With his latest trip to the NBA Finals, there has been talk lately of Tim Duncan possibly being the best player of his generation, and the consideration is well deserved. Duncan has the numbers, the titles and the consistency that validate anyone’s argument on the matter. He is one of the greatest players to ever play this game, but compared to Kobe Bryant, Duncan is just a few steps behind.
Bryant is the most unique player in NBA history for many reasons. He is the most gifted shot maker the game has ever seen, he has the highest pain threshold, and no one — since Bryant entered the league — has played at an elite level for as many years as Bryant. Like a fine wine, Bryant gets better with age, and he always adds a new wrinkle to his game to give him an edge on the opposition. He is consumed by the game of basketball; he is a fierce competitor with a high basketball IQ and the heart of a champion.
Bryant has five NBA titles — a ring for each finger on his hand. He did not achieve them by accident; each was earned with hard work and sacrifice. Yes, he has had some great talent around him, but he was not a contributor to any of the titles, he was the leading force in all five of them. Anyone who thinks Shaquille O’Neal alone was responsible for the Los Angeles Lakers‘ three-peat at the turn of the century, does not have a clue about the game of basketball. Shaq and Kobe was arguably the greatest one-two punch in the history of the NBA.
Along with the five rings, seven trips to the Finals, two Finals’ MVPs, one league MVP, four All-Star game MVPs, 11 All-NBA First Team selections, nine All-NBA Defensive First Team selections, 15 All-Star Game selections, scoring 81 points in a single game, passing the 30,000-point plateau, all the game winners, all the clutch shots, all the highlights, and lets not forget that the man helped bring home two gold medals back the the United States, Bryant is a living legend. People knock him because of his personality. Understandably so, he is an enigma; no one can figure this guy out. He does not have the lovable personality like a Magic Johnson for example, but you have to respect what he has done on the court. He is a throwback to the basketball legends before him in the way he goes about his business on the court. Winning is everything to Bryant; nothing else matters. He has a killer’s mentality with his cold-blooded nature. With today’s generation of stars constantly fraternizing and befriending each other on and off the court, it is refreshing to basketball purests that Bryant continues to come at the best players in the game with the intensity of a “Black Mamba” and is not interested if the opposition likes him or not.
Bryant is the last of a dying breed.
Young ball players should learn all they can from Bryant and Duncan. Their era is coming to an end, but with Duncan not securing his fifth ring, there is no doubt that Bryant is the best player of that era.
Bryant is the best player since Michael Jordan retired from the Chicago Bulls. The torch was passed to him, and he has now passed that same torch to LeBron James, whether Bryant was ready to pass it or not.