LOS ANGELES – Kobe Bryant will forever be compared to Michael Jordan. From position to style to legacy, Bryant will never make it out of a discussion about his place in the league’s history without a reference to the G.O.A.T. It’s simply inescapable.
And Bryant being Bryant (or Kobe being Kobe), he’ll always want to try and surpass Jordan, even if it’s unlikely, given all factors. And as the Los Angeles Times reports, someone who knows Bryant very well says he’s focused on topping M.J. on the scoring list.
When I asked the former Lakers coach last season which player Bryant wants to pass on the scoring list the most, Jackson replied without hesitation, “Michael Jordan.” Bryant argued that wasn’t true and continued touting his sole motivation entails trying to minimize the gap between Bill Russell’s 11 NBA titles and his own five. Bryant isn’t lying when he says that’s his main motivation, but it’s misleading to act indifferent about it when teammates, media and the general public know he’s driven to be the best player ever.
The Times goes through exactly how many more points Bryant can reasonably expect to score in a variety of scenarios dependent on different outcomes of the lockout and the end of Kobe’s career.
But more importantly, this anecdote provides a pretty clear illustration of the obsession that drives Bryant. It’s not enough to be one of the best players of all time, it’s not enough to have five championships, it’s not enough to be mentioned in the same context as the greatest. Bryant wants to pass Jordan.
The problem is that in doing so, he only levees more comparisons he’ll never live up to. Passing Jordan in points won’t make him seem greater than Jordan, even beyond the fact that Bryant played more seasons. Even winning a sixth ring won’t. Jordan is too much an integral part of basketball fans’ identity, too much of a cultural icon.
But passing Jordan will continue to keep Bryant in the conversation and further the debate. And even being in the debate? That’s proof of how unbelievable Bryant’s career has been.
Or, to put it in Laker fans terms, “Yo, Kobe rules!”