobe want to go somewhere and argue for six months about who was better, they’re welcome to it. Their camps are entrenched and will likely stay that way for eternity.
I’ll pass on an invite to that spectacle (which I must admit would make for great reality TV).
Then the game will move on to the next great one.
It always has. It always will.