Is Kobe Bryant The G.O.A.T Of All Time? Only Time Will Tell

I have been watching the NBA since I was in elementary school. I just turned 26 years old 3 weeks ago (I am old). So I have witnessed a lot of great talent growing up from elementary to now. I’m talking about the likes of Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon in the 90’s, to Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, Shaq, Allen Iverson, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan of the 2000’s, to Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard currently now, and even the young bucks like Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Paul George , Anthony Davis, etc.

So like I said before, I have seen alot of talent come and go in the NBA. But there is one specific player that I have watched the majority of my life, that I believe have left a huge legacy stamp on the NBA, and he goes by the name of Kobe Bryant. Where do I begin? Well, lets go back to the 1996 NBA draft, which by the way had a lot of talent entering the draft that year. In my opinion, the 1996 draft stands with the 1984 and the 2003 draft as one of the greatest drafts that produced a lot of All-Star and Hall of Fame players. In the 96′ draft besides Kobe, you had key guys drafted that year such as, Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Antoine Walker, Marcus Camby, Jermaine O’Neal, Derek Fisher, Peja Stojakovic, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. So the talent pool that year was legit. Kobe was drafted 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets then traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vlade Divac. That same summer, Lakers also signed free agent Shaquille O’ Neal. So Lakers had a plan in place to have Shaq and Kobe to be their 1,2 knockout punch for years to come. And that plan became a reality.

Alongside with Rick Fox, Robert Horry, and Derek Fisher, the Lakers became a deadly team that was hard to stop. from the 1996-1997 season to the 2003-2004 season, the Lakers went to the playoffs 8 straight years, 5 Western Conference Finals appearances, 4 NBA Finals appearances, and captured 3 NBA championships. So the Kobe/Shaq combo was working great. During that time people was critical of Kobe’s game, saying “he is a ball hog”, “he doesn’t like to pass the ball”, “he shoots the ball too much”, “he only got those championships because of Shaq”. Around 1999-2004, Shaq was the best player on the Lakers, he was 7’1, weighed over 300 lbs, he was a great low post scorer, he got double teamed a lot, he was a good rebounder, even tho he wasn’t great on defense, he was still solid enough to block shots and use his big body to intimidate smaller guys. So Shaq’s dominance was huge for the franchise, and helped his teammates to get easier chances to take open shots. That being said, Kobe played a huge role for why the Lakers was successful as well. From 1996-2004, while playing with Shaq, Kobe averaged 21.4 points per game, a 44.3 field goal percentage, a 82.6 free throw percentage during the regular season, and a 21.3 points per game average, a 42.2 field goal percentage, and a 78.6 free throw percentage during the playoffs, he even got selected to 5 All Defensive Teams, 6 All-Star games, and won the 2002 All-Star MVP. You don’t normally get stats or achievements like that from a “2nd option type player”. But that goes to show the greatness potential he had, to put up numbers like that playing alongside Shaq.

Also during those years, Kobe and Shaq started to develop bad blood for one another, whether it was on or off the court, and the tension was becoming bigger and bigger. After the Lakers got eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2003 Western Conference Semifinals, the franchise started to go through a big change that will change the team in a big way. That summer of 2003, Robert Horry was a free agent and signed with the Spurs, a year later in the summer of 2004, Rick Fox was traded to the Boston Celtics, Derek Fisher signed with the Golden State Warriors, and the Shaq/Kobe feud was getting out of control that the Lakers had a big decision to make. Kobe was a free agent, Shaq was starting to get up there in age. So the Lakers decided to go with Kobe, and resigned him, and ended up trading Shaq to the Miami Heat. That trade was huge cause now other teams did not have to deal with the problems of guarding Kobe and Shaq together. The one franchise besides the Spurs that was dominating their competition from 1999-2004 was now rebuilding and going in a opposite direction from Shaq, and with the Shaq trade, the franchise was telling everyone that they were giving Kobe the keys to lead the way for the “New Lakers Era” that was about to begin.

From 2004-2007 the Lakers experienced some hardships. Missing the playoffs in the 2004-2005 season, which was the first time the Lakers missed the playoffs since the 1993-1994 season. And despite making the playoffs in the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons, they got eliminated in the 1st round, which the Lakers franchise is not use to seeing, after gaining a lot of success from going deep in the playoffs and winning championships years prior. Even tho Lakers were VERY mediocre in that 3 year span, Kobe stats improved by a large margin and his achievements. He averaged 31.5 points per game, a 44.6 field goal percentage, 84.0 free throw percentage, and in the 2006 and 2007 playoffs, he averaged 30.3 points per game, 47.5 field goal percentage, and a 84.0 free throw percentage. He made 3 more All-Star teams, selected to more All NBA First teams and Defensive teams once again. One of Kobe’s greatest moments came on January 22, 2006, he scored a career high of 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, it became the 2nd most points scored by a NBA player in a single game behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points against the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962.

No disrespect (maybe just a little), but the roster the Lakers assembled for Kobe between 2004-2007 was not a good one at all. The 2004-2005 season, the Lakers had a 34-48 record and missed the playoffs, the next two seasons, they won 45 games in 2006 and 42 games in 2007. Even tho they made the playoffs those two years, they got eliminated in the 1st round by the Phoenix Suns twice. Playing alongside Smush Parker, Chris Mihm, Kwame Brown, Sasha Vujacic, and Jordan Farmer was not going to make other teams fear the Lakers, and yes Kobe had Lamar Odom and Andre Bynum at the time. But a Andrew Bynum between the ages of 18-19 was not helping, and relying on Lamar Odom to be your second option was not going to help either, especially when you had teams like the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, and some other teams in the Western Conference that the Lakers would have to face between 3-4 times a year each. Beating those teams was hard to do, when those teams were clearly more talented and just better than the Lakers at the time. That current Lakers team was NO WAY close to what Kobe once had in L.A between 1998-2004. The Kobe/Shaq Lakers were either winning championships or going to conference finals. The Lakers after the first 3 years without Shaq were either missing the playoffs or losing in the 1st round.

Some people probably looked at that situation and said “Kobe can’t be a franchise player”, “They are struggling without Shaq”, “Lakers made a mistake” “Kobe could never get a ring without Shaq”. I could be wrong, but it would be very hard for me to believe that if everything else would have played out the same way of that summer of 2004, but Kobe left and Shaq never got traded, that the Lakers would have been any better. I believe the Lakers would have still sucked and been very mediocre at best. Without a clear cut All-Star caliber player with Kobe, he had to take it upon himself to make this team competitive. If he had to take alot of shots, so be it, if Kobe passed his teammates the ball, and they took bad shots or passed him back the ball, what do you expect him to do? As a leader and a competitor, you defer to your teammates when you have to, but when all else fails, you have to step up and take charge and do what you got to do to win. Great players step up in moments when needed, and put his team on his back at all cost.

But fast forward to February 2008. Lakers halfway through the 2007-2008 season, had a 28-20 record, which was good at the time, but something was still missing. Something the Lakers haven’t had since Shaq got traded in 2004. A big man that can score points in the post. But sooner than later, the Lakers received that gift, when they traded 4 players, and two 1st round picks for big man Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies. Pau was no Shaq, but he was a great passer, can score in the paint, can shoot, and a solid defender, also with the emergence of Andrew Bynum and not having to rely on Lamar Odom so much, Kobe Bryant now had a team he can work with. Finishing that season with a 57-25 record, the Lakers were 1st place in the Western Conference that year and lost in the NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics, and Kobe captured his first league MVP award after another great season in which he averaged 28.3 points per game, 5.4 assist per game, 6.3 rebounds per game and shot 84% from the free throw line. He made the All-Star teams, Defensive teams, won the All-Star MVP award and won championships, but he finally got the most prestigious award in the league. Adding that award to his other collections of achievements that past and present NBA players could only wish of accomplishing.

Even tho the Lakers lost in the Finals in 2008, the next two years people witnessed the Lakers going from almost being champions to actual champions when they defeated the Orlando Magic in 2009 and defeating the Boston Celtics (payback) in 2010 and receiving his 5th NBA title and won back to back Finals MVPs, proving the doubters wrong saying that he couldn’t win a ring without Shaq. Now in 2015, Kobe Bryant has been dealing with a lot of injuries for the past 3 years and is about to turn 37 years old. With the Lakers in rebuild mode, and going with a younger roster, Kobe looks like he is almost on his way to retirement. Kobe has come along way from being drafted 13 overall in 1996 at the age of 17, to making his first All-Star team in 1998 at the age of 19, winning his first championship in 2000 at the age of 21, winning his first MVP award in 2008 at the age of 29, winning his 5th and probably final championship at the age of 31, to probably making the 2015-2016 his last year as a NBA player at the of 37. He has done so much, won championships, and received success at an early age that not a lot of professional athletes could possibly handle. Whether its the end of this season or whenever, Kobe has left a legacy behind that only few players can match.

One of the greatest players ever in NBA history, who goes by the name of Michael Jordan, was someone Kobe looked up too. His demeanor on the court, sticking out the tongue, fadeaway jumpshot, postup style all resembled Michael. But if it’s one thing Kobe took from Michael that stood out the most, is the thirst for winning.Many players can have loads of talent, but lack the want to win, then you have players who want to win so bad, but they don’t have the all around talent to standout. Kobe had it all, you want someone to play defense, shoot three’s, high passing I.Q, attack the basket, post up, hit clutch shots, he can do all of it. And of course Kobe is now approaching 37 yrs of age, and the injuries has slowed him down a bit in which he can’t do the things his body allowed him to do a couple years ago. But when the dust settles, when he hangs up his number 24 jersey, when the Lakers play, and it will be the first time Kobe is not part of a Los Angeles Lakers roster since 1996, everyone will still remember the BLACK MAMBA.

QUOTES FROM KOBE BRYANT

1- “I’ll do whatever it takes to win games, whether it’s sitting on a bench waving a towel, handing a cup of water to a teammate, or hitting the game-winning shot.
I’m chasing perfection.
I don’t want to be the next Michael Jordan, I only want to be Kobe Bryant”

2- “The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do”.

3- “The important thing is that your teammates have to know you’re pulling for them and you really want them to be       successful”.

4- “Sports are such a great teacher. I think of everything they’ve taught me: camaraderie, humility, how to resolve differences”.

5- “Can I jump over two or three guys like I used to? No. Am I as fast as I used to be? No, but I still have the fundamentals and smarts. That’s what enables me to still be a dominant player. As a kid growing up, I never skipped steps. I always worked on fundamentals because I know athleticism is fleeting”.

Kobe Bryant’s NBA Records

  • Most All-Star Game MVP awards won, career: 4 (tied with Bob Pettit)
  • Most All-Star Game points scored, career: 280[32]
  • Most All-Star Game field goals made, career: 115
  • Most offensive rebounds in an All-Star Game: 10
  • Most All-NBA Total Selections won, career: 16
  • Most All-NBA First Team honors won, career: 11 (tied with Karl Malone)
  • Only player in NBA history with more than 30,000 points and 6,000 assists.[33][34]
  • Most three-point field goals made, one game: 12 (on January 7, 2003 vs. Seattle SuperSonics; shared with Donyell Marshall)[35]
  • Most three-point field goal attempts, career-playoffs: 882[36]
  • Most field goal attempts, career-playoffs: 4,499
  • Most three-point field goal attempts, career-finals: 153
  • Most free throws made, four-game playoff series: 51 (second round vs. Sacramento Kings, 2001)[37]
  • Youngest player to score 24,000 points: (31 years, 76 days)[40]
  • Surpassed Wilt Chamberlain, the previous holder of the record[40]
  • Since surpassed by LeBron James, who achieved this at 30 years, 17 days [41]
  • Youngest player to score 25,000 points: (31 years, 151 days)[42]
  • Surpassed Wilt Chamberlain, the previous holder of the record[42]
  • Youngest player to score 26,000 points: (32 years, 80 days)[43]
  • Surpassed Wilt Chamberlain, the previous holder of the record
  • Youngest player to score 27,000 points: (32 years, 160 days)[44]
  • Surpassed Wilt Chamberlain, the previous holder of the record
  • Youngest player to score 28,000 points: (33 years, 131 days)[45][46]
  • Surpassed Wilt Chamberlain, the previous holder of the record
  • Youngest player to score 29,000 points: (33 years, 199 days)[47]
  • Surpassed Wilt Chamberlain, the previous holder of the record
  • Youngest player to score 30,000 points: (34 years, 104 days)[48]
  • Surpassed Wilt Chamberlain, the previous holder of the record
  • Youngest player to score 31,000 points: (34 years, 185 days)[49]
  • Surpassed Wilt Chamberlain, the previous holder of the record
  • Youngest player to score 32,000 points: (36 years, 87 days)[50]
  • Surpassed Karl Malone, the previous holder of the record
  • Youngest player to be named to the NBA All-Rookie Team: (1996–97)[51]
  • Youngest player to be named to the NBA All-Defensive Team: (1999–00)[51]
  • Youngest player to start a game: (18 years, 158 days)[1]
  • Youngest player to win the NBA Slam Dunk Championship: (18 years, 169 days)[52]
  • Youngest player to start an All-Star game: (19 years, 169 days)[51]
  • Only player in NBA history to score at least 600 points in the postseason for three consecutive years.[53]
  • 633 (2008), 695 (2009), 671 (2010)
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