Declaring Michael Jordan the best player in NBA history would shock no one. Claiming Kobe Bryant is Jordan’s equal would likely be met with skepticism and friendly debate. Insisting Bryant is better than Jordan could get you ran straight out of town. The problem is, it just may be the truth.
The video featured here is just one of many such montages dedicated to comparing the two great NBA Champions. Footage of Jordan never gets old. He was as dominant a figure in pro sports as we have ever seen, winning 6 NBA Championships, and being named the league’s Most Valuable Player 5 times. He was an intense competitor who gave his all on both ends of the court, priding himself on his defensive prowess as much as his offensive ability. Most importantly, Jordan changed the way the game was played. He was elusive, dominant, opportunistic, and athletic. He played above the rim or behind the line. Every time he took a shot, it was expected to go in, whether it was a crazy circus shot in a lane filled with 7 footers, or a last second buzzer beater with the game on the line. Jordan changed the way the next generation played.
Bryant is part of the next generation. He has confessed his idolization of Jordan many times, describing how he used to emulate the living legends moves and shots. Why wouldn’t he? After all, Jordan is considered the best ever, and every kid with a basketball pretended to be His Airness at some point or another. Kobe was no different; he just took it one step further.
When Jordan retired for the last time, the search started for the “next Jordan”. Grant Hill, Penny Hardaway, Lebron James, and of course, Kobe Bryant were but a few of the many championed as the heir to Air. Unfortunately, no one has stood out as though they were on the same level as Jordan.
The reason for this is may actually be very simple. Jordan was the first of his kind. He was a revolutionary talent and grew into the most dominant player of his time. With all of the new talent coming into the NBA practicing his moves and basing their games off of Jordan’s standard, the league becomes a tougher place to play. No disrespect to the players of the 80′s and 90′s, but the skill of today’s players is at a higher level, thanks in large part to Jordan’s contribution to the game. This makes it more difficult for a player to stand out and be dominant in the way that MJ was. It takes a bit of looking back to realize the “next Jordan” is already here, and has been for a long time.
Bryant came into the league with visions of being the answer to Jordan’s absence and it showed in his confidence. In a time when our legends were humble, Bryant’s brash approach to the game made him look cocky and disrespectful. This attitude may be exactly why so many people refuse to give the guy the credit he deserves. Bryant has a bit of Diva in him that would make an NFL wide receiver jealous. As talented as a player is, the Diva lowers the value, causing minds to close, and facts to be ignored.
Bryant is an unbelievable competitor. He is as much Jordan as he is Black Mamba. He has spent his career making plays above the rim and behind the line in much the same manner as his idol. As Bryant’s body has begun to betray him, he has followed Jordan’s lead and began to develop other parts of his game, perfecting his jumper and turning himself into one of the best outside threats in the game.
A look at the video shows his athletic ability, and his mental awareness, are identical to MJ’s. There is nothing Jordan can do that Kobe cannot, including winning Championships. Kobe is just one ring behind, and with all of the Los Angeles Lakers off season moves, he is in a prime position to win a couple more.
It is hard to believe; Jordan’s heir was here the whole time. We would have known it too, if we had just listened to the kid from Lower Merion High School; he has been telling us this all along.
Jeff Everette is a featured columnist for RantSports.com, covering the NFL and NBA. You can follow him on twitter @jeverettesports, or subscribe to Jeff Everette-RantSports.com on both Facebook and Google+ for all of his latest articles, opinions, and rants.
Other NBA Content on Rant Sports: