Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
When all is said and done, whenever, how will you think of Kobe Bryant?
Steve Aschburner: As great as he’s been and remains, Bryant has it tough. He’s spectacular — but he’s not an original, because no one lugged the next-Michael-Jordan load more than him (and he courted it, with all those patterned mannerisms). His first three titles were Shaq-driven, which dims them just a tiny bit in relation to others on the Great Winners list. And now he’s in twilight at a time when someone else (LeBron James) already is moving up in GOAT discussions, squeezing Bryant from this side of Y2K. One of the greatest ever, lethal scorer and a Top 10 player on my all-time list. But he’s not cracking Top 5 and he’s a reserve, not a starter, at shooting guard.
Fran Blinebury: One word: Defiant. Defiant as a teenager. Defiant in the face of Shaq. Defiant to a double-team or a triple-team. Defiant in the fourth quarter. Defiant in the last second. Defiant in the good times. Defiant in the bad times. Defiant now in the twilight. Michael Jordan at his peak was embraceable. Never Kobe. Just defiantly brilliant.
Jeff Caplan: What ways are left to describe Kobe Bryant? The Black Mamba is a cold-blooded killer. Simple as that. The closest we’ve come to seeing Michael Jordan reincarnated. You never knew when he’ll go off for 40 or 50 or 80. An extreme competitor whose fierceness is unrivaled. One of the rare athletes that can take over a game as the best player at either end of the floor.
Scott Howard-Cooper: For the determination and confidence that is his greatest gift and biggest detriment. Kobe Bryant had great talent, but made himself a great player because he refused to be outworked, on the court and with preparation. The confidence? Bryant was never a selfish player, per se. He was a skilled passer from the outset. But he always believed himself with such an absolute certainty that he knew, just knew, that no one else had as good a chance to deliver. Same with the early strained relationships within the locker room. He refused to fall in line and be a little brother. He is stubborn that way. Which is good and bad.
John Schuhmann: I don’t think there’s a simple way to answer that question. There’s no doubt that he is the best combination of talent and drive (to be the best in the game) that we’ve seen since Michael Jordan. He played a big role in five championships and once scored 81 points in a game, so the guy will have a tremendous legacy when he leaves this league. On the other hand, he was sometimes a selfish gunner who ignored his teammates for the sake of his own glory. He is a complicated man, that Kobe Bean Bryant.
Sekou Smith: He’ll go down as one of the greatest to play the game. The perfect player? Not exactly. But the perfect competitor? Absolutely. The list of absolute cutthroat competitors who wanted to win above all else, no matter how that desire manifested itself in his play, is a short one and Kobe has to be on it. In fact, he’d have to be in the top three or four on my list. He didn’t need to reach 30,000 points for me to recognize him as one of the greatest scorers the league has seen. But time will be most likely give us a better appreciation of Kobe’s game than we have of it right now. It’s hard to give a guy his proper respect when you watch him on a nightly basis in this hypercritical era. But Kobe will go down as one of the best to ever do it. Top five on most people’s list and in everyone’s top 10.