Years ago I came up with the phrase "The Kobe Bryant Career Wing-Span," because I wanted to compare the greatness of his play against the play of other players who played the game during his career.
As a "pure" basketball fan I want to acknowledge the greatness of Kobe Bryant because the greatness just can't be denied. Over the years I've been disappointed in some of the things Kobe did, which led me to stop really caring about him as a basketball player.
Now, here I am and my feelings about Kobe haven't really changed that much. As a person, I'm not really a Kobe Bryant fan. But, as a basketball fan...the guy is right up there with the "best ever" in my opinion.
I think he hurt his legacy when forced a trade that brought Pau Gasol to the Lakers for Kwame Brown. Not that the trade wasn't a good trade for the Lakers. But for the legacy of Kobe Bryant, I think it was a terrible trade. I just think that Kobe, at the time, at the height of his amazing-"ness," he could have found a way to make it work out with Kwame, Odom, Fisher and other pieces. And if he had, he, no doubt, would have had to go down as the greatest basketball player ever! But, at that time, he made excuses for his "ball-hogging," and made a scrapegoat of Kwame Brown. But, that was then, and this is now.
With the current Lakers' roster, Kobe has a chance to go back in time, if you will, and do something for his legacy that could bring him in as the second best basketball player in NBA history. I'm sorry, but when he, basically, forced the trade of Kwame Brown for Pau Gasol, he gave away his chance to surpass the great Michael Jordan as the greatest player ever. Nothing Kobe does now will ever make him better than Michael Jordan. Absolutely nothing!
But, again, with the current Lakers' roster, he has a chance to finish his career as the second best to Michael. Kobe still has Gasol and Bynum, but even, still, to this date, Bynum hasn't proven himself to be "all that." So, for this season Andrew Bynum is still a question mark as to how good he really is. Or how healthy he can stay. Other than Gasol and Bynum, the rest of the Lakers' roster has to be a question mark, too.
If by chance, the Lakers can get to the finals, and win it all, Kobe Bryant will have had to have played the best basketball of his career. With the new CBA the league has changed. Over and over I've pointed out that the new CBA is going to, basically, pit big-market teams against small-market teams. I've broken that down to mean the following: big-market teams seem to be going with a roster model of 3 superstars. And small-market teams have to go with a balanced roster model since they have trouble holding on to their superstars.
The logic being this: big-market teams have the money to afford the 3 superstars, while small-market teams don't. And, of course, big-market teams have the attraction of the "big-stage." But, with the new CBA, big-market teams just can't go out and buy the rest of the players they need to fill out their rosters to a championship level, hence, the big-market 3 superstar roster model is born. By default, the small-market balanced roster model is thrown into existence.
The best example of the big-market 3 superstar roster model goes to two teams: the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks. Both teams spent most of their salary cap money on 3 superstars. And both teams are having trouble filling out the rest of their rosters with players that will help them get over the top to win the championship.
Broken down, it comes to this: the Heat have no center to get them to the promised land so they can win it all. In this league, if you don't have a defensive center, you are not going to win it all and that just a fact.
The Knicks went and signed "the best" center in this year's market. Tyson Chandler cannot be describe as anything more than a defensive center, because on the offensive end of the game, he can't create his own shot. He's good for alley-oops, of course. And he can hit a wide-open jumper, but to create his own shot? No way! We'll leave it at that. The real issue is the rest of the Knicks' roster behind their big 3. Do I really need to explain? They come up real short and don't have the money in cap space to do anything about it other than rely on some ball player wanting to join them at a cheap price for a chance to win it all. The question, for the Knicks, has to be this: are there even those type of players out there for them to sign in hopes of winning it all? I don't think so.
So, you see what the new CBA has done, right? It has put limits on what big-market teams can do. Now, let's see what it has done out here in the West. Which teams have 3 stars on their rosters?
Dallas: Dirk, Kidd, and who else, who else, who else? (who else spoken in rapid succession with an Al Pacino acting craze)
San Antonio: Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili?
Oklahoma City: Durant, Westbrook, and who else, who else, who else?
Los Angeles Lakers: Bryant, Gasol, and Bynum.
Awwwh, those Los Angeles Lakers! They have the big 3 superstars. Both what they have, which other 3 superstar teams don't have, is a balanced roster to go along with the 3 superstars. Yes, the Lakers have a bench. Led by Metta World Peace, the Lakers, also, have Troy Murphy and Josh McRoberts to call on in relief of their big men. Both Murphy and McRoberts seem to be decent at rebounding the ball. Rebounds is what makes the NBA go round and round. That is huge. Then they have a couple of 3-point shooters in Blake and Kapono. But the biggest asset the Lakers have, behind their big 3, might be their new coach, Mike Brown.
If coach Brown can get the players, Kobe, to buy into his basketball defensive philosophy, that would allow Murphy and McRoberts to really shine in their abilities. Murphy, throughout his career has been a double/double guy, and if he could get close to that...that could be dangerous in coach Brown's approach to the game. McRoberts is always going to give the team an energetic effort. But, alas, it all comes down to Kobe Bryant.
As I mentioned, I came up with the phrase: The Kobe Bryant Career-Wing Span a few years ago when people were talking about the best player in the league. Back then the discussion revolved around Kobe, Iverson, Carter, McGrady and others as to who was the best in the league at the time. That was in the middle of Kobe's career. At the beginning of his career he played against the likes of Michael Jordan. Now, going towards the end of his career, we have LeBron James in the best player in the league discussion.
Can you picture that? Let me help you a bit. Picture Kobe with two basketballs. One in each hand as he extends his arms in opposite directions. That's his wing span, of course. The players in his career wing span: Jordan, Shaq, Carter, McGrady, Iverson, James, Wade, Anthony, Duncan, Garnett, who else, who else, who else? In that career wing span what do we see? 5 NBA championships. Countless All-Star appearances, and what else, what else, what else? Oh yeah, he's still going strong.
Carter and McGrady are limping to the end of their careers. Shaq is done. Iverson's attitude was so bad, he can't even finish his career. Nobody wants him. But, Kobe, if he buys into coach Brown's philosophy, still has a chance to win at the highest level. But, what does that really mean? Does he over-pass the ball trying to be the good teammate? Or does he try to dominate the game like he used to be able to do? With this current Lakers roster, he might have to blend the two styles to perfection, because he has a chance, with what the new CBA has done to the league, to come out on top, again, this year. And if Kobe can do that, the discussion isn't about who is the best player in the league right now, but who is the best player in NBA history.
Again, with this Lakers roster, Kobe can secure his place as the second best player in NBA history, because...oh, wait! If Kobe leads the Lakers to a championship this year, with this roster...the debate has to be if he's the best ever. Not second best. This Lakers' roster is good as in balanced. This roster requires commitment to defense and ball movement on offense. This roster has good professional basketball players who understand what it means to play the game the right way. The only question is this: how great is Kobe Bryant going towards the latter part of his career? Can he play the game the right way without giving the impression that he's pouting if doesn't get enough shots, like he used to do?