Kobe Bean Bryant has finally announced this will be his final season. Usually the person making the announcement is the last to know it’s over and so we are relieved that Kobe has come to his senses and realized Father Time is undefeated.
He has nothing to be ashamed of and quite frankly he should revel in the fact he lasted 20 years. That is a tremendous accomplishment, especially based on the energy he exerted over those two decades. People talk about the fact he has missed more field goals than anyone in history, but what they don’t understand is how difficult it is to get 25,000 attempts up.
He will go down as one of the most dedicated and driven athletes in sports history. He will walk away with five championships and numerous individual accolades… But where will Kobe rank among the greatest of all-time?
(First, let me make this clear: Magic Johnson is the greatest Laker ever. This is out of respect for the player I personally think is the best ever along with Michael Jordan. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is next with Kobe and Jerry West fighting for third).
When discussing the greatest players ever, let’s not focus so much on championships. Teams win championships. Jordan, Magic, Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe, Bill Russell, Tim Duncan, etcetera, would not have won if not for great complementary teammates. I refuse to say Karl Malone, Charles Barkley and Dominique Wilkins, among others, should be penalized because they never won a championship.
This is what matters: How efficient were they individually and how did they raise the play of their teammates?
If a player is extremely efficient and makes you better, that’s a superstar to me and that’s the type of player you want to play with. Why? Because I want to contribute and not watch.
That being said, this is my Top 5 ever: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain.
Those five were ultra efficient and dominated in many facets of the game. Kobe can’t crack the Top 5 because he was not an efficient basketball player in regards to percentages. (Although he probably is ranked second to MJ in regards to relentless effort offensively).
Kobe’s numbers are obviously fantastic, but he doesn’t crack my Top 10 either: I would put Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James and Tim Duncan in that second group.
He makes my Top 15 behind Hakeem Olajuwon and Karl Malone and ahead of Charles Barkley and Moses Malone.
Bryant fans will undoubtedly become irritated by these rankings, but again I will refer to efficiency and not titles. No. 13 all-time is a tremendous ranking for Kobe and he is here because of his tremendous skill set and desire to will himself upon opponents with a fanatical passion for the game and ability to play in pain.
I am excited for him in that he finally has recognized he just can’t give us anymore. Honestly, I don’t think anyone ever in this game can beat Kobe Bean Bryant in terms of dedication.
Eddie Johnson is a 17-year NBA veteran and TV analyst for the Phoenix Suns.