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What Is Kobe Bryant’s Legacy?
Earlier this week, Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant announced that he would be retiring from NBA competition at the end of this season. It wasn’t a surprising announcement, but it opened up the discussions about legacy that tend to come up whenever a prominent athlete retires. So what is Kobe Bryant’s legacy now that his career is coming to an end?
Kobe Bryant: Ruthless Conqueror
On one hand, Kobe Bryant may be one of the greatest competitors in the history of the NBA, both from a talent standpoint and from a competitive spirit perspective. Bryant was easily one of the best scorers in the history of the league, with his 81 point single game performance against the Toronto Raptors going down as one of the most amazing individual performances in the history of the sport.
Along with his high scoring numbers, Bryant was also able to make big shots when he needed to the most, hitting a number of game winning shots and shots that put his teams in positions to win late in games in both the regular season and playoffs. That made him one of the few players on the planet you could trust to hit big shots late in games, and made him so difficult to defend for the duration of games.
In addition to jaw dropping point totals and big shots, Kobe Bryant’s spirit shined through nearly all the time during his career. His willingness to assert that he was better than his opponents in press conferences and his willingness to say anything he had to in order to get teammates to perform at a level he deemed satisfactory are prime examples of this, in the career of a player who was competitive to a fault at times.
Kobe Bryant: Selfish Player
While there are certainly no lack of positives to describe Kobe Bryant’s NBA career and his time with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe’s competitiveness led to some selfishness that has otherwise tainted his time as a professional. There is perhaps no more prominent moment of this than the way Kobe Bryant worked with Lakers management to run Shaquille O’Neal and Phil Jackson out of town.
When the three were together, O’Neal, Bryant, and Jackson formed some unstoppable teams with the Los Angeles Lakers, but Lakers management and Bryant conspired to run the other two out of town, which freed up a lot of money for a contract extension for Kobe. While Bryant got paid, the Lakers weren’t great again until they surrounded Bryant with Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom, and Pau Gasol to hold him down on the interior.
In recent years, Bryant has come under fire for taking shots and minutes away from the younger players on the Lakers, especially this year when he is holding back the growth of Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell.
Overall, Kobe Bryant will be remembered for his endless competitiveness, and his ability to score from anywhere at any time in any game, but his ability to put himself before potential team successes will give detractors an excuse to mark him down in their books.
By: Jason M. Sanin