Deconstructing Kobe

Reed —  June 16, 2009

There is no doubt that this title meant as much to Kobe, and to the public’s perception of his legacy, than perhaps any title has meant to any player in recent memory. In that spirit, we have been showered with stories praising Kobe, dissecting his relief, evaluating his transformation, figuring his place in history, analyzing his relationship with Phil and his teammates, etc., etc., ad nauseam. This has been fun, even if much of it is puffy, revisionist, or based on somewhat distorted generalizations about the facts (both statistical and otherwise).

But we’ve also seen something of a Kobe backlash. This must be the case with Kobe, who polarizes and divides the sports world in strange ways usually associated only with religious/political figures. When you watch Kobe, you care. You don’t lukewarmly clap as you do with Lebron, Wade, Paul, Duncan, or even Jordan. You follow with whole-souled loyalty and love or unbreakable hatred and opposition. No matter where you stand, you care about Kobe; you are interested in him; and you watch him with real emotional investment. Accordingly, having Kobe push through the finals every year is a boon for the league. No one stands at the water cooler debating Spurs-Pistons, or even something seemingly epic like Celtics-Cavs.

The sports world might be more obsessed with Kobe’s legacy than perhaps any player in league (or sports) history. Jordan dispassionately ascended to the pinnacle; Duncan and Shaq are casually placed somewhere in the top 5-10 range; we didn’t argue about Magic and Bird’s place, they just kind of arrived near the top. But we argue and wrangle and declare Kobe’s place in the hierarchy of gods with a different spirit – one attended by stretched stats and forced comparisons. By the time his work is finished he’ll have put together a stunning body of work. If he plays another 5-6 years and LA makes several more deep playoff runs, we could be looking at something in the realm of 5-6 titles, 8-9 finals appearances, multiple finals mvp awards, 15-16 all nba first teams, 12 all nba defense teams, 3-4 all star mvp awards, 3rd all time scorer, all time playoff scorer, two time olympic gold medalist, not to mention the unparalleled highlights. He’ll have won the title with two wholly different teams, both opposed by (potentially) all time top 5 greats in their prime (Duncan and Lebron). This may be optimistic, but it’s more possible than you think.

The Kobe haters sense this and know that this title acts as a swift and final counter to their long paraded criticisms. They see that Kobe is on his way to achieving something un-rebuttable (if that is a word) and that drives them mad. And so, we hear old and new criticisms whispered (or trumpeted in Simmons case) against Kobe:

This Laker team was just the least flawed among a flawed group of contenders.

Kobe still has not learned to trust his teammates and make them better.

His relationship with Phil and his teammates is staged; they can’t stand him at heart.

His numbers look sparkling but he was inefficient and selfish; the real credit belongs with Ariza, Gasol, and others.

Even with this title, Kobe is not Jordan and is now worse than Lebron.

The goal of the Kobe hater is clear: undermine, undermine, undermine. Now, as a Laker blog we are duty bound to defend our shining knight. More significantly, we are a blog devoted to reason, evidence, and substantive discussion. We despise fluff and all of its corollaries. As this recent wave of Kobe attacks are based on shallow and/or false interpretations of the factual record (or no facts at all), they will be addressed in turn. Above all of that, I’m bored and enjoy arguing, so I will take on take on some of these Kobe criticisms.

Now, in full disclosure, I am an unabashed Kobe homer. But I am reasonable and mostly capable of objectivity. Above all, I support my conclusions with facts. I don’t interpret facial expressions, read minds, reconstruct conversations, or analyze hugs and handshakes. Such is irresponsible journalism, and, even though I am not a journalist, I find it somewhere between silly and offensive.

1. Kobe is Not Jordan

This is often used in support of the go to anti-Kobe argument: that he is not Jordan. How many times have we all heard this? “Yeah, well, he may have X, but Kobe’s still not Jordan no matter what he does.” The most relevant and simple response is, of course, who cares. We have nothing riding on Kobe being Jordan. We care about titles and glory for LA and we receive an abundant portion of both. Furthermore, as Dex noted so eloquently, why this fascination with ranking athletes? Given the wildly different context in which every superstar plays, we are fundamentally incapable of objectively comparing them. Wilt vs. Shaq? Stockton vs. Cousy? Bird v. Lebron? There’s no way to accurately make these comparisons. But even if we could, why do we need to? More Dex: we don’t sit around and rank Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Joyce. They are all transcendent geniuses and we simply appreciate that they mastered their craft and brighten our world in different, though always brilliant ways.

Nevertheless, as Kobe comparisons with Jordan will never go away, let’s ensure that they proceed on the facts, not some revisionist and agenda-driven notion of them.

This chart represents four sets of finals statistics from MJ and Kobe. Which set is the most impressive? It has to be Player D, right? Although he shot a somewhat lower percentage from the field than Player B, this is more than overcome by the higher free throw and 3 point %’s, along with significantly higher rebound and assist totals. Players A-C is Jordan during his last three finals runs (98, 97, and 96); Player D is Kobe in 2009.

Beyond showing that Kobe is indeed firmly in Jordan’s ballpark (at least “Phase II Jordan”), these statistics rebut a few attacks levied against Kobe recently. First, they show that Kobe is as willing of a passer, if not more so, than Jordan – and this is at the end of Jordan’s career, when he was supposedly the most team-oriented. Kobe has been accused of recklessly jacking up shots on a solo mission, with Jordan held up as the prototype. But Jordan shot as frequently as Kobe, even though his shooting percentage in two of the three finals is lower than Kobe’s. Jordan didn’t just pass to Paxson one day and ride off to a pass-happy, gunner-controlled sunset.

Did Kobe take some ill advised shots? Undoubtedly. But what does that prove? What superstar wing doesn’t? Besides Jordan, only two other players in nba history have averaged 30 points and 7 assists in the finals – Kobe and Jerry West. Kobe’s unselfish playmaking in the finals is nearly unparalleled. By way of comparison, Wade, who gets so much credit for his 2006 finals run, averaged 3.8 assists per game – half of Kobe’s total.

Second, Kobe was as efficient as Jordan during his last three title runs. Jordan’s free throw and 3 point percentages were lower every year. Much is made of Kobe’s struggles in games 3 and 4 of the finals, but Jordan was equally capable of having an off night. In the 98 finals Jordan shot over 50% once and put up shooting nights of 9-26, 14-33, 15-35, and 13-29. In the 97 finals, Chicago lost games 3 and 4 as Jordan shot 9-22 and 11-27. In 96 against Seattle, two of the final three games witnessed 6-19 and 5-19 performances. My point is that it is disingenuous to knock Kobe for having an off game now and then. Yes Kobe sometimes forces things when he doesn’t have it, but it is revisionist history to say that Jordan didn’t sometimes do the same. Much like Kobe’s Lakers, Jordan’s Bulls were complete teams that were fully capable of winning when he showed his mortal side. And, like Kobe, Jordan was capable of controlling a game even with a struggling jumper.

When evaluating and comparing efficiency, we also need to place these performances in their proper context. Kobe’s last two finals runs have been against the teams that finished first in defensive efficiency (Boston and Orlando). Is it fair to hold it against him that he shot a few percentage points lower than usual? Continuing the above comparison, Jordan’s 98 finals were against the league’s 16th ranked defense (Utah), and the 97 finals against the 9th ranked defense (Utah). If Kobe played against Milwaukee or Dallas in the finals (two middle of the road defensive teams), what would his numbers have looked like?

Now, my point is not that Kobe is as good as or better than Jordan. He has obviously not put together an equivalent body of work. And, it is fair to point out that Jordan was 32-34 during the three finals runs listed above (although with much less mileage than Kobe will have at a similar stage due to college and baseball). More importantly, Kobe has not approximated Jordan’s first three finals runs, which are simply off the charts. For example, 1993 against Phoenix: 41 points, 8.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists on 50.7% shooting. Although even these great early finals runs for Jordan need to be read in context. With respect to the Phoenix series, note that (1) Phoenix had the 9th ranked defense, and (2) the league shot almost 2% points higher in the early 90s compared with recent seasons. I keep harping on the former point because it is salient — in any year it is difficult to maintain peak efficiency against the very elite defenses. Consider that in those same 1993 playoffs Jordan faced the league’s #1 defense in the conference finals (New York) and had a nightmare series, averaging only 10 makes on 26 attempts, good for 40% shooting. In the first three games of this series, he shot 10-28, 12-32, and 3-18. In the final game he went 8-24. That represents 4 of the 6 games (although he did have a huge 54 point explosion in game 4, when the Bulls were down 2-1 and needed a win).

Still, Kobe’s not Jordan. His career resume and best playoff performances still fall short. We don’t ultimately care, but many of the arguments that attempt to discredit Kobe by pointing to Jordan simply get the facts wrong. I don’t want to hear that Kobe’s on a stubborn solo mission, won’t pass, and has too many mortal games — and have Jordan thrown in my face. Kobe just put up a finals that was on par with and probably eclipsed Jordan’s last three finals, and he did so against the league’s best defensive team.

And, in some respects, I’m glad Kobe’s not Jordan. I’m glad he doesn’t “command” a room the same way. Kobe’s devotion is basketball and basketball alone. (Can you imagine if Simmons told Bird he wasn’t as good as Magic because he couldn’t “command a room”? He’d be appropriately slapped in the mouth). Maybe Kobe will also avoid some of Jordan’s pitfalls along the way — diminishing comebacks, failed front office ventures (the irony is that Kobe got more out of Kwame than Jordan ever did). But that’s all besides the present point. By any measure Kobe just put up a grade A finals for the ages — even if it’s compared to the Basketball Prototype.

2. Kobe is Not Lebron

Now, this is also true: Kobe is not Lebron. But now I’m speaking metaphysically as opposed to comparatively. The common argument goes something like this. Lebron is better than Kobe because his stats are far superior; the only reason Lebron didn’t beat Orlando and Kobe did is because Lebron’s teammates forsook him.

The truth is that Lebron’s stats against Orlando (and during the regular season) are far superior to Kobe’s, but they don’t tell the whole story. Lebron and Kobe’s stats vs. Orlando:

What do we make of these numbers? Well, in terms of pure volume Lebron wins out. He also shot a significantly higher percentage from the field. But I want to extrapolate from the team offensive efficiency and three point shooting numbers. Both LA and Cleveland demolished Orlando’s league leading defense with 110 ratings, but LA did it as a team and Lebron did it alone. One way of viewing this is to praise Lebron over Kobe; the other is to recognize that Lebron was less capable of opening up the game for his teammates. I posit that Kobe’s refined offensive game actually is much more conducive to creating and enhancing teammate opportunities, even if Lebron is usually praised as the more willing passer.

Ric Bucher actually got me thinking about this in a Simmons podcast. He said that while Lebron put up sparkling numbers, he did so very inefficiently – but not in the sense that he shot a low %. Instead, Lebron’s lack of post game and three point shooting force him to dribble endlessly while searching for an opening to penetrate, eating away at the shot clock and leaving teammates standing stagnant. The result was often a powerful Lebron drive or free throws, but it came at a heavy cost for team play – the defense can largely play him one on one, play off him a few feet, and stay at home on his teammates. Orlando did this beautifully and Lebron fell for the trap, leading to his teammates really struggling to get easy opportunities from the field. It was Lebron or nothing every possession.

Compare this with Kobe’s game against Orlando. Kobe is the single best post up guard in the league – his strength, footwork, and moves render him deadly on the block. As a consequence, Orlando had to double team Kobe every time he got the ball down low. Furthermore, Kobe’s unlimited range force his man to stick with him out past the three point line, even on the weak side. Kobe can score from anywhere with very little effort, whether it’s in the post, outside the three point line, on a pick and roll, in the midrange, etc. He’s also a deadly free throw shooter so the defense has to play him honest. The result? Kobe is much more capable of efficiently breaking down a defense than Lebron. Why was Fisher wide open for the game-winning three in overtime of game 4? Because Orlando had to double Kobe in the post. Why did Trevor Ariza shoot dozens and dozens of threes with no one within 10 feet of him? Ditto. Why do Pau and Odom work such an effective high-low game after Kobe initiates the pick and roll? Because the defense knows Kobe can pull up quickly from anywhere. Why did Gasol see so much single coverage? On and on we could go.

This is how a team starting Smush Parker, Brian Cook, and Kwame Brown finished 8th in offensive efficiency in 2006. Think about that. So, while Kobe may not shoot the same percentage from the field as Lebron, his diverse, quick-hitting, polished offensive game makes him much more capable of breaking down the heart of a defense and opening up opportunities for others. All of those easy shots were there for Fisher, Ariza, Gasol, and Odom because of Kobe. And credit to them for rising up and making them.

I recognize that Lebron may have had a superior regular season than Kobe, but remember that one of them consistently cracked the elite teams and the other did not. In terms of driving a team to success, Kobe is still miles ahead of Lebron.


3. Kobe Remains a Poor Leader; He Does Not Make His Teammates Better and They Dislike Him

This is the final criticism I’ll address, and by far the most infuriating. There are variations on this theme, but the attacks usually boil down to Kobe being simply unlikable and/or selfish.

First, Kobe as likable. Really analyzing this requires the kind of facial expression and lip reading mastery that I don’t yet have a degree in (Simmons rejected my application). And, while I do believe that Kobe’s teammates like him, at least much more than they ever have before, that is ultimately besides the point to me.

Kobe is the leader of that team; the general. I honestly don’t care whether he has bubble baths with the guys after hours or not. I don’t care whether he makes them laugh or plays cards with them. I’m guessing that Lebron, and most nba alpha dogs, are much better at these things than Kobe. The question is whether the leader commands his teammates respect and brings out the best in them on the court. And it is simply dishonest to say that any other superstar in the league gets more out of his teammates than Kobe.

First, it is acknowledged by all, friend and foe, that Kobe had a transformative effect on the other Redeem Team members. He is unmatched as a worker, professional, and student of his craft, and this quickly rubbed off on Lebron, Wade, Howard, Melo, etc. They were all quick this year to point this fact out and credit Kobe for their career years. Everyone, even Simmons, recognizes this (although he did find some way to pervert Kobe’s Olympic experience into a “mistaken” and “foolish” sharing of trade secrets… blah blah barf. Simmons, here’s a column suggestion, how about comparing Paul Pierce’s splendid USA basketball experience in 2002 with Kobe’s?). The maturation of Lebron, Wade, Melo, Howard, Paul, Deron and co. seems to be initiating another golden era for the league (leaving behind the carter-iverson, spurs-pistons and other ice-age-ish periods). Shouldn’t Kobe get some credit for this?

If Kobe proved so powerful in transforming superstars on the Olympic Team, then why don’t we believe he has had a similar impact on his Laker teammates over time? If you look back at recent Laker teams and players, you’ll see that this has to be the case. The last few Laker teams are absolutely littered with mediocre players that achieved some measure of never to be reproduced success next to Kobe.

Kwame Brown. Smush Parker. Chucky Atkins. Brian Cook. Chris Mihm. Kareem Rush. Jumaine Jones.

Where are they now? Will we ever hear from them again? Do you realize that the 2006 Laker team won 45 games in the West with Smush Parker starting 82 games (3rd leading scorer), Kwame Brown 49, Brian Cook 46, Chris Mihm 56, and Devean George as the 6th man? Really ponder that. Will Smush Parker ever play again in the nba? Will Brian Cook ever play in the rotation again for a playoff team, much less start? Consider that Smush Parker has a 12.5 PER playing on the Lakers and a career 6.9 PER otherwise; for Brian Cook it is 14.6 with Kobe and 8.5 without. Doing this kind of PER comparison could be its own post.

Now think about Kobe’s teammates on these finals teams. Will Radmanovic ever start again for a finals team? Will we ever hear from Sasha or Walton again if they leave Kobe’s side – and both have been critical performers on finals teams? How many career three pointers did Trevor Ariza make before Kobe gave him his shooting program last summer? (Nine). Would Gasol ever have made an all nba team or been considered a top 10 overall player on Memphis? How much money has playing with Kobe earned Ariza, Sasha, Walton, Smush, Cook, Kwame, Turiaf, Fisher, etc., etc.

Some people in life are simply uncomfortable with mediocrity. They do not stand for it. Kobe is that teacher we all had in high school that was all business, made you do four hours of homework every night, show up every day, and pour everything you had into each assignment, paper, or test. You hated that teacher. You may have often complied out of fear, but by the end you learned a hell of a lot more than you ever had before and appreciated it. That’s Kobe Bryant. He may not be Mr. Kicks and Giggles, but you will absolutely work your tail off and play better than you ever have before under him. As Jerry West said recently, “Kobe approaches the game the right way. Not smiling around and glad-handing guys on the other team. I watch some of these guys laughing and joking before the game or on the bench. If it’s that damn funny … maybe that’s a sign of weakness.” And all of this is on top of how easy he makes the game for others on the court, which we’ve addressed.

Bill Simmons just wrote an article that alleged Kobe has not changed from last year. He even pointed to fancy numbers showing that Kobe’s playoff performance this year was similar to last year. He doesn’t realize that he’s proven my point. No, Kobe has not changed from last year. He’s the same dominant superstar that drove his team to blitz through the most brutal conference in decades. But his teammates have changed, and Kobe was the one that changed them. That is the story of these playoffs — the transformation of Gasol, Ariza, and Odom from timid softies to rise to the moment men. They now own Kobe’s work ethic and killer instinct. And they are doing things that no one thought they would ever do. Just like Lebron and Wade and Howard and Melo before them… The Lakers won 65 games; they did not lose three games in a row all year or two in a row during the playoffs. They were 4-1 in closeout games and simply crushed their opponents in each of the four wins. Why? Because the team possessed the spirit of Kobe.

4. Finally, a Word to Mr. Simmons

I like Bill Simmons. I am genuinely excited when he writes a new column on the nba. I will buy his new book the first day it comes out and probably enjoy it. But sometimes you need to call a spade a spade. Bill’s had a rough playoff run. He’s said things like:

• “I have been saying that for 2 months now. What we’re watching this spring is basically the 2006 Lakers, only with Gasol replacing Chris Mihm, Kobe being 15% worse, Bynum being 20% better and Ariza being a slight improvement over Ariza. It’s a limited team that lacks toughness and can be beaten.”

• “The ’09 Cavs are the ’91 Bulls reincarnated… everyone keeps underestimating them and nobody realizes that they are about the blow thru these last 2 rounds.”

• “The Magic just needed 7 games to beat a Celtics team that had 2 scorers with dead legs, Scalabrine/Marbury/House as their bench and actually ran a game-ending play for Glen Davis. Don’t start thinking Orlando is good please.”

• “Dwight Howard couldn’t score 40 points in a game if he was going against Yi Jianlian’s chair.”

These ironclad, can’t be otherwise predictions have proven not just wrong, but embarrassingly wrong. That would be okay given that he’s just a fan like the rest of us – we all are wrong and most of us didn’t see Orlando coming. But he has the hubris to persevere in omniscience. Whenever Simmons is wrong, he always follows the same pattern: (1) blame the failed team’s coach, and (2) use hindsight to tell us what the losing team should have done to win. Just admit you blew it, Bill. Admit that you misread Cleveland, Orlando, and LA. Admit that instead of blaming Cleveland’s loss on bad coaching and the failure of Cleveland’s role players you should have considered these facts before making your predictions – that Brown’s offensive lack of creativity and the playoff inexperience of Cleveland’s role players might be a problem after all. Monday morning quarterbacking doesn’t become front page espn writers.

While we know you have to undermine LA’s title as a Boston fan, do you really want to start comparing how our team was built with Boston’s current roster? Do you really want to talk about non-repeatable good fortune? Do you want me to list your quotes damning Doc and Ainge for openly tanking in 2007? Do you really believe that LA’s roster is some cosmic accident wholly unlike every other title team in history? Because if you do, I have some Paul Pierce 2002 FIBA World Championship cards I need to sell.

And, while you were quick to point out that LA didn’t have to play Boston in this years finals (which is assuming a lot), you failed to note that Boston was lucky not face Ariza or the one-legged Bynum. Do you have any idea how painful it was to watch Radmanovic guard Pierce as opposed to Ariza? I would gladly replay the 2008 and 2009 finals, both against Boston, with LA’s current team. Would you?

But, beyond that, Simmons most recent attack on Kobe is agenda-driven nonsense. We get it, Bill. We know you hate Kobe. We know you hate that he now has more titles than Bird. We know it eats away at you that the Celtics are probably a one and done band of mercenaries while the Lakers are built for the long haul. We know that the Lakers have won 9 titles and been to 15 finals in your lifetime compared to 4 and 6 for the Celtics. We know those 60s Celtic rings came in a different NBA — pre-expansion, salary cap, globalization, etc. We know that, as a Celtics fan, you have sworn a blood oath to discredit and undermine LA and Kobe at all costs – even if it infects the tone and quality of your writing. But, please, give us Laker fans the courtesy of relying on actual facts and evidence to support your arguments. Don’t rewatch the finals celebration a dozen times searching for one missed high five or false smile. Don’t read Phil’s mind. Use your army of researchers to give us something meaningful to actually chew on and think about. Because what I see when I study Kobe is the game’s preeminent player, leader, teammate, and winner.

–Reed


Reed

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366 responses to Deconstructing Kobe

  1. Hey Reed – you made some great arguments, and I am a Kobe hater. I still dislike Kobe, but I have to give him his due respect – he has proven that he can lead a team to the championship. Of course, I will always be partial to MJ, but I do have more respect for Kobe now.

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  2. Just took a look at the 2009 free agents, restricted (r) and unrestricted (u). Top priority goes to Odom and Ariza, then Shannon Brown in my opinion, but another (big) guard wouldn’t hurt if Vujacic can’t turn it around and Morrison doesn’t get going (I’m not counting on it, he has that depressed look of no confidence at all about him). FA Options, assuming most players with early terminating options don’t use it because contracts are rather going down in value:

    Flip Murray (u) – too small for a Phil Jackson 2, too expensive

    Gerald Green (u) – still like the potential (poor man’s Ariza), what if Kobe took him and Ariza to summer camp with him?

    Dahntay Jones (u) – Denver will have problems re-signing him, Kleiza and Anderson, but the playoff fouls on Kobe may also be a factor

    Von Wafer (u) – Houston will probably keep him

    Marquis Daniels (u, team opt.) – probably staying put, but like him as a player

    Ricky Davis (u, player opt.) – just kidding

    Quinton Ross (u) – would be nice summer camp invite, had a streak of good defensive showings a few seasons ago

    Keith Bogans (u) – doesn’t excite me

    Rodney Carney (u) – 6-7, don’t know about his handle or b-ball IQ though

    Desmond Mason (u) – coming off injury, not much of a shooter

    Hedo Turkoglu (u) – has been so impressed by the Lakers during the Finals that he wants to sign for cheap

    Kareem Rush (u) – not sure I’d want to go there again

    Matt Barnes (u) – like the toughness, don’t like the (probable) price

    Rashad McCants (r) – doesn’t seem willing to be a bit/role player

    Ime Udoka (u) – didn’t flourish on the Spurs, whom he seemed perfect for

    Joey Graham – would be a good pick-up

    Anthony Parker – would be a great pick-up

    Juan Dixon (u) – no idea

    A guy like Sefolosha would have been perfect in my opinion, but now OKC’s got him. I don’t think Sasha can be turned into a more useful player, maybe the following season when he has only one year left. That leaves Morrison, whose value is at an all-time low. I don’t see Sun Yue stepping in. I’d say give an NBDL player a chance, the Raptors found a nice rotation guy in Mensa-Bonsuh. I would have said James White, but I just realized that he signed on with the Rockets at some point.

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  3. I don’t like B.S. getting more air time on Parade Day, but if it has to be done, I want it to be the pwnage Reed just laid down. Thank you so much.

    I think the stats still show Jordan is better. Will Kobe ever surpass him? I don’t know; I don’t think he will. And Lebron may surpass Kobe yet. But that doesn’t matter to me. “Jordan is better” is a valid criticism of Kobe if and only if Kobe claims to be better, which he has never done. Kobe has only strived to be the best ever. I can respect that more than someone whose goal is to be the best *paid* ever. And I’ll take Kobe over the best ever because he’s MY superstar.

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  4. Great job Kurt, awesome article! Eat muppet finger Simmons!!

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  5. I don’t know if anyone cares, but was Jerry Buss at the parade? (I was at work and couldn’t see him in Internet)

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  6. RE: 163 – Darius

    Darius makes an excellent point about Celtic fans, in general. Most fans are delusional about their own players – that’s part of being a fan

    What truly sets Celtic fans apart (including Bill Simmons), is they spend a ton of energy actively trying to discredit everyone else (in most cases, the Lakers, as they are the Celtics’ chief rival), as that’s what helps them sleep at night.

    So it’s not enough to say, “If we had a healthy KG, we win the title,” they must also spend 10,000 words attempting to discredit Kobe Bryant through pop-psychology innuendo.

    It’s an inherent bitterness that truly sets them apart.

    I was talking to a Celtic friend of mine yesterday, too…and it cracked me up the ways they try to discredit players. I mentioned how well Lamar Odom played in the Finals, and his comeback was to say,

    “Oh yeah, well, everytime Lamar dunks, he always acts like a jacka$$ imediately afterward!”

    This statement, of course, is not only untrue, but has nothing to do with anything surrounding my original comment about Lamar’s play.

    But that’s a Celtic fan: fillibuster is their weapon of choice.

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  7. Reed, I have to say, this is a phenomenal amount of work. Kobe fans have his back, that’s for sure.

    But I feel just the teensiest bit awkward about this post. I mean, it is an in-joke with some of these folks (Simmons, of course, and I think you can guess who else) how sensitive Lakers Fan is. Of course, you may say, they do their best to bring it out, but it doesn’t matter how infuriating what Simmons or whoever it is writes, I hate to see anybody sort of fall into that stereotype. That’s why, even though I think Dex’s writing is lyrical and I sympathize with his positions, I can’t really bring myself to read it all. I can’t stand to give any hater the ammunition to bring the hate on all over again.

    I do agree that it’s nuts to compare Kobe, or any of today’s players, to Jordan, or any of the older ones. The game’s just too different. It’s a faster game. It’s called more loosely, too, which long-time fans don’t like but I’m not sure what the right solution is. Some rules have even explicitly changed. I have NEVER liked using statistical comparisons for superstars (think they’re just fine for journeymen), because superstars are just too one-of-a-kind to compare that way, and to compare them across different eras is craziness cubed. It’s almost irresistible, because Kobe is the one player today whose relentless drive to master all aspects of the game most mirrors Jordan’s (does anyone think LeBron is even CLOSE to Kobe in this regard?). But I still think it’s a fool’s game.

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  8. Kaifa, we have no free agent options. Even without Ariza’s and Odom’s contracts on our books, we’re still at $74 million under contract for next season. This may be slightly less if Kobe opts out and signs a back-loaded max extension, but we’d still be way over the salary cap. Thus, we’d only have the MLA to work with, and that would be much better served using on Odom or Ariza than any FA. The only reason we can hope to re-sign both of them is to use the MLA on Ariza and sign Odom to an extension and using the Bird Exception.

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  9. 208 – Don’t we have the Bird rights to both Odom and Ariza?

    Correct me if I am wrong, but contracts signed under a player’s Bird rights do not count towards the mid level exception to the salary cap.

    I think the concern is total cost of the Lakers’ salary plus the associated luxury tax. Resigning Ariza and Lamar would effectively eliminate any spending we could do due to the vast sum we would pay to the luxury tax gods, not because we wouldn’t have our MLE.

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  10. Zephid, you’re right. It was more of an exercise to see whether anything’s out there, including the slim possibilty of a sign-and-trade of someone like Morrison for a more useful piece. What I’m taking away is that there only few players who are interesting (like an Anthony Parker), most of those out of the Lakers’ price range and probably not attainable either by trading one or more of the players who weren’t part of the playoff rotation.

    Which kind of contracts can players be signed to by a team over the cap again? Minimum contracts are still an option, right?

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  11. The parade was a great finish to this fantastic season of the Lakers. Kurt, not one or two, but four people were curious why I had a shirt with ‘Forum Blue’ on it, they recognized the picture of the Great Western Forum. so I sent them to your web address for further clarification after a quick explanation. A very fun time indeed today.

    Nice Post Reed, I like your work.

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  12. 209, yes, you’re right, we have Bird Rights for both. Ariza signed an extension after he was traded to Orlando, and thus did not change teams during free agency and is a 3-year veteran. My mistake.

    Yes, minimum contracts do not count against the salary cap (they do count against the luxury tax).

    I’m not so sure that we really want to add any pieces at this point. The only movable asset we have is Adam Morrison’s Expiring Contract, and I frankly would rather get draft picks and maybe a young combo guard then any other viable veteran on the market. I’d like to give Farmar and Brown a chance to get some time running the show at the point, and Sasha a second chance at being Kobe’s back-up. If we manage to re-sign Lamar, our frontcourt is pretty much set, assuming we also pick up the team options on Mbenga and Powell, which I expect.

    I think now is the time when we should be planning for the future by stocking up on draft picks and the like, as opposed to going for FA’s right now when our team is already so stacked.

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  13. The “Kobe is not Jordan” section lacks coherency and is superfluous. What is your argument in that section? First you say “who cares” then “why rank athletes?”—then you proceed to compare Kobe’s Finals performance with Jordan’s who was, of course, past his prime. You admit this but, again, what is your argument here?

    “Kobe’s devotion is basketball and basketball alone.” Really? Did you forget game 7 of the 2006 NBA playoffs against the Suns? Seems like he was devoted to quitting on his team to prove a point to the media!

    It was Grade A but not a Jordan-esque performance. Jordan doesn’t go one on three to get his shot blocked by Turkoglu. Jordan doesn’t stay in the game to score 40 in a blowout in the Finals—in any game.

    Of course the Laker constituency eats this up!

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  14. sometimes we dig too much into the stats, I think. It really takes someone to watch the games to evaluate a player or a team, and stats are just back-ups. Otherwise the coaches do not need the sit court-side and just read box-scores.

    I want to share my experience of watching Lebron playing Orlando. The way he dribbles endlessly and the other Cleveland-ers standing courtside (sorry, but the way they stagnate really looks like they are standing outside of the court) make me cringe. Their offense is WAY worse than that of LA.

    I judge a general by his troop, not by size of his biceps.

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  15. Reed,

    That was magnificent. I have been reading Bill Simmons for a long time, and he even contacted me when he was moving out to LA–knowing that I was already out here. He is an amazing writer that has a unique and entertaining style. But he has a major flaw … and it’s that he can’t rationally write about the NBA. He calls himself one of the last real NBA fans on earth, and it is by far his favorite sport. When I lived in Boston he must have flip-flopped on Antoine Walker’s career at least 3 dozen times–he literally started to sound like a sports fan that escaped from an insane asylum. Thank god, his also wrote about the Red Sox, Patriots and Pop Culture events … which made up for his horrific columns on the NBA. He also wrote probably 20 articles about trading Paul Pierce, which would be great to dig up at some point. Anyway, I’m not sure if I’m going to enjoy his NBA Book because it’s a subject matter he has had a hard time grasping … and not to get too personal but I know he talks a lot about his father and attending Celtics games with him as a young kid. And I think the NBA probably means something more to him on a psychological level from his relationship with his dad after his parents got divorced.

    All in all, just a great job Reed. Your theory about Kobe not changing but players that play with him changing is just about the best Kobe explanation I’ve ever read about the man. And it ties in perfectly with what Phil said … you’ll lead when others will follow you. And for the last few years, players have been following Kobe because they believe he has the keys to the promised land. This year … they were all vindicated.

    Thanks Reed. Keep up the good work.

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  16. First off, very nice job on this post- I am not from LA and not a Laker fan but I agree with all your arguments. And I understand that, as a Lakers blog, this is (and should be) biased. But, let’s make one point clear:

    “When you watch Kobe, you care. You don’t lukewarmly clap as you do with Lebron, Wade, Paul, Duncan, or even Jordan.”

    Bullsh*t. When YOU watch Kobe, YOU care. YOU don’t lukewarmly clap as you do with Lebron, Wade, Paul, Duncan, or even Jordan, because you are a die hard lakers fan with a blog.

    I do lukewarmly clap for Kobe. So do many many others in New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Miami, etc. Just throwing that out there.

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  17. Great article. This further solidifies the fact that Simmons couldn’t write his way out a box but it’s okay I think Simmons is just bitter because “The Sports Gal” is continuing to blow up while she sits on her fat a#$ watching the Hills. ESPN needs a real unbiased journalist like you and I will be the first to start a petition in order for you to get the position. Keep writing and go lakers!!

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  18. amazing.
    frankly, I’ve always enjoyed reading bill simmons’ stuff. but i absolutely cannot tolerate anything he writes regarding the lakers or kobe. or his ridiculous boston lovefest.

    THIS right here….better than any article simmons has ever written, on any topic.

    thank you.

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  19. anybody know where we could get a read on the nature of the exits interviews?
    love to hear what they told Sasha… practice your shots.
    or Shannon, learn the tri
    or Josh, nail the 15 footer
    DJ, don’t bite on the first head fake, stay planted.
    Jordan, perfect the teardrop, work on control
    etc etc etc

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  20. can you add Henry Abbott to the Kobe haters without facts?

    why would kobe want to change? he’s got 4 titles and 6 appearances. must be doing something right

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  21. Brilliant piece. I really loved it. Great job!

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  22. That article hit the spot, I hate Bill Simmons and all his nonsense, as a lakers fan I’m glad someone finally stood up and defended our hero(Kobe). Again thanks.

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  23. But, haven’t the puppets deconstructed Kobe sufficiently?

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  24. #52, mike,
    That kind of thing isn’t beside the point to most of us. I don’t hate on him cause he’s great and i’m jealous, i just don’t like him and evidence to me points to everyone else not really liking him either.

    Actually we do realize that. We just think it’s a bit hypocritical to demand Kobe to be likable when you never apply that standard to any other athlete in any other sport. Do you like any other great athlete other there? Have you ever considered if you do?

    No one other than Kobe ever needs to be charming to avoid being hated, and the fact that you require it of him and not of anyone else, is what irritates us Laker fans. We get that you dislike him. What we don’t get is why you actually let that bother you. You think we want to be friends with someone with that big an ego, competitive drive, and workaholic tendencies? Really?

    That the real question, the ultimate point here: Why does it matter if he’s likable or not?

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  25. “Kobe’s devotion is basketball and basketball alone.” Really? Did you forget game 7 of the 2006 NBA playoffs against the Suns? Seems like he was devoted to quitting on his team to prove a point to the media!

    – I don’t think KB was trying to prove apoint to the media…then AND now. I don’t even think he was trying to drive a point. I do think it’s just the exasperation of a trully fierce competitor.

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  26. laker fan in raptorland June 17, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    It has been ages since I read SLAM (my NBA source prior to the internet) and I found myself browsing through the latest issue at the newstand. Anyway, there was this article about a contest to give Shannon Brown a nickname — the winning entry turned out to be ShanWOW — wasn’t it here at FBG (4 months ago???) that the name was first brought up???

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  27. It was Grade A but not a Jordan-esque performance. Jordan doesn’t go one on three to get his shot blocked by Turkoglu. Jordan doesn’t stay in the game to score 40 in a blowout in the Finals—in any game.

    – Really now, would a player while dribbling or off a dribble know WHEN he will be blocked? I think KB was trying to create opputrunities for the team with that move. That block was from behind, for cryin’ out loud!

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  28. Excellent post, wonderful writing.

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  29. Mimsy, it’s not about being likable. It’s about being sincere. Kobe is fake. He is the NBA’s ARod sans cheating.

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  30. robindude, Ariza and Odom were open (maybe Fischer too)! You know that coming off the timeout that there was no way in hell is was going to pass. I don’t blame him for wanting the glory. It was the scenario that has been swirling in his head for years I bet.

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  31. Glad you brought up revisionist history. Jordan was also trashed for being selfish, a coach killer, a bad teammate, a gambler, a cheating husband. Winning cures all ills. If Kobe keeps getting rings, all is forgiven.

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  32. Reed, this is one of the best pieces I’ve ever read on this site–and that’s saying something! Excellent work.

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  33. #229

    ‘Sincere’ in what sense? on being a teammate? I sure wish you could back that up w/ facts or some good reasoning, as what Reed posted.

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  34. I’m sorry, how can you compare Kobe’s only Finals MVP vs Jordan’s last 3? Are you afraid of being statistically fair? You did at least compare when they are the same age but don’t put in excuses like Kobe had more mileage, the defense was ranked 9th, 17th, etc etc when Jordan played. When the defensive rules are a lot easier to score on now than it was in the past, comparing defensive eras will always give the advantage to Kobe.

    As sick as I am with Simmons, the same goes for the cherry picking of facts that is in this article. Don’t even try comparing Jordan’s individual Finals records with Kobe single championship as the single focus of the Lakers team. There should be no discussion until Kobe actually defends a title. As Jordan has said, its easy to win one, that just means you’re lucky. Defending it means you were actually good.

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  35. #229, ntropy,

    Fair enough, next question then:

    How d you know that he and no one else is? And once again, why are you applying this litmus test only to him and not to anyone else? And if it is about being genuine, why do everyone use the word “likable”, by the way? We seem to have become a bit confused on the terminology here…

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  36. I just want to thank everyone for the illuminating comments – especially several very helpful pieces of criticism. This post kind of spilled out of me late last night, and in my haste I garbled a few points. In particular, I wish I could clarify the Jordan section, why I used the stats I did, and what my ultimate point was. Perhaps there will be time for a clearer follow up in the future. But, the goal wasn’t really to reach irrefutable, crystal clear conclusions anyway – it was to spark discussion, and in that I think we’ve succeeded.

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  37. 229) Kobe is fake? How so? You mean he only pretends to constantly work on improving his game? And Jordan’s public persona was the same as his private persona?

    234) The point was the relative defensive strength of the teams Kobe faced in the finals (relative to the other teams in the league in those seasons).

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  38. take it all in reed. at the end of the day, i hope more than bill, kobe is reading this and he feels an inch more farther from “vindication of the once promising megastar” and closer to “basketball lore”. actions speak louder than words, but your well-chosen words and pointed arguments make this more compelling. congratulations. this was a bomb of a read, reed!

    in other news, the vibe from the parade felt good. signs pointing to us cheering for about the same team next year. pau wants more. kobe wants more. lamar and trevor are smiling. jordan IS smiling. sun yue needs to smile more (maybe the language thing). and well, phil is humbled…which may either mean let’s do it again or shucks i’ll take this montana which won’t happen i pray.

    GO LAKERS!

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  39. @229

    ntropy, why should anyone believe that you have the slightest clue whether Kobe (or anybody else) is “fake” or not? If you know the man personally, you might have a leg to stand on. But any opinion about somebody as a person is completely worthless if you don’t have any actual knowledge of that somebody as a person. Are you personally acquainted with Kobe Bryant? Didn’t think so. This means your opinion about his “fakeness” as a person is without value–no better than a prejudice.

    This is aside from the excellent point made earlier–that is, why does likability matter anyway?

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  40. ntropy says: “Kobe’s devotion is basketball and basketball alone.” Really? Did you forget game 7 of the 2006 NBA playoffs against the Suns? Seems like he was devoted to quitting on his team to prove a point to the media!

    -Really ntropy? Are you a mindreader? The only way to know that for sure is to be able to know what he’s thinking. You have no idea what he’s thinking at that point. It could’ve been that he was already tired, being Game 7 and playing his heart out the entire series. Or maybe PJ instructed him to get his teammates involved.

    ntropy says: …it’s not about being likable. It’s about being sincere. Kobe is fake. He is the NBA’s ARod sans cheating.

    -And you know this because you know him personally, I’m assuming? There’s nothing wrong with not showing a certain side of your personality to the entire world. Some people are just not comfortable with that. I really think that when people talk about how much they hate Kobe, they actually mean (though of course they don’t realize it) that they hate how he doesn’t behave like a public figure who loves the attention, who likes being out there like Lebron. Kobe’s more of an introvert. It’s just the way he is.

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  41. kneejerkNBA, revisionist history? Please elaborate.

    I’m not naive. I am aware of Jordan’s ungainly personality. I admire Jordan for what he was an athlete not as a person. I’m not going to pretend like he’s the most pleasant guy in the world.

    Being selfish? He was always selfish. He needed to be. The titles came when he incorporated his teammates seamlessly within the offense. Kobe’s selfish and I have no qualms with that either—he has to be too! The selfish card is a silly argument against both MJ and Kobe. Laker’s fans know the mediocre teammates Kobe had post-Shaq.

    Coach killer? How so?
    Bad teammate? No, a very demanding teammate that some (e.g., Horace Grant) couldn’t handle.
    A gambler? What does this have to with the discussion here?
    A cheating husband? Ditto.

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  42. Sorry for the double post, but gotta show the love for Reed’s piece. I’ve been wanting to read something like that for a long time now. And I believe Reed IS justified in comparing kobe’s performance with Jordan’s last 3-peat years because of the mileage. Jordan may actually have a slight advantage there cuz he rested quite a bit in between 3-peats, had a great supporting cast, and of course, had all fingers intact. Just imagine what we could’ve seen had the Lakers played in the finals the year he scored 81. We definitely missed out on something special.

    By the way, when I read Simmons’ piece about how Kobe must be kicking himself for showing Lebron how to be a better player in the Olympics, I realized that that was Kobe passing on the torch to the next generation of players. Commentators talk about that a lot, about when players pass on the torch and all that. Well, I really think that was Kobe’s way of doing it, although he still has a fire inside and will keep burning for years to come. People like Simmons will, of course, not even consider that because in their eyes Kobe is the devil. I truly don’t care anymore. Simmons is just a bitter fan who has his column, and that’s ok. Sometimes hate can be a good thing for a rivalry. I remember Kobe said he hated Bird growing up after Magic told him he was Bird’s favorite player. Who knows, years from now Simmons may not feel that way about Kobe. This is just his inner fan talking.

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  43. +1, upping your comment total.

    Great article. Bill Simmons should read it.

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  44. ntropy, that you said kobe’s fake without providing fair stats that you so like to see seemingly, discredits that comment point blank.

    then again, well appreciated comments.

    i think we’ll all be looking back at this article with fair weigh-ins 3-4 years from now. now, as a laker fan i sure do hope it settles the score.

    kobe is not jordan. but the same holds for saying lebron is not kobe. what’s with the comparing? context people. context. that’s why we hear about supporting casts and degree of difficulty. i think reed did a great job of giving kobe his due. let’s leave it at that and talk about the superlatives when kobe’s done. cause he ain’t.

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  45. and my grammar stinks again! apologies thanks kurt

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  46. Reed. You da man. Great rebuttal. I’d give you a 10 but I have to dock you .2 points and give you a final score of 9.8 for saying the following:

    “I like Bill Simmons. I am genuinely excited when he writes a new column on the nba. I will buy his new book the first day it comes out and probably enjoy it. ”

    You almost had a perfect score….fantastic job nonetheless.

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  47. When I Kobe is fake, I mean in a purely psychological sense. I’m not saying that this is absolute truth, it’s just the feeling I get when I see him in interviews and press conferences. Some of his comments feel very calculated, not to mention his awkward laughs. He tries too hard to be liked. It’s a just a feeling I have that I can’t logically prove. Perhaps “fake” is too harsh. It’s merely an observation—I’m not judging him.

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  48. netropy:

    So what you’re saying is that you don’t like that’s he’s not fully relaxed and comfortably himself in front of large numbers of strangers who film and/or record his every word and move, that in the age of YouTube will be preserved forever?

    Yeah, I can see how that making him tense would immediately be a damning quality in any person…

    Seriously? That is your basis for labeling him “not genuine”. Wow.

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  49. Best post I’ve ever read here at Forum B&G (and there have been a whole lot of great ones). Excellent rear-kicking of Simmons, Reed.

    This one goes to my “permanent file” of pick-me-ups to use whenever the Lakers lose in the future. Shouldn’t be too often, methinks.

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  50. Justin N,

    Trust me. Bandwagon Billy has read this. He reads alot. If you’ve ever read his inks, you know that he filters through a ton of websites, media, etc. So whether or not he comes here regularly or it was brought to his attention, he definitely read this.

    The question is, will he respond? No doubt, he will, but will he do it directly? I mean, we’ve already read Hollinger and Henry Abbott respond to “crazy” fans, and Forum Blue and Gold is part of Abbott’s TrueHoop Network. They keep in touch. Simmons will acknowledge this post? Probably not. Maybe a slight diss in his next mailbag or whatever he writes next referencing maniacal Laker fans who worship Kobe. Meanwhile, he’s doing major research to debunk this article.

    What I’m curious to see is if Henry Abbott links this in his ShootAround? or Links?

    ntropy,

    If you astute enough to proofread and correct Reed’s post, then you’re smart enough to get the point.

    You “fake” comments are irrelevant. Even if it were true, the point of the article was Kobe’s positive effect on the court.

    Maybe you’re clever enough to point out the flaws of writing, but you only proved Reed’s point. You have nothing to add but empty rhetoric about Kobe’s “fakeness.” Jordan-esque? Grade A? Who cares. It was Championship-esque .

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  51. I’m not saying I don’t like him. It’s just an observation. He’s probably more amiable than Jordan behind the scenes I bet.

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  52. Masterful…as always! As a regular visitor but rare blogger I just had to post this one time to give you kudos. Great insight. As a life long Laker fan since the Nixon-Ford Era (that’s Norm and Don) this site has truly been a godsend. Thanks for the quality writing…you’re a journalist in your own right!

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  53. Big ups for this article…best response to simmons ever

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  54. The dilemma of Kobe Bryant is that when he tries to amend the things people criticize him for, people call him insincere. When he changed his game to be more team oriented his critics dismissed it as an act, that deep down inside he was “really” selfish, and they’re not fooled by his false unselfish gestures. The change in Kobe didn’t come between 2008 and 2009 but during those wilderness years after 2004, when he realized that no individual achievements made up for losing. The difference between the 2009 and 2008 finals is more likely the Lakers’ play as a team than individual performances.

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  55. i’m not alone, after all ?? (tears of joy)

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  56. Re: Reed “optimistic” estimate of Kobe’s body of work.

    Before anything, really great article!

    Anyway, it’s something I was also thinking about:
    Let’s say the Lakers keep Ariza and Odom, Shannon Brown develops into a Ron Harper type starter beside Kobe, and Bynum becomes a consistent 15-10 guy. Now those things aren’t impossible, right?

    Best case scenario is the Lakers become a modern version of (ironically) the 80s Celtics dynasty – with Kobe as a more athletic Bird, Gasol as a taller and more mobile McHale, and Bynum in the Parish role.
    Add solid defenders and shooters like Ariza and Brown around them plus a bench led by Odom and I could seriously see them winning 2 to 3 more titles in the next five years.

    I don’t think Cleveland can take out the Lakers unless they make a major move. Plus, if LeBron defects to NY then you have to give the Knicks a few years before they start contending. Boston maybe has one more good run in them then they’re done. For some reason, I don’t see Orlando getting back soon.

    So my question is, if Kobe ends up with 6-7 titles, does that cement him as Vice-GOAT?

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  57. Thank you. I emailed him a reply but you wrote something one million times better than anything I could have put in words. Thank you thank you thank you.

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  58. I just read more of this thing and my god it’s brilliant. It’s just excellent. You covered pretty much everything. Unbelievable piece, Reed. Every basketball fan should read this, it’s just that good.

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  59. great article!

    and to those who complain about kobe’s “fake smile” and “forced interactions” – maybe the man is just not comfortable in the micro analysed social world he lives in. So what? You want him to say “f*** you” to everyone and walk off? I’m sure you’d like him better then since he was being “real”..

    if you don’t like him then you don’t like him.. no big deal. just don’t go searching and digging for reasons.

    ’cause if you really don’t like ‘fake’.. just give me your thoughts on lebron’s pre-game photo ops. wow how embarassing that must be for him to look back on that now!

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  60. An interesting and thoughtful read, Reed. Though I must admit that after initially reading the Simmons article, I thought that he was reluctantly admitting Kobe’s greatness, even if he had to couch it a bit to save face; but, I thought that what he wrote was actually one of the strongest arguments in favor of Kobe’s greatness that I’ve read (perhaps, in a way, even more so than yours!), because he had to overcome so much to come to his conclusion that Kobe’s last 2 years were some of the best ever played. (that was his conclusion, wasn’t it?)

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  61. wow. *applause* i am just speechless.
    tears were brought to my eyes. i’m not the
    biggest basketball fan but i am truly am a
    Lakers fan. Once again, excellent job Reed.

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  62. you know, the other thing that no one really mentions about the amazing play of Kobe over the last 2 years: He did it all with a hand that still needs surgery. Absolute mind over matter.

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  63. PeanutButterSpread June 18, 2009 at 12:11 am

    someone pinch me.

    I just saw Robert Horry in a commercial for ABC’s new reality show, “Superstars.”

    Fail, Robert.

    Epic FAIL.

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  64. You know Reed, this was not just a nice Post, it is a work of art that should be displayed somewhere prominent.

    Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something. – Plato

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  65. I appreciate you prefacing the post by declaring your unabashed homerism. And I guess, for most of your audience, those first few paragraphs ring true. But you lost me somewhere in the 3rd paragraph.

    First you tell me that I care about Kobe — I don’t. I absolutely 100% do watch him without interest. As a basketball player, sure, he’s good fun to watch. But so are those other guys you mentioned, even Tim Duncan’s game gives me little shivers of joy sometimes in its perfect simplicity. Also, people didn’t love or hate Jordan?! What planet were you living on during the 90’s? I mean, I realize that the Showtime dynasty was more or less over and you probably had a bigger thorn in your emotional side with the late 80’s Pistons, but come on: ask any Knicks, Pistons, Pacers, Sonics, Suns, or Jazz fans (and yes, I did try to cover most of the country geographically there) and they’ll tell you that damn right they hated Jordan! Or more likely, loved to watch him play unless it was against their team, when he became the antichrist.

    And second, and I quote, “Jordan dispassionately rose to the top.” I can’t think of anything I could possibly say (“up is down” type statements aside) that would be more wrong. That guy was passion personified. I’m not sure there was ever anyone in the history of the game who wanted it more than he did. I mean, seriously… homerism’s all well and good especially on a Lakers-centric blog, but you also claimed to be about facts, objectivism, all those haughty journalistic ideals. You can’t just revise history in a few poorly-thought-out sentences in the intro to a piece like this.

    epilogue: I did pick up reading again later, and yes — I kinda hate the way BS picks on Kobe, and no — he probably doesn’t deserve it. Solid piece, overall, I just had to pick some nits there. Thanks for the interesting read.

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  66. 1.) Comparing Kobe and Jordan the way you did was not very objective. Jordan’s WORST finals is Kobe’s average finals.

    2.) You either didn’t watch the Cavs/Magic series, or you just hate the idea that many people think Lebron is a better player than Kobe. He did absolutely everything in that series. he had one of the greatest playoff series of all time. You can’t blame Lebron for the insanely bad shooting of the entire team. The offense didn’t morph into 1 on 5 mode into late in fourth quarters. And when it did, like in game 5 – LeBron dominated anyway – despite the defense geared towards him.

    3.) You don’t even realize what you are doing. Simmons doesn’t write what he does because he feels the need to “undermine” anything. He writes it for the same reason so many non-kobe lovers write the same things. Because Kobe’s performance rarely matches up with his mythical reputation. All over these comments you have people screaming he’s the best ever, or the second best ever. The ABC crew did it during game 5. You don’t even recognize how good some of the other lakers are because you are two busy trying to find ways to UNDERMINE them so that you can try to make the claim that Kobe is better than LeBron.

    4.) there are so many laker fans, that they have actually swayed public opinion on Kobe – no small feat. Every NBA site I go to is just flooded with Laker trolls going on about how Kobe is the greatest ever.

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  67. I think we need to forward this link to John Hollinger over at ESPN as well. He is in love with Lebron and does not Like Kobe either.
    One of the best articles I have ever read on this subject. Great work reed.

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  68. Jordan played basketball like Fred Astaire danced. There was a sense that things that were difficult or impossible to others was easy for him. I think that might be what Reed meant by dispassionate, which is probably not the best word.

    I remember the Celtics of the 80s as big bruisers who executed perfectly and never beat themselves.

    What I expect to hear in the future: “Kobe would have never won seven championships if Andrew Bynum hadn’t developed into a dominating big man.”

    I think what Kobe should aim for in the remainder of his career is to be the most valuable player. Not to win the trophy, but to do whatever is most valuable at any given moment. I’m sure he has ideas of his own.

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  69. Kobe who, That seems a bit Kobe centric
    like Kobe is how about crediting other lakers for the effort they contributed to the winning of the championship

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  70. @266:

    You start your post declaring that you don’t care about Kobe. If that’s the case, why are you even here? Why are you even posting? Did the fact that someone would accuse you of caring about a player prompt you to write an essay in response declaring your disinterest? You go on to write that while Kobe doesn’t excite you, Tim Duncan gives you the shivers. That line right there explains that you are NOT the average NBA fan.

    Furthermore, since you pointed out that you just decided to stop reading the article and comment on the sections that you felt like commenting on without evaluating it in its entirety, I feel here I should mention that I didn’t read the rest of your comment and therefore will not be making any sort of rebuttal. Let’s just conclude that you are wrong.

    @267:

    1) You’re being stupid. Reed compared 1 Kobe finals to 3 MJ finals. They can’t ALL be the worst. They might not be the best, but they’re not the worst. The whole point of the argument was to show that Kobe and Michael are not the same. You can’t just look at Kobe and Michael stats, compare them, and make a conclusion about who is/was better.

    2) Or can you? If you watched the Cavs at all this season, you knew that whole team was used to Lebron bailing them all out. Compare that to the Laker team where Fish specifically said “we can’t just wait around for Kobe to bail us out”. It was obvious that these Cavaliers were NOT ready to be challenged in the playoffs and a big reason for that was Lebron’s ball dominance. I do, however, believe this is mostly the fault of the coaching staff rather than Lebron himself.

    3) Reed never undermined any Laker performance in his post. He simply credited Kobe with shaping and molding this team and all its players into who/what they are today. If you don’t agree with this comment, you are simply blind or don’t watch enough Laker games.

    4) Oh come on. If you’re going to make a claim, please at least develop a case. Don’t come here trying to combat Reed’s well constructed, objective post with BS (no pun intended) like that. Kobe Bryant is a great player. You can’t take that away from him and you can’t take it away from us.

    Edited for profanity.

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  71. As a laker fan from toronto. If we cud replace Sashas minutes with Anthony Parker i wud be ecstatic. Hes a very smart player with a killer jumper. He is everything we want sasha to be. He can handle the ball, plays smart defense and can hit the occasional fadeaway… But i think its impossible… No way Mr. Buss is resigining trevor and lamar then adding more payroll for a extra guard. Wud love to have him tho. Im strongly against sasha.

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  72. Just some clarification amidst the spirited discussion:

    @231/ntropy: “He is the NBA’s ARod sans cheating.”

    …and plus 4 championships.

    @236/steve: “There should be no discussion until Kobe actually defends a title.”

    Actually, Kobe’s done that. Twice.

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  73. 274…. i agree with you that we want to replace sasha..to resign ariza and lamar….however, i dont like anthony parker because hes old enough…maybe we can let sasha traded for someone else except for him, imo..maybe a future pick…

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  74. kobe bryant hands down…the best in the business..

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  75. @ 274 joidial…”plus 4 championship”
    i concur!!

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  76. reed…the best post in defending kobe from all hater,,,,,

    terrific job..hats off

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  77. The problem people including me have is people always saying Kobe = Jordan. No one disputes the fact Kobe is a great player. They just seem to overstate how great he is compared to other greats.

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  78. funny enough you left out the stats for the first 3 finals of Jordan(11 assits per gamein 91 and 55% from field anf ofcourse 41pts in 93 on 50% from feild)! respects to Kobe though.

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  79. Amen!

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  80. I don’t think you fully understand the Bill Simmons column. You miss what the column is saying cause you are using the same BS homerism that annoy Kobe haters.

    (I’m doing my fake angry Kobe face.)

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  81. Eat that Bill Simmons

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  82. 281

    “funny enough you left out the stats for the first 3 finals of Jordan(11 assits per gamein 91 and 55% from field anf ofcourse 41pts in 93 on 50% from feild)!”

    Why do people keep bringing this up? Here is a direct quote from Reed’s article:

    More importantly, Kobe has not approximated Jordan’s first three finals runs, which are simply off the charts. For example, 1993 against Phoenix: 41 points, 8.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists on 50.7% shooting.

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  83. I am now that much closer to naming my first born Reed! Fantastic post!

    I think it’s telling that Kobe has been criticized for his tired legs and that he’s not the same player or a Jordan-like player. We could easily say that about Paul Pierce’s flash in the pan brilliance from last year. Where was he this year? Greatness is consistent and Kobe has played the same games as Pierce plus the Olympics (btw, where were the Celtics’ big 3 for that? Tired?) and a longer playoff run this season. Why does the accumulation of games played become an excuse for Pierce’s lack of success but a criticism for a strong case for Kobe’s ascension? I see it as way to separate the haves and the have nots. And in fact, Pierce is not at the level of Kobe…at least not until he can consistently be the man on his own team (Rondo and Allen carried him).

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  84. I’ve made a few little changes.

    And this was not a response only to simmons most recent article, or to him alone. It is a response to sundry simmons and other articles attempting to undermine and discredit kobe throughout these playoffs. And I get that simmons framed the recent article as a critique on the media’s coverage of kobe, and ended up strongly praising him. But there are so many unsupported and irrational jabs along the way that it is impossible to read this and his other articles as anything other than an attempt to undermine Kobe’s legacy.

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  85. “Whenever Simmons is wrong, he always follows the same pattern: (1) blame the failed team’s coach, and (2) use hindsight to tell us what the losing team should have done to win. Just admit you blew it, Bill. Admit that you misread Cleveland, Orlando, and LA.”

    I am a Simmons reader and Celtics fan… and yet I couldn’t agree with this statement more. Simmons is so smug with his NBA predictions and analysis, as if he’s the only guy on the planet who knows the sport. And enough with the constant harping about NBA coaches and GM’s, it’s tiresome. Nice takedown!

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  86. During the three peat years Kobe assured that “Hack a Shaq” would not work. I don’t remember it ever working, yet opposing coaches foolishly continued to use it.

    Excessive fouling of Shaq got opposing teams into the penalty that much sooner, and Kobe even in his youth was a fine free throw shooter. Kobe used a lot of offensive posessions, then as now, and this resulted in him taking – and making – many charity shots in crunch time (then as now). This was – and is – frequently detrimental to the hopes of the opposing team.

    BTW, I doubt this arguement will convince anybody who doen’t already see Kobe’s value, which is fine with me. Let the haters hate (all they want), let the trolls troll (again, all they want), let the negative columnists write till their fingers fall off.

    I smirk at them …

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  87. http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/blog/ball_dont_lie/post/Paul-Pierce-weighs-in-on-the-NBA-Finals?urn=nba,171109

    The Celtics do act like the championship belongs to them. They artifical/made up team won it in 2008 and thats it. With or without KG. We didnt use the excuse of not having Ariza and Bynum as the reason we lost last year. I cant wait for next year already.

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  88. Reed, I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Perhaps if you compared the Lakers to the tv show Entourage I could understand better. If you let me know that Kobe=Vinnie Chase, Derek=Eric, Lamar=Turtle and Phil=Ari; I bet I’d see your point. As a matter of fact, reading your article reminded of the last time I was in Vegas with my dad. Now the thing about going to Vegas with my dad is that afterward you’re going to end up like Martin Sheen at the beginning of “Apocalypse Now” when he punches the mirror in the hotel room. It’s a bottom you need to hit (thank you Vince Carter!) but one which sends you firmly on the way to a greater adventure (hello Chris Bosh!)…

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  89. Oh Lord, THANK YOU FOR THIS! you said everything I would ever want to say to Bill Simmons!

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  90. What irritates me about the whole Simmons (and the trolls) argument is that Kobe is “fake” or “unlikeable” or “not genuine.” Who cares? Why do we even care about this label? I mean, besides Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas, who else was “likeable” during the NBA Golden Age? I remember some players were jerks (like our friend Charles BArkley) and others were so boring, that if it were not for their basketball skill, people would fall asleep talking to them (Bird, the Admiral, Worthy). Also, everyone’s favorite bball player, JOrdan, was never known as a “funny”, “likable” or “genuine” guy. HIs reputatation was that of a “game winner”, “killer competitor”, and “ball hog.” The funny thing is, that this is exactly why Kobe and Jordan are so similar.

    When Jordan was in his peak, he was not known by the press (or the league) as a loveable teammate or as the funny clown everyone loved. That was Magic’s role. In fact, many in the press criticized Jordan’s “hot dog” antics. The dunks. The tongue. And, before Phil and his championship run, the inability to take his team to another level.

    That’s why I hated Jordan growing up. He was so much unlike Magic that it irritated me. Yet, I learned to respect him because of his incredible acrobatics and his awesome way of playing the game. He was one of those players I enjoyed watching, but hated as a competitor to my Lakers (the same way I feel about Lebron today). Then there were the title runs. Again, respected him as a player, but it killed me as a die-hard Laker fan – specially when I kept seeing people in my city wearing Bulls jerseys/jakcets in honor of MJ. Man, that made me mad. After all, this was Magic’s city! Still, I understood why people loved him: everyone loves a winner, particularly young kids who are new to the game and are not quite aware of the history of their home team.

    Today, we have the whole Kobe vs Lebron talk – which is reminiscent of the whole Magic vs Jordan talk i heard in the 80’s and 90’s. Lebron is the purest incarnation of Magic’s personality since Shaq (and san’s the selfish “pay me first” attitude) and Kobe is the closest thing we have to Jordan’s “killer” instinct. Sure, Kobe, like MJ, has a tendency at times to be a ball hog. But like MJ, as Kobe has gotten older and his ability to drive to the basket has decreased (albeit, zone defenses are also to contribute here), Kobe has started to become more of facilitator. Does this mean that he has no flaws? No. Kobe could have made that pass to Ariza and Odom in game 3 to tie the game instead of driving and praying for a score and a foul. So, why didn’t Kobe make the pass that Jordan would have? Well, maybe he remembered how the press faulted Lebron for passing the ball and not taking the winning shot against the Magic in game 3(I think) and decided not to pass. Maybe, like Jordan, he knew that he was the best player on the team and tricked himself into believing that he should take the shot not matter what. Or, maybe, like Jordan at Kobe’s age, he simply made a dumb play in a game full of great plays. Who knows. Had he made the shot and gotten fouled, he would have been praised. But he didn’t. So he earned his criticism.

    Nevertheless, like JOrdan, he learned. The very next game, when he had the ball and was trapped, rather than trying to take the contested jump shot he passed the ball to Fish – who nailed it.

    To me, this was an awesome moment. Not only because the Lakers ended up winning, but because it showed me that Kobe learned from his mistakes. This is the sign of a true champion – and truly Jordanesque quality.

    Now, the media is praising Kobe as the leader of the team for winning the championship. Could he have done it alone? Of course not. Jordan had Pippen, Kerr, Rodman and several other role players. Kobe has Gasol, Lamar, Ariza, Fish, Bynum (if he gets healthy) and many other role players.

    All of this praise toward Kobe reminds me of how I felt after Jordan back in the 1990’s. As a Laker fan, I hated him. So, I can’t say I don’t understand why someone like Simmons and Abbot hate him so much. Kobe brings out the same hatred in die-hard fans that I felt toward Jordan in the 90’s (particularly in 1991 when his team beat the Lakers). To make matter worse for these guys, because Kobe’s game is so much like Jordan, Kobe has become an international sensation. That’s why he was, overwhelmingly, the most popular player in the Olympics. He was a rockstar. I mean, he had to have a military escort anywhere he went because near-riots almost erupted anywhere he went. Why? Because Kobe reminds a lot of people of Jordan and because kids who were too young to know MJ have grown up seeing Kobe dunk or make alley-oops to Shaq in the finals.

    So, in the same way the praise given to MJ killed me in the 90;s, Kobe’s accolades are killing guys like Simmons/Abbot and countless others. But, no matter what they write, how “fake” they think a player is, no one can deny that Kobe is the most popular active NBA player on the planet and that he has earned more rings in his this decade than the Celtics have in the last 30 years (they have 4 since 1980) (In fact, other than the Celtics and Bulls, no other NBA franchise has won the title more than 4 times (Spurs). So, in fact, Kobe has the more rings than 26 NBA franchises.)

    So, write your negative comments all you want. It won’t erase of diminish what Kobe has done here.

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  91. Dear Reed,
    Halelujah!! at least twice.
    Kobe’s switching hands fading left off the glass bit of brilliance made my top 5 list of all time shots. This was a beautiful season and a beautiful playoff run. Thank you Lakers, Thank you Laker Nation, and Thank you All.
    Let’s do it again?

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  92. Reed,

    I am speechless. That may have been one of the greatest rebuttals to any attack I have ever read/seen/heard. Thank you for that! I love Bill Simmons but I was very insulted when I read his article about Kobe. He couldn’t just let Kobe, the Lakers, and us fans enjoy this one. Your blog gave me goosebumps and made my day, thank you!

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  93. 290.

    This, coming from a guy who said last summer that he’s the best player in the NBA. You compare the team that beat you and embarassed you on your home floor in a game 7 to a poodle?! It just pains me a little that this whole season was dedicated to getting tougher so we can beat these guys, and they didn’t even make it back.

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  94. Great article. As a long time Kobe homer myself, I love it. What seems to be forgotten is that Kobe is not done yet. If he wins six titles, he goes down as the better player then Jordan. Its pretty close right now and what is Kobe, 30?

    I think now that Kobe has that 4th title and monkey off his back, his goal should be to keep together a team that can still win. If Ariza and Odom stay, it will be a huge reflection on Kobes real value to his team.

    The past 10 years it has been harder to win a title then probably any decade as there are no longer the first and second round gimme series that existed even in Jordans time. Kobe has 4 titles in that time. If not for sex in Colorado, he would be celebrated by fans like Jordan and not so hated by jealous media types. Props to Kobe for fighting through all the negativity. Jordan never had to see his team rebuild like the Lakers for the second run of titles.

    I really think Kobe is the greatest ever when he finally hangs them up.

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  95. Great work by Reed as usual, although I don’t agree with all of it. I hope that we can have a parade thread and people can post some thoughts/pix.

    “He couldn’t just let Kobe, the Lakers, and us fans enjoy this one.”

    A couple of Celtics fans I know said this, rather gleefully. Petty as it is, I actually am enjoying it a little more, since it seems Simmons and many of the supporters of the green are doing weird mental gymnastics to make the Lakers’ title into something less than it is. Contrast this with Jeff Clark over at Celtics blog, who just said he hates the Lakers but then tipped the cap and moved on.

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  96. ..point taken..thanks

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  97. Reed,

    The kudos and comments expressed on this FB&G blog suggest a release of conflicted Laker fan emotions that have built up for years around Kobe Bean Bryant. At the same time, the Simmons article seems to reflect a growing denial on the part of Celtic fans, unwilling to consider a return to irrelevence.

    In Los Angeles, we have watched a remarkable transformation of a superstar into a premier member of a great Laker team–a transformation lost in the individualistic superstar hype of MSM.

    Kobe brought a unique ability into the NBA–an ability to create offense–not only through athleticism, but through intelligence. This ability tended to lead to distancing from his teammates in his earliest years, and an incentive to score offensively for obvious financial benefits.

    Unlike many other players with special talents, Kobe had an even stronger desire for his team to win championships should he immerse himself in “team.” This championship represents a complement between “team” and talent–an ability to display his talents and fully participate in basketball as a team sport at the same time.

    It is this ability, first fully displayed at the Olympic championship in China, that is a unique contribution–a contribution that LeBron may not ever be able to make with his quite different natural skill set.

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  98. Not remotely a Kobe fan, but that’s a great post right there. Well done.

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  99. MVP puppets latest commerical – Kobe celebration…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3YiO61NEBA&feature=response_watch

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  100. New post up on the Lakers and the luxury tax.

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  101. While we wait for the next article… here are a couple of links.

    1. Lakersblog has I believe the perfect companion article to Reed’s magnum opus. I love the point about how no one will be like Jordan because of the historical accident of his being The Man when the NBA took off. The Beatles comparison is perfect…

    http://lakersblog.latimes.com/lakersblog/2009/06/simers-and-simmons-on-kobes-likability.html

    2. The Onion. “Kobe Bryant Proves He Can Win Championship With Luke Walton On Team”

    I think Luke gets way more facile, naive bashing than anyone on the Lakers, but this is still funny.

    http://www.theonion.com/content/news/kobe_bryant_proves_he_can_win

    3. Onion on Phil.

    I love Phil and think he gets the second-most ignorant bashing on the Lakers, but this is also funny.

    http://www.theonion.com/content/infograph/phil_jackson

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  102. I disagree. People don’t really care that much about Kobe, he isn’t really the polarizing figure you cast him as. People outside of L.A. root against the Lakers, he is the face of the team. So he bears the brunt of their anti-Laker sentiment. Plus, the Colorado incident, ratting on Shaq under interrogation, his coaches comments etc., make him seem like an unlikable celebrity bitch. SO when the media focus on him to the exclusion of other noteworthy stories in the n.ba., fans of other teams are justifiably annoyed. Tagging people as “haters” when they disagree with you is an unsound argument. Bill Simmons is just an honest sports writer who doesn’t play the fake objective stance of most in the media – that is why people read him. It’s refreshing and funny even if you disagree. Admit your own bias and someday you might have the same fanbase.

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  103. Get em !!!!!!

    Get em !!!!

    Man that was all i could say as I read this article. Chills went through my spine. I have never read an article for or against any point as professional and insigntfull as this.

    Man, great job and not as a Kobe Fan but as a fan of sports!!!!

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  104. Another great response to Simmons’ article:

    http://tinyurl.com/md7uoa

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  105. great post! fyi, simmons is still out cold two days later from your devastating, cold-blooded analysis.

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  106. That was great to read as a Laker fan just sick of all the criticisms. Reed you did us all a favor. Thank You.

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  107. Thanks a lot, Reed.

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  108. As a non-Lakers fan(that lives in LA) and a fan of good basketball. I like Kobe. He’s great. He makes shots that nobody else in the world could and REALLY REALLY works hard on his game. But let’s not kid ourselves here.

    In, my opinion, LeBron is much better than Kobe was at his age and is doing the extra same thing Kobe used to do as well. I don’t remember Kobe as a particularly great post up guard at age 24.

    Let’s not forget to credit(I mean at least more than a sentence, that is) Ariza’s and Gasol’s high shooting rate, either, considering that, it might go towards a higher assist average for Bryant.

    Bryant influences other superstars, because, well all those guys realize that they all have that talent level and if they work really hard can be great, just like Kobe. Bench players and other NBA starters have probably come to the realization that they aren’t HOF players or All-Stars and are probably OK with that and spend more time doing other things instead of sacrificing that time, on the court, knowing that they aren’t meant to be one of the greatest ever. Therefore, players like Sasha, could possibly be content on playing for the Lakers making nice amount of coin and being competitive every year. I’m not saying its true, I’m just saying he’s not Dwayne Wade.

    You’re right though about “commanding a room”, who cares about being charismatic when it comes to basketball, it’s not necessary at all to be great. It is a business, however, and when you’re talking about “Faces Of The League”(which The Kobe-ster is), ultimately, he is going to get compared to previous FOTH players and unfortunately, for Kobe and all Lakers fans in general, the looming wave of people pushing for the future FOTH, that is LeBron, to be now.

    The only one beef that I have with Kobe, is that does seem to almost subconsciously sabotage games at the end with his ego-driven, need to almost do it single-handedly at times. There were quite a few times during the playoffs where I would watch Kobe drive to the basket, have the drive cut off in the paint by three guys, leaving Ariza, Fisher or some other Laker wide open with their hands up in the air, while Kobe would try to get a horrible decision of shot off instead of giving it up. The frustrating part (cuz I REALLY like watching the Lakers play, and Kobe in general) is that there were a few times where I called. The fact that there is some guy who doesn’t get paid to watch/write or do anything else about basketball sees that this is sometimes a pattern with Mr. 24.

    Just a few of my thoughts. Also, Simmons is TOTALLY biased and a lot of people get riled up about it including people in my own family, but ya just gotta get past that. Everyone’s biased in some way or another, we just see his a lot more b/c he writes a column that everyone reads.

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  109. Absolutely superb. I hope this has been linked to Simmons.

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  110. People who dislike Kobe because they “dont like the person” are the biggest idiots. Give me a break, do you really know Kobe as a person other than what you read in the papers from Journalist who are not impartial and just biased? Do you form your opinion from others who really haven’t spent time with Kobe to really know him as a person? What i do know and is never questioned about Kobe, even from his biggest distractors is his work ethic and commitment to winning. I dont know about you but i have the utmost respect for people who are not only blessed with more talent that other but those that actually strive to maximize those talents and not accept mediocrity. You may not like the player, as a lakers fan i never like MJ, but i was always amazed at his playing abilities, but you can at least acknowledge his skills and not try to diminish his accomplishments by exposing your bias.

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  111. PeanutButterSpread June 18, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    wow Reed, some of the responses you’ve elicited reflect the exact irrational negative Kobe opinions you superbly detailed and detracted in your post. Some people just can’t let go.

    Throughout this championship run, I wish some of the Lakers were still here to celebrate it. Guys like Ronny and Chris Mihm, even Vladi missed out, but that’s the nature of the NBA.

    Anyways, I’m excited for the exit interviews.

    Here is the remaining schedules:

    Thursday:
    2:30 – Lamar Odom
    3:00 – Sasha Vujacic
    3:30 – Andrew Bynum
    4:00 – Shannon Brown
    4:30 – Josh Powell

    Friday:
    9:30 – Adam Morrison
    10:00 – DJ Mbenga
    2:00 – Kobe Bryant

    D-Fish, Pau, Trevor, Luke, Jordie, Sun Yue have already had theirs.

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  112. D-Fish on Rome is Burning, talking about Gasol getting a grasp on the offense and how he was great at creating open looks for players throughout the playoffs. Thought it needed to be mentioned that this is a team game. VIVA LA GASOL! VIVA LA LAKERS!

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  113. I can’t stand Kobe/MJ comparisons. But to squash that nonsense Pippen called Kobe the closest to him. Jordan’s trainer the same. When Jordan was asked who was the closest heir T-Mac, Carter or Kobe MJ said Kobe “…He plays both ends”. Now I hated what Simmons wrote (except the ending which was a good release after reading all the garbage). We don’t hear much about ex-players blasting Kobe. I don’t know if Smush counts. Unless everyone was blasting Kobe then Simmons has a case. Which he doesn’t (unless he interviews Smush where he’s playing 3rd string somewhere in the world). If his team mates disliked him so much why hasn’t anyone demanded a trade? Do you think Fish would’ve wanted to come back or Phil for that matter? How come Odom or Luke hasn’t demanded a trade yet? Thank you Reed great come back. Go Lake Show.

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  114. Holy shit. that might have been the single greatest basketball analysis i’ve ever read.

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  115. Wow! Nice read.

    I wonder how Bill Simmons felt when his beloved Celtics where chanting “MVP” to Kobe a couple season ago when they played at the boston garden.

    Probably cried himself to sleep that night

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  116. Thank you, Reed.

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  117. ForgiveMeFish June 18, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Reed – I am a regular here at FB&G but have yet to post up any responses to any of the other blogs. However, I could not read this article and just walk away without commending you on a great piece of writing. I recently have been debating against many Kobe haters and Celtic fans and all I get thrown to my face are the exact same points you talked about and now, the new Simmons article. Granted I was able to hold my own ground, I want to thank you for equipping me with a piece that will be tough to argue against.

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  118. 306-Shaka: Do you read Simmons? I, like most NBA fans, read him and by and large, enjoy him but to call him “an honest sports writer who doesn’t play the fake objective stance of most in the media” is comical. I suppose you are saying he takes a real, subjective stance and that is what makes him honest. That might be true, if he did not couch his pieces in objectivity. As Reed said, call a spade a spade. Simmons dislikes the Lakers. That is fine, in fact, encouraged. One of BS’s pieces I most enjoyed is when he talked about “sports hating” Joakim Noah. That was honest and that was funny and I think all NBA fans related (I irrationally sports hate Chris Paul, it happens). The Kobe piece was not honest and it was not funny. It was a failed attempt at real journalism. Whatever, it happens. A real man would at least admit, after the fact, that he did a sub par job. Simmons will not. For all of his fake self-deprecation, Simmons is clearly prideful about his writing and his “analysis” (see as Exhibit A his refusal to admit an error in picking Cleveland over Orlando). Again, that is fine–but we must acknowledge that we are dealing with a childish blogger that ignores facts, takes untenable positions and refuses to admit when he is wrong. There is plenty of room for those types of bloggers on the world wide web but are we sure that is how Simmons fancies himself? I am not. I think he takes himself pretty seriously and it is that hubris which irritates.

    Reed–nice work, the b-ball gods (which are the sworn enemies of the biglaw gods you currently serve) were undoubtedly pleased with your work.

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  119. brilliant.

    i anticipate shoving this post in the face of many ignorant Kobe-haters over the coming months/years.

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  120. Jackson stated he thought that, upon returning, he wouldn’t see another title but would get close, although (paraphrasing) ‘with Kobe you are always going to be in the hunt. ‘

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  121. If Bill Simmons is any sort of a man at all, he would address this article.

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  122. Simmons probably tried to read it & fell asleep. Thank you for boring me to tears–I still think Kobe fits all of the bullet points you set out to disprove. Wait til the TV ratings come out; no one gives two sh*ts about Kobe or the Lakers, so no one watched. I bet that was Bill Simmons least read article of the past 2 months, since everyone moved on from the NBA long before the Finals started.

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  123. Sam, um, the TV numbers did come out and this year’s Finals got higher ratings than last year’s. Highest ratings in several years.

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  124. kobe is really great.

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  125. #4 to Simmons hahaha

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  126. Wow..this is one of the best articles I have read about Kobe. Thoughtful, based on facts and statistics, and compelling. Great work! Too bad all the Kobe haters won’t even read it, or read it with unbiased minds. (Simmons included)

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  127. As to our this title, you are my man off the court, as Kobe is on the court.
    Wonderful post.

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  128. Thank you, Reed, for this awesome article. I CANNOT stand Simmons at all. I continue to read his articles in the LA times, but I have just recently given up on it and him. I wanted so badly to say some of the things you said in your article. I am glad that someone was able to say and disprove a lot of the things I have been reading or hearing. I get so tired of trying to defend Kobe Bryant, but I sure am glad he’s a laker. If he was on any other team, I’m sure I’d hate him too. But you have to respect his hustle and his work ethic.

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  129. You are obviously a big Kobe-hater just like your colleague Simmons…Who said Kobe’s MJ?

    He may or might’ve adapted his moves while he was still a kid. So you columnists better quit busting KB’s chops! And pls, Kobe did not change? Go & see a specialist, both u and your boyfriend Simmons…

    if you’re such a good writer, can u not observe his/Lakers’ games? Wait a minute, ‘u MUST REALLY HATE KOBE & the Lakers.’ Because u obviously DO NOT know what/who you’re talking about, do you?

    Btw, d comparison of Kobe & MJ is such lingering and ANNOYING! Kobe/Mike is 50-50 that’s it. Mike was more consistent but could he do an 81, NO!!! Yeah, kobe’s not mike, mike’s NOT kobe & most likely, lebron is NOT kobe. What is wrong with u people? He may have played better than kb this season, but he’s still under kobe’s wings.

    Best five but Kobe still did not change and give most credit for his key players only? Why is that? Give me a great layout that even the NBA Analysts will not understand. Commnetators/Analysts will pound u stupid columnists, esp Bill Simmons if u can’t prove a thing abt Kobe & the Lakers…

    Really, your friend Simmons is such an ANNOYING and an embarassment fag! Probably even before he came out YOUR closet.

    Kobe is Kobe! Presently, is the BEST Player on the planet, so forget your MJ23. #24 has been the best for the past 6-7yrs. You can read & hear words, like, “you’re guarding the best player on earth; or, u just cannot stop Kobe Bryant, coz he’s the best player on planet. Simple as that!…

    Keep posting your disgusting ideas that do not make sense, just like u Reed & Simmons DO NOT make sense. Coz u just enjoy stabbing great athletes on their back when they really DO NOT give a FUCK about u faggots! …”hand down, man down!”

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  130. Just to point out you’re wrong on one thing: MJ was born in 1963 so in the last 3-peat he was 33, 34 and 35….and you said you love to stick to the facts…
    Other than that it’s a really good post

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  131. Reading that Bill Simmons article was like listening to Tommy Heinsohn do a Lakers – Celtics finals game (back in the day). You just feel infuriated and helpless that they are in a position to spew their slanted views to a national audience without any checks.

    Thank you for being a counterbalance out there. Too bad ESPN didn’t have the cojones to put this post on their site.

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  132. I stopped reading after seeing “even Jordan”. Jordan left you lukewarm? You’re in deep, deep denial.

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  133. Thanks for writing this. Echoes my thoughts and feelings regarding simmons and his feelings towards LA/Kobe. I hope he reads it.

    This was a fantastic post and makes me proud to be a Laker fan and a Kobe supporter.

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  134. Fantastic. This needed to be said.

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  135. Now THATS WHAT I”M TALKIN ABOUT!!!! Somebody w/substance and facts over just hate or a vendetta! I’m a Laker fan and I love Kobe….but I’m a Laker fan FIRST…..when Kobe is doin too much, I say he’s doin too much…so I’m not wearing Purple color glasses. Some of these so called journalist(s)….Mr. Simmons and experts….Barkley, are driven by HATER-AID more than common sense and REAL FACTS! Good lookin Reed.

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  136. Reed – one of the best breakdowns I have EVER seen! The breakdown on KB vs Jordan was good enough but thanks for putting the cherry on top by blowing up Simmons! I want facts. I will gladly submit to mediocrity if the stats back it up and is Simmons case he is the biggest revisionist writer I have ever seen always lacking, of course, FACTS. Thanks again.

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  137. RE – The LeBron VS Kobe part of the argument.

    You’ve got to be kidding me.

    How can that entire breakdown include no mention of the fact that Kobe was surrounded by clearly superior offensive players?

    This is a team game, folks.

    No one who watched those two teams play in the playoffs can say with a straight facae that LeBron wouldn’t have had the same success as Bryant if he were blessed with Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, Bynum, and Ariza.

    The argument that LeBron’s lack of post play / three point shooting makes him a more inefficient creator isn’t supported by the facts.

    LeBron has clearly had more success than Kobe at involving his teammates with his style over the long haul. The numbers do not lie.

    Ditto for Dwyane Wade who also lacks three point shooting and post up play.

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  138. r u serious. we have seen a lakers team without an all star supporting cast and kobe gets absolutley nowhere.

    and there is no possible way he will retire with 3-4 nba mvp’s. He only has one now and he is over thirty and past his prime.

    i also seem to remember kobe almost losing some finals games thanks to his lack of ability and stamina. turkoglu stole a ball in the final seconds in one game which the magic would have one if lee could hit an open lay up. and i remember another game they would have lost had it not been for a fisher three in the final seconds to send it into overtime. where was kobe during this recent mention. this years finals was more about kobe’s supporting cast and the magic’s failures.

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  139. One of the best Kobe articles I have ever read. I really pray Bill Simmons read this and that everyone realizes he is a DAMN FOOL. Not only are his articles pure garbage, but he fails to step up to the plate and admit that hes made a MISTAKE. Great job Bill, great job.

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  140. #343 and 344

    don’t get me wrong, i would take the lakers role players over the cavs role players, but what’s this BS about kobe having an “all-star supporting cast”??? i count ONE all-star other than kobe on this current roster, and that’s pau, and he’s been an all-star just one other time. let’s not pretend he’s tim duncan or something, OK? and NOBODY else on the lakers roster has even sniffed an all-star game. correct me if i’m wrong, but doesn’t lebron have exactly the same number of all-star on his team as kobe??? namely, ONE?

    yes, pau played terrific in the playoffs, LO finally shook off his inconsistent play towards the end of the denver series and during the finals, and Ariza provided a dependable deep threat. But does everyone forget how much Bynum, Farmar, Sasha, and Fisher (with the obvious exceptions of the last two games) stunk offensively during the playoffs? Here’s a hint. It was a lot. You and I scored as many points during the Finals as Sasha, and he was supposed to be our floor-spreading three point threat! When I see some of the Lakers’ offensive numbers, I’m more amazed that we won the whole thing.

    and, answering matt’s question regarding “where was kobe” during the crucial moments of games 2 and 4, he was the one setting up his teammates. that’s how you average 7.4 assists as a shooting guard. read that again. or did you forget kobe’s dish to pau in game two to give them a four-point lead in overtime, or kobe giving a no-look over-the-shoulder pass to kobe to cut the magic lead to 3 at the end of regulation in game 4, or kobe passing the ball out of a double-team TWICE to set up fisher’s shots.

    yes, he probably should not have forced his shot at the end of game 2, but it certainly seems like he learned his lesson, doesn’t it? because he sure made some clutch passes in games 4 and 5 for somebody who according to you was nowhere to be found.

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  141. @240

    If you notice Kobe’s public appearances, he’s incredibly relaxed. It was visible minutes after the Lakers won the Finals. The monkey is really off his back. I think we’re going to see a different Kobe in public from now on. Winning one without Shaq is huge. Getting the respect that he’s deserved all along is also huge.

    I’m not a human behavior expert, but Kobe doesn’t need to read this article to feel how you want him to feel. He knew that winning would produce articles like this one.

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  142. John McGovern June 19, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Point 3 on Kobe as a leader and worker is something I have been preaching to my kids for a couple of years now. Both are endurance atheletes(swimming and cross country)and I believe watching Kobe and listening to me on his crazy work ethic has pushed them to higher levels than we thought possible. My son didn’t start swim until 9th grade but now entering his senior year he already has scholarship offers on the table. They adore Kobe as much for his tireless devotion to his craft as his magnificence on game nights.

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  143. basketballislove June 19, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    Pretty good article, although I disagree with your analysis of why the Cavs lost.

    On the offensive side, guys were missing the kinds of shots they had hit all season. Obviously Orlando was not about to allow James to waltz to the basket without playing help defense and leaving shooters open. And when the ball was out of LeBron’s hands (which it was frequently) guys had trouble creating much of anything.

    But the defensive side is where they lost. Dwight Howard simply broke all of their schemes. They singled him, he dunked. They doubled him, he kicked-out a clean pass to Orlando’s red-hot three-point shooters. They fouled him, he shot 75-some percent on free throws for the series.

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  144. Great article. Kobe! Kobe! MVP! MVP!

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  145. This article although well thought out is biased in its comparison to MJ. You should have taken all of Kobe’s finals runs averages and compared them to all of MJ’s. I don’t know who is better if you did that but I’d bet MJ will come out more efficient thus a better basketball player. Well there can never really be a true comparison because they both played in different eras with different teams so don’t think too much about it.

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  146. kobe tries to be like jordan what are you talking about? the moves he uses, the way the plays, he tries to be like jordan. he even tried going to the bulls.

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  147. Great post, but why is taken as gospel that MJ was the greatest bb player of all time? Wilt Chamberlain is probably the greatest of any athlete of modern times.

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  148. What an awesome job putting Simmons in his place. I remember well reading him pushing that he doesn’t hate on Kobe and then in the same article projecting hate into ambiguous reactions from his teammates and thinking to myself “he can’t be serious.”

    I couldn’t have defended Kobe any better, and the jab about “expression and lip reading mastery” hit home like nothing else.

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  149. Like Kobe much?

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  150. basketballislove June 20, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    @ Val

    Yes, the auther purposefully left out the numbers from Jordan’s first three-peat, where he was actually in his prime.

    Probably some of the best overall stats that any individual has ever put up in the finals.

    http://www.michaeljordansworld.com/stats_finals.htm

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  151. For an “insightful” writer, Bill Simmons sure writes a lot of stupid things:

    “he’s (LeBron) going to win the 2009 title. Easily.”

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  152. I just channeled my inner Andy Samberg and “jizzed in my pants.”

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  153. i am a GIANT kobe fan, i’ve been a longlife Houston Rockets fan, but ever since Kobe stepped in the league: it’s aaallll about Kobe. and w/ that oath, comes the duty to protect my bhoi against these stupid haters no matter what the cost. Bill Simmons is by FAR the most annoying hater, cuz he gets published. That article u wrote about Lebron being innefficient…i swear, it’s like u stole the words from my mouth. PLAGIARISM!! lol jk, AWESOME writing man. FOUR RING PUPPET SHIRT BABY!!!!

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  154. The Takeover: The Curious Case of Kobe “Bean” Bryant

    It wasn’t supposed to happen this way, if at all.

    No one was supposed to be able to approach Mike as the GOAT, let alone be in the same breath. But comparisons are only going to grow more intense between the two, especially if the self-styled Black Mamba gets at least one more ring after just obtaining No.4.

    Conventional wisdom has been that Michael Jordan had no one to pass the torch to when he left the game in the way that he so eagerly received it from Magic and Bird. Sure, there was Tim Duncan, Shaq, and Steve Nash but “the next” … Kobe, didn’t always measure up. Heck, for one infamous night in Colorado he couldn’t even seem to get out of his own way. Although, to be fair, in the realm of public perception Michael Jordan has had his share of infidelities and was not nearly a warm teammate.

    But flash-forward five years and a fourth ring later, and it is Mr. Bryant that can now exhale with a large measure of vindication. At 30, he now possesses the chance to forge his own legacy as he ambitiously set out to do as a brash youngster, fresh out of high school some 13 years ago.

    No, the author has surely not dismissed Lebron James. Oh no, Jordan himself was correct in his estimation recently that James has the potential to be the best ever simply because of his unique blend of athleticism, strength, power, and speed. According to the script, we were all supposed to witness the proper passing of the torch with a league approved James victory in June.

    And who would argue with such a sentiment. James is a gift from basketball heaven. He is the gift to the NBA that Len Bias, lost all too soon, should have been. Bias, hailed as a combination of Jordan, Barkley, Magic, and Bird, tragically died of a cocaine overdose one fateful day in June 19, 1986. It is our good fortune as fans, and fitting, that we are able to witness James’ ability and skill, to really appreciate what it would have been like to behold the court majesty of the great Len Bias. We can only ponder how things might have been for lovers of the game if Jordan had a true rival in Bias to contend with for supremacy, to test himself by fully.

    But it remains to be seen just when Mr. James will earn the title of The King. Questions linger about his mental game and outside shooting. Does he have the drive and focus of Jordan, Kobe, or Magic? There is ample time for James to quiet his critics just as Bryant has begun to silence his own, and while James is well on his way, the moment belongs to the Mamba, who I will argue is at least as good as the True King: Michael Jeffrey Jordan.

    Whenever there is any discussion of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, it might as well be a Bears-Packers game in December because blood pressures rise, emotions are stoked, and incredulity, straining on both sides, rules the day. Kobe couldn’t carry Mike’s jock strap. Mike played in a different era, without the zone defenses Kobe sees regularly. Mike regularly went up against ultra-physical defensive play and still dominated. And on and on. To be certain, Jordan’s fans have much to stand on, it is easier to make the case for Jordan. Jordan’s resume is beyond compare. You know the numbers by now: 6 titles, 6 Finals MVPs, 5 MVPs awards, and these merely a smidgen of what Jordan accomplished in his legendary tenure. Jordan’s numbers are staggering. Bryant would have to rewrite his own history to catch up on that basis.

    But like so many things in life and the game itself, when boiled down, the debate is really simple: Who is the better player?

    In full disclosure, I grew up a hard, hard Jordan fan, and still am. Like many kids, I cried as a 12 year-old when Jordan first retired, and was as gleeful as a glutton at an all-you-can-eat buffet when he returned and established himself as the GOAT. I was convinced, along with most of the basketball-loving public and the world, that Jordan was as good as it was gonna get.

    Enter Kobe “Bean” Bryant. A Jordan clone if I ever saw one. We’ve all heard (and seen) the similarities between them in style on and off the court, it is both eerie and often times annoying, and on this score writers like Bill Simmons are on solid-footing in their observations of No.24.

    We witnessed his 2005-06 brilliance, and most of us had to admit that he’d given that particular MVP award away not on the court, but in a Colorado hotel room in December of 2003. And that’s not a knock on Nash. Many great performances would Kobe give, but still one first round exit after another was his lot. It seemed like his talent was going to waste.

    Last season, it finally seemed like he’d climbed the mountain and overcome the 2004 Finals’ debacle against the Pistons (where he displayed awful shot selection), his personal issues, and well-documented run-ins with coach Phil Jackson through the years. Only, the Boston Celtics and Kevin Garnett had other plans. Once again, a better team playing tough defense prevailed over his vaunted Lake Show. Like Jordan, Kobe and his Lakers would have to figure out how to counter physical defenses.

    But a couple weeks ago, he got it done. Yes, he had Pau Gasol, an awake Lamar Odom, and an improved and clutch Trevor Ariza. Derek Fisher is always there when it counts. But they were his guys, molded by his leadership. One might ask the question, is Kobe in Mike’s league?

    The answer is yes. Here’s why, and why he is arguably a better player.

    Mark Jackson has come under tremendous fire of late for offering his view that Bryant will go down as the greatest player ever. But in essence, he was echoing what some close to the game have whispered: Kobe is the more skilled player. The irony here is that while everyone has openly celebrated James as he prepares to take the game to new heights with his unique ability, Kobe’s game may actually be … Jordan’s on steroids. It is a heretical notion, to be sure. And of course Bryant benefited from having Jordan to study, as Jordan also studied Dr. J, Magic, Bird, and the greats. Bryant was one of James’ idols and James studied Bryant.

    Bryant is an objectively better ball-handler, possessing the cross-over and moves of Allen Iverson, with the shooting range and prowess of Larry Bird. Jordan is the more explosive player, having had a ’44 inch vertical to Bryant’s ’38 inch vertical. He did things the league had never seen, and his hang-time remains hard to believe. Jordan’s hands are also inordinately large, giving him the advantage in at-the rim and traffic encounters. Other than that, the two are identical, right?

    Phil Jackson coached Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. He never asked Jordan to do the things that he’s asked of Kobe in facilitating the offense, and, until Ariza arrived, consistently guarding the other team’s top scorer. Those were Pippen’s responsibilities. Scottie Pippen is the single most underrated and underappreciated NBA player of all-time. People that really know the game will tell you that. Easily top 20 all-time.

    Pippen could control a game with defense, tempo, passing and with points – like Magic Johnson – who Pippen himself kept in check, freeing up Jordan to score at will in the ’91 Finals. Upon Jordan’s two-year hiatus, Scottie Pippen lead a Bulls team of otherwise average talent minus Jordan to a 55-27 record, just two wins shy of the team’s overall record the year before with Jordan in ’93. If not for some dubious officiating in the ’94 Eastern Conference Finals against the Knicks, the Bulls would have been in the Finals again, four times in a row. It is a miscarriage of basketball justice that Pippen was robbed of the MVP award in 1994, all due respect to Hakeem Olajuwon. But Pippen’s importance to the success of Jordan is evident.

    In evaluating the greatest players of all-time and whether Jordan or Bryant is better, statistics and championships are not the crucial criteria for two obvious reasons. The first is Bill Russell, the consummate winner, competitor, and professional. 11 rings, but he did it in an era with only 8 teams and only a few had a serious shot of winning the championship each year. The other is Wilt Chamberlain, and his numerous scoring averages and records. No one is ever going to touch 50 points a game for a season. Or ask Oscar Robertson, who averaged a triple double for a whole season (more than once before they kept track) how it feels to be left out of the discussion in earnest.

    Or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, he only set the NBA scoring record and won numerous titles himself. Remember him? He’s busy in the lab cooking up another potential monster in the post, the still-green Andrew Bynum, who’s shown several flashes of brilliance this past regular season.

    You see, it is not an exact science, but an art, evaluating the GOAT. How unstoppable? Dominant? Well-Rounded? Tenacious? Competitive? Skilled? Winner? These are all intangible considerations, among others. I will now set out specific arguments in favor of Kobe Bryant as the better player than Jordan and expose flawed arguments.

    1. Did Kobe ride Shaq’s coattails?

    Kobe played with Shaq and won three NBA championships. Because of this, his success is often denigrated. This despite the fact that Kobe was the clutch go-to-guy in the 4th and raised the play of Shaq and his teammates’ games in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals against Portland when they were down 15 points in the final period. This despite the fact that it was Kobe, and not Shaq, who lead the team in the deciding Game 6 of the 2000 Finals by hitting ice-vein shot after shot, making play after play, and pass after pass, to finish off a tougher-than-expected Pacers team that found Shaq, at critical junctures, in foul trouble and unsure how he should attack.

    What is missed in this is that Kobe clearly could have averaged 30 points himself as “the guy” on any team and certainly won a few more scoring titles to buttress his own resume. But he sacrificed for the team. Yes, Kobe did so unwillingly more often than we’d all like, but he did it nonetheless. What is missed is that we witnessed what it would have been like to have Michael Jordan playing with Wilt Chamberlain. Not an easy feat, though Jordan would often muse aloud during his career about what it would be like to play with Pat Ewing, David Robinson, or Shaq.

    Kobe understood the game as any knowledgeable student of the game does: big men are rare, and having a skilled big man like Shaq was a competitive advantage that lead to close, high percentage shots. That is just the proper way to play the game. Kobe still posted 18-24 points a game during those years, despite Shaq getting 35 touches a game. Like Jordan, Kobe was also an excellent defender, especially during these early years, holding players like Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady scoreless for entire halves and 4th quarters. Both have similar defensive resumes, with Jordan being voted Defensive Player of the Year during an individually masterful and historic 1988 season. Still, given the superior conditioning and skill of players today, I’d call it a push here.

    Magic recently remarked during the Finals’ telecast that “all of us” have egos – referring to the great players – that they all have a vision about how winning is done, precisely because they’ve been so successful at it. So, it stands to reason that Jordan would have had issues playing with a Shaq or Wilt because of his own ego; and that like Kobe, Jordan would not have been comfortable playing second fiddle for long with his skill set, work ethic, and knowledge that the No.1 option wasn’t taking the game as seriously on a regular basis and consistently showing up to camp out of shape.

    2. If Michael hadn’t retired the Bulls would have two more championships.

    This is presumptuous at best. People forget that Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson (and their squads) were in a brutal Western Conference and yet dominated as they peaked during the mid-nineties. Basketball historians and the detail-oriented fan will tell you straight-out that Jordan’s Bulls team struggled against those Rockets and Spurs teams during the regular season in the 90s. They were .500 against those type of teams at best.

    Perhaps Jordan would have performed similarly as Bryant did against Dwight Howard in this year’s Finals if he’d played in that scenario. But we’d never know. What we do know is that Jordan never faced a team with a dominant and skilled defensive big man in the Finals. Karl Malone, an all-time great with quick hands, didn’t have the defensive presence of a Dikembe Mutombo, Ben Wallace, Kevin Garnett, or Dwight Howard. In many ways, at the Finals level, the teams that Kobe faced were always the best defensive teams that also had big men and were much tougher to score on than Jordan’s Final’s opponents.

    3. The NBA is all about match-ups, and Kobe continues to outperform tougher competition than Jordan faced on a night in, night out, basis.

    This is a fact. Granted, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant played in different eras. But do we really think that a slightly taller Kobe Bryant (Kobe is closer to 6’7 than Mike’s clear 6’6) would not have also feasted on the comparatively smallish guards of the NBA during the late 80s and 90s? Joe Dumars, a great defender with a stocky build, deceptive leaping ability, top-notch footwork, and quick hands regularly gave Jordan fits. The reader may say “Yeah, but they still had to use the Jordan Rules.” True. And Michael had his nights against the Pistons, but they made him work. Another player Jordan had trouble with was John Starks of the New York Knicks. Again, a demonstrably smaller player.

    Facts such as these are glossed over by the NBA writers and historians because of allegiance and loyalty to Michael and his image. Jordan and Kobe are friendly by all accounts, it is common knowledge that they talk and text frequently. When asked directly at a skills camp who would prevail in an individual game not too long ago, Jordan stated that he would beat Kobe one-on-one and possessed a better chance to stop Kobe than vice-versa. Perhaps, Jordan was bull-strong and had the better leaping ability.

    Kobe has always laughed off the comparisons himself and been rightly deferential. Usually, NBA greats avoid such direct questions about others and their standing. That Jordan, he of the immaculate resume, legendary skill, and media savvy would condescend to contemplate the outcome of a man-to-man contest with Bryant says something about how close the two are as basketball players.

    To provide more context, let’s delve deeper. Another one of Jordan’s contemporaries was Ron Harper, who in his prime with the Cleveland Cavaliers was known to regularly hang 30 or 40 points on Jordan before Harper hurt his knee. In the small world of the NBA, Harper became a championship teammate of both Jordan and Bryant. The point is not that the 6’7 Harper was better than Jordan, because he wasn’t, but that the league is about match-ups.

    Today, Kobe consistently faces shooting guards at least as skilled as Harper and others from Jordan’s time, on a nightly basis. Tracy McGrady, Jason Richardson, Ray Allen, Dwyane Wade, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson, Pietrus, and on and on. Shooting guards are all over the place. Kobe is not a rarity as the average shooting guard is now at least 6’5 and possesses similar talent and skill as Bryant … yet he is far and away better than his contemporaries. Only Wade is in Bryant’s current class as far as offensive and defensive skill at the shooting guard position.

    In Jordan’s day, the player’s similar to him were Harper, Clyde Drexler, and Dominique Wilkins. Reggie Miller was more of a shooter, but was still a great, clutch player in his own right. But to think that Jordan wouldn’t at least struggle against defenders with size like Ron Artest, the long Tayshaun Prince, McGrady, Paul Pierce, Shane Battier or Pietrus is wishful thinking. For years, the “book” on Kobe was to drape a Tayshaun Prince-like guard/forward over him that was just as athletic and make him shoot over the top. Ask the Pistons, in 2004 it worked. Pierce and Boston’s zone defense corralled him last year, and Bryant didn’t exercise this particular demon until he finally subdued Pietrus this year: a tall, physical, athletic-type guard that in the past would have given Kobe all he could handle.

    Unconvinced? I bring you to the peculiar case of Gary Payton, one of the five best defenders ever. Jordan’s ’96 Bulls were loaded, much-touted and justifiably so, and had just set the league record with 72 wins. Everyone asked themselves: Could the Sonics keep up with them in the Finals? George Karl, he of historic coaching ignominy, realized too late that perhaps he should put “the Glove,” the 6’4 (on a good day) Defensive Player of the Year on Jordan. What happened? Jordan had two of his worst Finals games ever as the Bulls eked out the title. See “Deconstructing Kobe,” a sound piece of hoops journalism and analysis: http://www.forumblueandgold.com/2009/06/16/deconstructing-kobe/

    Payton harassed Jordan into missing 13-15 shots over two of the last three Finals’ games, and since Jordan was only able to get off about 20 shots a game over that period (Payton was unparalleled at a lost art – ball denial), he shot a paltry 33% against Payton. Once again, Jordan was given fits by a shorter, crafty defender. Kobe Bryant has made his living off dominating smaller guards and being more skilled than taller guards.

    This is not to say that Kobe is always the most prolific shooter himself, as he often puts up a 40% shooting night against top defensive talent, but that is at least on par with Jordan and Kobe does it against more equal competition and unquestionably better-conditioned athletes. Mike still has the edge in field goal percentage because he successfully attacked the rim more, had large hands like Dr. J, and had the best relationship with the officials the league has ever known.

    Kobe still manages a decent amount of free throw attempts over the course of his career, but it is King James, and not Bryant, that the officials respect. No way do the referees call 5 or 6 technical fouls on Jordan during the playoffs like they did with Kobe on this most recent title run.

    In researching this article, I also came across an interesting tidbit: When Michael Jordan played without a Hall of Famer (e.g. Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman), his Bulls teams posted no winning seasons, even in an Eastern Conference that saw the Celtics, Bucks, and 76ers declining as the Pistons rose. But when Kobe Bryant played without a Hall of Famer (e.g. Shaq), his Lakers teams posted two winning seasons. These teams featured the likes of Smush Parker and Brian Cook, in a deadly Western Conference, and still managed to win 42-45 games. Look it up. This is verifiable proof that Kobe is in Jordan’s league.

    We can only guess how the perceptive Ralph Wiley would have summed up the Finals in the context of the Jordan, Kobe, and Lebron debates. Wiley was famously prescient, having once identified Kevin Garnett as one that Kobe would have to do battle with in order to get to the promised land. Like many have noted, the literary world remains poorer for his all-too-sudden departure.

    It has already been quite the journey for Bryant and still more may transpire. One could bring up the hand-check rule, instituted because of Jordan’s greatness and today’s tighter officiating. In contrast, today’s zone defense can be used to argue in favor of Bryant. Both are valid points.

    In the end, the game always evolves, whether or not we like the given agent of evolution. Michael raised the NBA to new heights and was the standard by which his competitors were measured. In his own way, Bryant is doing the same, exerting an indelible influence on today’s great players, showing how to prepare and compete at the highest levels, as evidenced by his quiet leadership during the 2008 Summer Olympics.

    Two different people; similar, yet worlds apart, both dogged and driven by a hatred of losing. Two different paths, but the same destination: greatness among the NBA pantheon, with one, James, waiting in the wings.

    But for now, Kobe Bryant will take that torch thank you very much.

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  155. A good analysis, and I agree that Kobe is something special. I personally can’t stand the guy, but I respect him to the highest degree. However, to say in one breath that Kobe’s stats are better than Jordan’s, assists, fg% and the like, but in the other breath to say that the Kobe made the team better when comparing him to Lebron seems hypocritical. Why not compare across all the statistics?

    I think this is a fair analysis, but it feels more like a documentary. By that I mean that you have to wonder what was left out to make the point you wanted to make. I don’t mean any disrespect, and out of all the lakers fans, I find you as one of the most cordial (I’m a Spurs fan myself) but I was wondering how they all compared based on all the stats, not just specific ones.

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  156. I never thought I would read a more biased analysis on Kobe than the blog I just read above, but Quis #360 just took the cake.

    If you really knew MJ’s greatness you wouldn’t have typed that inaccurate and long-winded post.

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  157. Quis, thanks for that great post… must have taken some serious effort.

    Thanks for the passion, it is a really close and compelling argument as to who is better.

    I think Kobe is the better offensive/defensive player, where Michael may have him slightly on the cluth/big-shot/pure tenacity.

    But I think Kobe’s evolution with the switch to zone defense and unbelievable offensive repertoire set him apart from Jordan just a bit.

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  158. Jason, you’re welcome. Reed inspired me with this excellent blog piece. You make great points yourself. It did take some effort.

    #362 – you have a right to your opinion.
    I included this article in this blog, which I submitted to another site as well, Bleacher Report, to address some of the typical arguments against Kobe Bryant the basketball player — as well as to address some of the Kobe criticisms in this blog, some fair, some not.

    So that is why it is long-winded, it is an article. But I simply disagree in your assessment of it being inaccurate. I performed considerable research, and again, based on pure numbers, Wilt Chamberlain is the greatest player ever.

    I’ll repeat: Russell has five more rings than Jordan, yet Jordan is widely considered to be the best. Jordan is only two rings ahead of Kobe in an age with zone defense — meaning that before a player can get to the rim for the honor of getting hacked he must first get past at least one outer layer of defense. This was illegal in Michael’s day. MJ got nearly every call, only James gets similar treatment today. Ponder that.

    Also, I’ll repeat this: Michael Jordan went up against comparatively weaker defensive teams in the Finals. Kobe has had to deal with Dikembe Mutombo, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Dwight Howard … in a day where players are more skilled, faster, and stronger.

    I’m sorry my piece struck a nerve. The same thing happened when Jordan began to challenge Magic and Bird for supremacy. People have short memories, and your post is evidence in my opinion. People don’t like Kobe because he has the audacity to strive to be the best. The rape allegations gave an outlet to this animus.

    Again, I am not biased, just wanted to give a fair, pound for pound analysis. And I’ll leave you with this food for thought #362: Pippen made it farther without Jordan in the playoffs than Jordan ever did by himself without Pippen. Now, this fact doesn’t make Pippen better than Jordan, but is proof that Pippen was integral to Jordan’s success.

    MJ’s greatness isn’t in question my friend, there is room for both.

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  159. #364

    “MJ’s greatness isn’t in question my friend, there is room for both”

    No one is saying that Kobe isn’t a great player. At all. What people are saying is that he is simply not on Mike’s level. And that, is a statement that is supported by *overwhelming* evidence. When people say that MJ is better than Kobe, at the very least they can support their claim with that much, while all you have is a biased post that is full of some very laughable notions and flawed reasoning. If you truly want to be objective in your analysis, you need to take the goggles off first.

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  160. #366.

    I’ll repeat: there is room for both.

    My take is objective and offers a balanced, thought out viewpoint — more than most knee jerk supporters of Jordan offer in these type of exchanges.

    Kobe is on Mike’s level and this drives some Jordan fans nuts. We live in America, it is ok to disagree. But to engage in denigrating attacks that my reasoning is “laughable” or “flawed” is unnecessary. I must have hit the nerve again.

    I know that my piece is objective and well evidenced since you resorted to ad hominem attacks.

    If I have on “goggles” after giving MJ and Kobe fair treatment, then you, my friend, need Lasik.

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