It was the one-year anniversary of the tragic death of Kobe Bryant a few days ago (January 26), and this week’s SB Nation Reacts poll dealt with the complicated legacy of one of the game’s best players.
Kobe Bryant was obviously one of the NBA’s all-time greats, and his drive to win and be the best was legendary. Mamba Mentality was a direct-descendant of Michael Jordan’s competitive legacy, and we learned all about that in the Last Dance documentary. Jordan was Kobe’s idol, and Bryant inherited MJ’s abrasive on-court persona. In fact, Jordan’s competitiveness is now a meme:
Bryant always seemed to take it personally on the basketball court, and one of my favorite examples of that was Bryant’s personality clash with Dwight Howard, who Bryant felt didn’t carry the necessary gumption for winning at all costs. Howard lasted one season in L.A. and one of his later interactions with Bryant also became a meme.
It’s funny ‘cause it’s true!
But Bryant finished his career with 18 All-Star appearances, 5 NBA titles, 2 Finals MVPs and a regular season MVP. He garnered 11 First-Team All NBA appearances and 9 First Team All-Defense and was a two-time scoring champion. His credentials are impeccable.
But where his legacy gets complicated for me is that he gets overrated all-time due to the narcissistic L.A. media and the team’s self-congratulatory fan base. Look, I think Kobe was a fantastic player, but if you have him in your top five ever, then I might suggest a head examination, or at least a thorough self-analyzation of your biases. I have Kobe (and Shaq for that matter) somewhere between 10-15 all-time. If you want to squeeze one of them in at 9 or 10, I’m not going to hate too much, but that top 5 stuff drives me batty.
He shot just 44 percent from the field for his career, in addition to a below-average 33 percent from deep, and also won three of those titles playing next to the most dominant post scorer of a generation (who had few other top big men to match up with) and still needed a documented fix in order to get past the Sacramento Kings
Second is the huge elephant in the room, and that is the 2003 Colorado incident. The fact that it happened 15 years before our national reckoning on sexual misconduct and assault certainly doesn’t hurt, but it’s just as much of the entire picture (and maybe even more so) than the titles and awards. Basketball, at the end of the day, isn’t real life. Despite how much money, emotions, and work is involved, ultimately, it’s just a game. Someone’s life, and a life-long recovery from trauma is something different altogether in my book.
I don’t expect everyone to agree with that opinion — especially Laker fans — but I quite frankly don’t care. It’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. Sublime basketball player, had a winner’s mentality, though he’s usually slightly overrated historically, with a complicated legacy that includes positives like mentoring and being father, but also a settled-out-of court sexual assault case.
That viewpoint is reflected in our national responses, which allowed voters to write in their own personal memory of Kobe. A full 16 percent of all responses received mentioned the Colorado case in some form or fashion. Obviously, most of the responses were positive, but it’s just an example of the difficult nature of Bryant’s legacy. Here’s one of the Houston responses.
In addition, we asked our Houston Rockets voters about their confidence in the direction of the Rockets, and it remained high at 83 percent, down just slightly from last week’s 88 percent.
We’re going to have some additional Rockets-centric questions in the coming weeks, so now is the perfect time to sign up for SB Nation Reacts. Head over here to sign up!!!