(Article by Luke “Loco” Johnson. Forgive website faux pas.)
The genius of the now publicly – traded Facebook can be found within its blurred borders.
While people debate, rile and incite factions against governments, coin phrases, delight political oppositions with radical out-of-bounds statements, meet lovers, make friends, study for mid-terms, and make gobs of dollars through marketing their brands on the newly designed home page, all is done (excepting bloody revolutions overseas) slug-fest-free.
On Facebook, we’re in our lives, but not really…
And then the post topic shifts to the polarizing five-time champion, pop archetype, good-looking butt hole, Kobe Bryant, who alone can fragment friendships, devastate marriages and roil bar fights, resulting in arrests, broken noses, and jail time.
The arguments are fairly rooted in the despondent character’s ongoing love affair with drama. He is, with full certainty, the greatest basketball name since Michael Jordan — a name either celebrated with an intense love affair or consistently assassinated because of his despondency and smug stoicism.
The man known as the Black Mamba has collected ring lore, 29, 484 career points, a net worth of 200 million dollars, urban hip hop fascination, one MVP award, thirteen all-star appearances, a rape charge, and four scoring titles. Clearly, the question is not whether or not Kobe Bryant is great, but how great? How actually great is Kobe Bryant? Like a crystal prism, the answer to this question changes hews based upon our vantage point.
We’re all certain to view people from our own experiences and interpretation of history. We cannot know whether or not Kobe Bryant is a substantial upper echelon athlete from a historical standpoint without a set of rules to guide us there. But even these rules are relative to fan’s perspective and personal moral guidelines.
A recent Facebook update of mine simply said, “Kevin Durant > Kobe Bryant. Not surprisingly, my post elicited these types of responses from Bryant appreciators: “It’s funny how you always compare players to him,” “So quick to anoint (in regards to Durant’s assumed legacy)” and “KD has to keep this up for like eight to ten more years and win three to four championships to get close to Kobe overall…”.
But so was not the case with names like Oscar Robertson, who born into a franchise, lead the Cincinnati Royals, now Milwaukee Bucks, to one championship over a stellar fourteen year career resulting in one MVP award, gobs of All Star appearances, and career numbers of 25.7 points, 9.5 assists and 7.5 rebounds. The man known as the Big O changed the game with his inside outside all around approach to taking over games both defensively and offensively. To be it simply: he was leading a poor franchise of mutes, not a team of shining stars.
His name brought about the follow up, to this critic’s muse: ” I would rank the Big O over Kobe and Oscar only had one. Shoot, I think Jerry West is arguably comparable on many facets: clutch gene, scoring ability, etc,…and West won only one and lost like five in a row at one point. Luke Walton wears rings! Jack Haley wears three rings!”
Another chimed in: “Kobe is one of the greats to play to play in our lifetime! Kobe’s shortfall is that he is not as good at elevating his teammates. That is what made Jordan Jordan.”
Ah, there it is again! The ghost of his Airness haunting Bryant eternally! But what good are definitions without legacy evaluations? Is it not flattery to be compared to the NBA’s Alexander the Pope? Even if the equation still stands: Michael Jordan > Kobe Bryant?
The dividing line has been laid. While none within the FB round-table would argue against Kobe’s legacy, as great from a basketball sense of the term, how great that greatness really is, is still up for debate.
Do O’Brien trophies establish the grandeur of legacy in its full authenticity? And how can one reconcile this with those who have come before and been throttled by bad franchises? We would have to digress into the annals of history in order to attain a more clearly–defined framework. Even that is a vapid journey.
A Bryant appreciator eased up and followed this with, “I’m not saying that you can’t be great without a ring…but it certainly is important when the career of a player is discussed, especially if the player had a dominant role in each title win.”
Yet again, “ dominant role,” takes on a life of its own. Did not Robert Horry – aka “Big Shot Bob” – play a “dominant role” each time he hit a clutch three in playoff games for the Rockets, Lakers and Spurs? And he was a role player with career averages of 7.0 points and 4.8 rebounds, en route to seven rings.
The smeary painting of a morally relative society concocts confusion and creates inconclusive stakes in popular claims. The A becomes the predicate to the B, but the answer to both A and B are never 1000% truth from the collective of our societal consciousness.
Our language is fragmented depictions of our surroundings—for instance, the above phrase like dominant role or verbiage like great— muddy under such inconclusive insecurities, and kiss a shot at real, rational data-collecting goodbye.
Therefore, Kobe Bryant is both the assertion and the inverse to that assertion. He played both a dominant role and a non- dominant role throughout his playoff career.
So how can fans ever agree on anything then? We can’t. But we can look at athletic superiority with the eyes of art appreciators.
This is was the driving point to another assertion by me, a non-Bryant fan: “ I respect Kobe for what he is: A top-15 player of all-time….the second greatest scorer in league history (behind MJ)…hall of famer…and top–five Laker of all-time.”
I shy away from hoisting the all-encompassing mantle of Michael Jordan or Wilt Chamberlain onto Bryant’s shoulders while endowing the infamous Laker with ratchets of glory. Such a list of praise could be compared to winning the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, being featured alongside Picasso in a painting gallery or sweeping awards in musical mastery.
Despite this, our fansmanship is irrationally constituted by both our fascinations and our semi-surreal memory banks. Such imaginary brews give players like Kobe Bryant near mythical status — not as the flesh-and-blood basketball player with real flaws and fissures, but rather as the supernatural warrior with the inability to fail. This of course, is part of our human makeup, something evolution never grew us out of. We need to tell stories — big stories — about survival, conquest and conquer, and most importantly, about the hero who took us there.
Dependent upon what vantage point you take, the former number eight, continues to dumbfound pop culture with his iconic legacy. His swag, dramatic split from Shaquille O’Neal, game winners, rape charge, 81 – point outing and infamous 2006 game-seven refusal to re-enter play against the Phoenix Suns in the playoffs, amounts to a stubborn star with a tempestuously exquisite torch— one that will shine in the hearts of fans far beyond our current Facebookian comprehensions of him. We are sheep to the slaughter of our lust for opposing opines, so give in and let go. Be in everyone’s life, but not really.