What About Current Superstars?
Those three players were guys that Kobe was compared with early on — ball-handling scorers who had a certain flair about them — but it became clear after awhile that Kobe was in a different league of his own at some point. Kobe won championships and was placed on the NBA All Defensive Teams numerous times, while neither of those players earned either of those. That’s not a knock on any of those players, rather a testament to how great Kobe has been thus far in his career.
Even throwing away those accomplishments and just looking at what each has been able to do on the offensive end of the court over time, the other three declined around 12 seasons in, regardless of age.
After Kobe was leaps and bounds above the players he entered the league with, it was clear that he was competing not only against players currently playing, but other legends’ legacies.
You had comparisons with Jordan at his position, but also comparisons with others in the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) conversation, such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — who is the game’s all-time leading scorer in total points, after playing 20 seasons in the NBA. (“Cap,” for edification, stopped averaging 20-plus points following his 17th season as he averaged 17.5, 14.6, and 10.1 points in his 18th, 19th, and 20th seasons, respectively.)
Sure, there were others who the media eventually threw into the “Kobe Conversation” along the way, such as Dwyane Wade, but Wade is in his 11th season and averaging 19.3 points at age 32. He has three championships, but that conversation has been over for awhile now.
Where Does Kobe’s Legacy Stand Now?
LeBron James is one of those who constantly gets mentioned in the conversation, but sometimes the media’s conversation jumps ahead of Kobe and goes straight to Michael and LeBron. Now, LeBron is in his 11th season at age 29 after coming into the league straight from high school just like Kobe, and shows no signs of slowing down, but he himself knows the legacy Kobe Bryant already has to this day. LeBron recently stated that Kobe is already on the Mount Rushmore (Top 4) of the games’ greatest players, a list that LeBron declares he will be on one day.
Kevin Durant — another one of the league’s remarkable young superstars — also chimed in on Kobe Bryant’s legacy recently, in an interview with Mark Medina of the InsideSocal.com:
“Of course. He’s the greatest of all time. His skill is second to none. Him and MJ are neck and neck as far as skill. You can put in athleticism and be the best passer and strongest and quickest. But it’s about skill. I think that’s how his game is played. That’s why Kobe is the top two best ever in just having skill, footwork, shooting the three, shooting the pull up, posting up, dunking on guys and ball handling. It’s flat out skill. Him and Jordan are 1 and 1 a. They’re neck and neck as far as the skills are concerned.”
“What I did is not a fraction of what he did. What guys are doing now is nothing compared to what he did. Me, Carmelo, LeBron, Paul George, what we’ve done out there in this league is nothing compared to what Kobe did. A lot of people forget. We live in a world of what have you done for me lately. We don’t remember the day before sometimes. Think back five, six seven years ago with what he was doing, it’s unheard of.”
Again, those players are alluding to some of the accomplishments and skills Kobe has over his length career. (Durant actually seems to be taking a shot at the media’s glorification of James, as he dismissed athleticism, passing, strength and quickness in favor of skill.)
Now, while his accomplishments and skills are a result of pure dedication to the game, some of Kobe’s durability and longevity thus far has been a result of luck — but I’m going to say a big part of it has been his toughness, indomitable will, and the dedication to receive ’round-the-clock treatment as well as take the necessary strength and conditioning measures to not only perform at an optimum level on the court, but also prevent injury.
The same kind of time and effort he puts into perfecting his craft goes into preparing his body to play at an elite level.
Some of you may recall the Reddit story a trainer at the 2012 Beijing Olympics wrote about Kobe’s preparation. If you haven’t read it, definitely give it a read.
Next Page: How Will Kobe’s Return Affect His Legacy?