Only Kobe Bryant knows. People imagine Bryant wanting to reach the peak of mythology like Michael Jordan. The world argues over Bryant’s ability to accomplish the feat. It’s a never-ending debate. It’s not a senseless one, however. We push winners to surpass previous winners to fuel evolution. We wish to see impossible standards matched, even broken. We read the signs, analyze his actions. Ultimately, only Bryant knows if he wants to mimic his Airness down to the last detail of the Jumpman logo.
Kobe can never be Jordan. It’s a worthy thesis. But feel free to disagree. It’s like asking today’s most skilled guitarist to be the next Hendrix. Bryant can double or triple Jordan’s career statistics but the Jordan phenomenon is beyond mathematics. Can such a multimedia, multi-level myth be really matched?
Instead of demanding that Kobe be the next Michael, what if we begin to ask, can anyone be the next Kobe? Be the next 5-time champion whose near-obsession with practice and training is legendary. Be the next franchise player whose insistence that teammates display the same verve is often interpreted as grossly unfair.
Then again, if it’s unfair to demand that Bryant reach Jordan-esque status, isn’t it also unfair to ask others to be just like Bryant?
Humbled, albeit just shooting-wise, in Game 7, Bryant didn’t sulk, mope, drop his shoulders in exasperation and give up on account of an ill-timed miserable shooting night. I say he was humbled on the night the Lakers won their sixteenth championship. At least I think he was. In all likelihood, Bryant believes one bad shooting day doesn’t smear a gem of a season. One bad shooting day can’t stink up a post-season run worthy of a spot in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. One bad shooting night can’t erase the 15 rebounds and 11 out of 15 free throws he tallied on a day he could’ve freaked out, conked out, checked out. He doggedly stayed in Game 7 when the league’s best play-off scorer had every reason not to.
I wrote that Bryant was humbled. He can reply by thrusting his fifth championship ring on my right cheek and leave a bloodied facial tattoo that says “NBA Champions 2009-2010".
Bryant deserved to win the Finals MVP award because he persisted like one. He could’ve gone zero out of 30 and he’d still fire away like he was shooting 90% from the floor. He could’ve gone zero out of 40 and the Celtics, the team that made season MVP LeBron James and league Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard drop to their knees, will still move heaven and earth, use every defensive trick in the book, squeeze every ounce of experience from a line-up that has tons of it, to prevent Bryant from taking the last shot of the game.
Sounds like Jordan, doesn’t it? I believe the search for the next Michael is futile. I wonder if a search for the next Kobe will be just as fruitless.
Mico Halili, GMA News TV