The “comparing Kobe” talk is back again after winning his fifth NBA championship. Sports talk radio is littered with phrases such as, ‘Is Kobe the greatest Laker of all time?’ or ‘Is Kobe as good as Michael Jordan?’ If a player wants to be mentioned as achieving greatness then they must win championships. Spectacular players like Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, and Patrick Ewing will never be considered as great as players with similar stats who have won NBA titles. So just what is the difference between those who have gone all the way and those who come up a little short? Does Bryant really have the grit, the will, the skill, and the determination that many others do not?
Number 24 is a great player and he has the accolades to support that. He also has one thing that other amazing players who have never won a ring do not. He has a skill that can’t be matched. This talent was not developed or earned, nor was he born with it. He has the unmatched skill of Shaquille O’neal and Pau Gasol. These “large” factors are truly the secrets behind Kobe’s success because he really didn’t amount to much the years he was without them. Even Phil wasn’t able to coach the league’s best player to the finals without having the league’s top center to accompany him.
When Kobe proved he was able to win a ring without Shaq that seems like quite an accomplishment. However, when Shaq says Kobe can’t win without him that is true in theory. Pau Gasol is not Shaquille O’Neal, but he is arguably the league’s best big man at the current time. Does anyone really believe that Charles Barkley or Karl Malone would not have multiple titles if they had had Gasol or Shaq as their complimentary sidekick? I don’t think there’s any question that Shaq or Gasol would have been the answer for many teams that were falling just short of a championship. So is Bryant really more special because the Lakers are winning titles? When it all comes down to it Kobe Bryant is only a part of the reason that the Lakers are winning.
Kobe is the same player with or without great teammates; however, the media recognizes him as ‘great’ because his all-star level teammates helped him to obtain his world championships. After all, there is no “I” in TEAM.
Ned is the Co-founder of http://spoonhoops.com/ and a regular columnist and contributor to TheHoopDoctors.com.