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.
Going the route of the solo act didn’t work out too badly for Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney. The hits kept right on coming.
But now three games into The Finals, one look at Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki tells you that that path to success on the basketball court is always easier with a tight backup band.
While Wade has no doubt been the shining star in the spotlight, there’s plenty of harmony behind him coming from LeBron James and Chris Bosh … heck, even Mario Chalmers. On a night when he was once more out of rhythm after getting poked in the eye, Bosh hit the game-winning jumper from the left wing in Game 3 to cap off Wade’s 29-point effort.
Meanwhile, with the Mavericks, it continues to be all about Dirk all the time. The problem isn’t that he scored 34 of Dallas’ 86 points, but that he had to score the Mavs’ final 12 points of the game, while everyone else was singing off key, most notably Jason Terry.
We talk Lakers around here plenty. But we’ve never talked about MJ around here, until now, of course. If you haven’t read Woj’s story connecting the dots between two of the biggest stars to ever call LA home, you need to. It’s a must read.
Bryant’s candor on the subject was revealing and explains so much about his approach to things on and off the court, not to mention his refusal to conform as a youngster (we thought him to be simply an impetuous prodigy only to find out now that he was being schooled by perhaps the greatest artist of our time):
“We would always talk about how he prepared to make his music, how he prepared for concerts,” Bryant said. “He would teach me what he did: How to make a ‘Thriller’ album, a ‘Bad’ album, all the details that went into it. It was all the validation that I needed – to know that I had to focus on my craft and never waver. Because what he did – and how he did it – was psychotic. He helped me get to a level where I was able to win three titles playing with Shaq because of my preparation, my study.
“That’s the mentality that I have – it’s not an athletic one. It’s not from [Michael] Jordan. It’s not from other athletes.
“It’s from Michael Jackson.”
We’re giving thanks this Thanksgiving weekend for so many things, but especially for the genius (basketball and otherwise) that provides us such pleasure. And speaking of pleasure, Bryant and his Lakers are featured prominently on the must-watch list known around here as HT’s League Pass Spotlight: Weekend Watching(sorry, there is no free holiday preview or anything, but you can click here to make sure you don’t miss a second of the action):
CHICAGO at DENVER 9 p.m. ET
Why we’re watching: The prospect of Derrick Rose (stiff neck) in street clothes for this one scratches a little of the luster off of a matchup that has so many interesting side stories — Carmelo Anthony, Joakim Noah, the trade rumors, etc. But even without Rose on the floor, we will still get to see two of the finest players in basketball at their respective positions go to work. Three would be even better. But we’ll take Anthony and Noah and roll with it.
LA LAKERS at UTAH 9 p.m. ET
Why we’re watching: We’ve had three different sources we trust proclaim this as the first of several previews this season of what will be the Western Conference finals. Not sure we’re ready to that far just yet, we did pick the Thunder as the runner-up in the West. That said, we are still sufficiently intrigued by the chess match that occurs when Phil Jackson and Jerry Sloan occupy opposing benches in the same arena. This is much more of a statement game for the Jazz than it is the Lakers, so we’ll be careful not to read too much into the outcome.