As painful as it is for me to type these words, truth must rule the day - KOBE BRYANT IS ONE OF THE GREATEST PLAYERS OF ALL-TIME. Just where on the greatest of all-time list he falls I'm still trying to figure out - perhaps that will have to be a post for another day. The talk show host on the sports radio show I appeared on today claimed that Kobe is better than Bird, but I'm not conceding that just yet.
Despite being poked and prodded by the media into admitting that this title is special to him because it came without Shaq, Kobe commendably didn't fall into the fifth estate's trap and admit it. This was a smart move by him for several reasons -admitting that would belittle his contribution to the three rings he won with Shaq, it would undermine his current teammates' abilities ("I don't need Shaq to win a ring, I can win it with a bunch of scrubs"), and despite Shaq and Kobe pretending that everything is lovey dovey between them now, we all know that they still hate one another.
But it takes more than one player to win a championship (just ask LeBron, or Jordan in his early days), and the Lakers secondary performers are as much to thank for this title than Kobe. Too often all the praise or blame for championships won or lost are heaped upon the star player, when in reality no player wins or loses a championship on their own (with the possible exception of Hakeem in 1994). So while Pau and company deserve much of the credit for the championship this year, Kobe also deserves credit for the three rings he won already. Most people (myself included) totally dismiss the fact the Kobe already has won three championships due to the fact that Shaq was on that team. But it wasn't as if Kobe was just along for the ride - in the 2001 Finals he averaged 25/8/6 and in 2002 his numbers were 26/6/5. So while we give Kobe praises for this year's title, now is also a good time to look back and give the man long overdue respect for the Lakers triumphs in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
My fellow Kobe haters, don't feel bad - we had a good run. We denied the man his due for much longer than we ever could have hoped. But now that all has been said and done, this championship has allowed Kobe to come out from under Shaq's massive shadow and take his rightful place among the games all-time greats. So here's to you Mr Bryant - you are a king among men. Now excuse me while I go vomit.