At 33-years-old, Kobe Bryant has heard it all during his 14-year career. And being compared to some of the greatest basketball players of all-time isn’t something new, it’s absolutely normal and routine like drinking water or breathing. It’s career defining.
So it’s probably not shocking to Kobe when an all-time great comes out and endorses him as one player they’d love to play with.
But what’s shocking about Larry Bird’s comments on the B.S. Report with Bill Simmons earlier this week is that while Bird also acknowledged LeBron James as one of the greatest of all-time, Larry Legend picked Bryant over LeBron for reasons that were pretty substantial — and it showed a very harsh reality of what the greats think of LeBron’s game.
“Well, probably Kobe, because of the fact that … well, of course he wouldn’t have been shooting as much as he does now … but his desire to win, his dedication, to always get better, uh, and he’s just, he’s just tough,” Bird said. “He’s just a tough cat.
“But, if you want to have fun, like I did with Bill Walton, play with LeBron. It would have probably been more fun to play with LeBron, but if you want to win and win and win, it’s Kobe. Not that LeBron’s not a winner, just that [Kobe’s] mindset is to go into every practice, every game, to get better.”
Let’s just say, if Kobe was running for president — well, his campaign team can all go home for the rest of the year.
By Bird coming up with that conclusion obviously tells you that this thought was pre-meditated and probably nothing new around the elite circle. This wasn’t something conjured up in Bird’s head seconds before or when he got up in the morning. This was a true and honest opinion and grading scales as you’re going to get. It’s something you WANT to hear from guys like Michael, Magic and Larry. It’s the type of evaluation only the greats can come up with it that’s really unarguable with the sports writers, the fans and just everyone else who has an opinion.
I mean, wouldn’t we love to be a fly on a wall at a Michael Jordan poker game with Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Charles Oakley and others talking about how much they hate this player, love this one, how the game is soft and they make too much money?
May be it’s just me, but I don’t even know why we compared LeBron and Kobe? Didn’t the Nike commercials pretty much solve that? Where are my four rings? Five rings?
We should keep Kobe where he’s often compared to — Michael and Magic — where debates are definitely worthy of conversation and intense in argument.
The debates about Kobe and Jordan go as far back as Kobe’s rookie year. And they’ve only intensified over the years due to Kobe’s will to win, his intense passion to win and the fact he’s one ring short of Michael’s total of six.
Michael never scored 81 in a game. Kobe was never the shooter Michael was. We can go back and forth all night long.
The similarities show in style, work ethic and passion. Their will to win is assassin-like. They take the game seriously and hate to lose.
Those in favor of Michael tend to always come out on top. And rightfully so.
But when the debate shifts to Magic, who’s mainly supported as the second greatest behind Jordan, it gets severly complicated because in the Kobe-Magic debates, the one who’s voted the better Laker is sometimes not the better player.
And that’s where Bird’s words bring an intrigue about the debate LeBron and Kobe.
To me, when you place the title of “Greatest Laker” to either Kobe or Magic, that player, no matter what, should be better than the other.
If Kobe’s better than Magic, he has to be the better Laker. Vice versa.
And if Bird’s going to say he’d rather play with Kobe — that’s saying he prefers his game and his ethic over LeBron. And that says he thinks Kobe’s better.
There’s going to be debates between Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. LeBron and Michael . Kobe and LeBron. That’s the nature of basketball arguments and barber shop talk.
But if we’ve come to the conclusion that we have Michael – 1, Magic – 2 we need to have a method of deciding where Kobe and LeBron go.
First things first: We have to separate Magic and Kobe. We know if Jordan is 1 and Magic is 2… and Jordan is 1 and Kobe is 2 in the M.J./K.B. debate — we can figure out who should be 2 and 3 between Magic and Kobe.
That also determines the order for greatest Laker.
After that’s settled, you can throw in James.
He’s gets compared to the number three guy — in my case that’s Magic.
For my argument, LeBron doesn’t get past Magic. And if you really want to throw Bird in there, Bill Russell, Kareem, Shaq and Wilt, you can see why Skip Bayless’ list was a little messed up.
But when is he not?
For some of you, LeBron slides past Kobe, and I’ve got Kobe at two.
See how this gets all jazzed up like Deron Williams getting Jerry Sloan fired and then demanding a trade soon after?
Which ever way you decide, the fact of the matter is that here we are, leaning on Larry Bird’s rhetoric. And while he says if he wants to have fun like he did with Bill Walton — he’d spurn Kobe for LeBron mainly because he would want to win.
And that’s the ego trip between Bird, Michael and Magic. Nobody wanted to lose. Nobody wanted to get topped by the next guy. Michael wanted to win more than the both of them, and win three-straight, which Magic and Larry never did. And that’s what made the 80’s and 90’s so special. Kobe’s the only one in the last decade who represents any sort of memory of what the best decades in basketball was all about.
You don’t see that with LeBron. Or Wade. Or anybody else for that matter.
If we’re going to judge a player by not only his ability, but by how much he’s won, the debate is clear and Larry just endorsed it.
Kobe Bryant is better than LeBron James.
And if you were to really get an honest answer out of Kobe Bryant, the true athletic assassin — a term coined by Bob Costas — Bryant wouldn’t probably give it much thought.
Like drinking water or breathing. It’s all routine for Bryant.
And it defines him.