Kobe Bryant’s legacy collected a few more accolades and grandeur with his fifth career title following a Game Seven win over the Celtics last week. Bryant was exuberant after the victory, running toward the throngs of Laker fans and celebrating as if he had never conquered the NBA before.
It was reminiscent of the tears shown in Michael Jordan’s eyes when Jordan held a championship trophy in his arms for the first time. The comparisons do not end there when it comes to Bryant and Jordan, but the greatest player to play the game remains safe for now.
Bryant is one title away from Jordan’s total, but for now, there is another part in history better suited to his name.
We can now begin the discussion over whether “The Black Mamba” is now the greatest Laker in NBA history. There are numerous stars to choose from, but it is beginning to seem that Bryant’s dominance in his era will reign supreme.
Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt-the-stilt, and Jerry West would have some claim to L.A.’s thrown.
Bryant has said himself that Jerry West holds the key to the Lakers franchise. West spent his entire career in L.A. leading them to one championship in 1972 and appearing in 14 all-star games. The Lakers beloved star was great in his time, but we all know that Kobe will be the most well-renowned Laker when his career his done.
Kobe is still just 31 years old and he has already done more than most NBA greats do in their careers. In his third NBA season, Bryant was thrust into the starting lineup alongside Shaq and the two went on to give the Lakers a three-peat from 2000-2002.
Now he is two-thirds of the way to another three-peat and he can give credit to teammate Pau Gasol for bringing the Lakers back to championship worthy form. Most of the greats have had a side-kick and Gasol is the new Shaq for Kobe, the Pippen to Kobe’s Jordan.
Phil Jackson undoubtedly played a part in the Lakers’ success as well with his 11th title win and his fifth with Bryant and the Lakers. Jackson coached Jordan in his prime and went to six straight title wins before exiting Chicago due to a clash with then Bulls general manager, Jerry Krause.
Something that can be learned by future up-and-coming greats is that the game is more about how a star humbles himself and orchestrates a team rather than attempting to carry it. Even the best of the best will not be able to win an NBA championship without help.
Where Kobe would be without Shaq, Gasol, and Jackson we will never know.
But we do know that with them Bryant will and can do just about anything in his career. There are still many, many records to be broken, and Bryant could become the all-time points leader, stealing away the title from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar later on his career.
That is why Kobe’s success is so fascinating to the many followers of the NBA. The success he has enjoyed is far greater than nearly anyone to ever play the game at his age. Joining the league out of high school may have given him a slight head start but there are not many 21 year olds with the guts and the talent to lead a team to a title.
Kobe’s trademark fearlessness and his will to win will be attributed to his wealth of successes in the NBA when it is all said and done, but the man is still in his prime.
It is scary to think of what he could accomplish in the next five to seven years and maybe then, Kobe will be considered the greatest NBA player of all-time.