The reasons Kobe Bean Bryant is best? The Mamba is more clutch, he’s a proven winner, he still wants to win more than anyone on the planet except for maybe MJ, and he will do anything to make that happen. Besides my obvious adoration for him because he’s on my home team and I’ve grown up watching him, I respect his dedication to constant improvement and his insane work ethic. Many of his Team USA teammates openly admitted that seeing Kobe’s work ethic and competitive intensity every day was shocking. It forced men who are already superstars in their own right to improve their own games just to compete at Kobe’s level.
Kobe was the catalyst for change on Team USA and his leadership and defensive mindset were the main differences between bronze in 2004 and gold in 2008. Everyone wondered if the game was on the line, if the gold medal was slipping away, who would step up? Would it be Dwayne Wade, who has a championship of his very own? Would it be LeBron James, the self-appointed “King”? Or would it be Kobe Bryant, the Closer with ice water running through his veins? With so many egos and alpha dogs on one team, would everyone fight for the last shot and the chance to be the man on the biggest stage of their careers? As it turns out… there was no contest. During the Gold Medal game versus an incredibly tough Spanish opponent, our entire team of superstars deferred to Kobe in the closing minutes to work his Mamba magic. Alpha dog issue solved as simply and organically as it ever will be. I love how coldblooded he is when the clock’s winding down and the game is on the line.
Maybe it’s not fair to compare them because Kobe’s killer instinct is so otherworldly, but one of the things I dislike most about LeBron is how silly he is. I don’t think it is wrong to strive to be an entertainer, but there is a fine line between electrifying basketball and putting on a theatrical show. I’ll never forget when the Lakers played the Cavs this past January. After their abysmal Christmas Day loss to Cleveland, the Lakers were out for revenge and only down two with 23.4 seconds left. During the Cavs timeout, ABC showed LeBron rapping on the sidelines to an Eminem song. Really, dude?! That drove me insane. Yes, LeBron put up great numbers and had some clutch plays, but his shenanigans showed no respect at all for the competitiveness of the game. Do you think Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan would fool around like that in the waning seconds of a hotly contested game, ever? Not in a million years.
I also couldn’t believe that LeBron shot a left handed free throw last year in the playoffs! In Game 4 of the first round, Cleveland was winning but needed two free throws to ice the game and put the Bulls away. What does LeBron do? Miss the second because he shot it left-handed! Never mind the fact that he claimed it was due to an elbow injury that no one would have known about if he hadn’t altered his free throw. The very same elbow injury mysteriously disappeared almost immediately following the game. It certainly wasn’t as egregious as Paul Pierce’s fake wheelchair exit, but still fishy, somewhat annoying, and definitely unprofessional. Kobe doesn’t use injuries as excuses. He won a championship with a banged up knee and mangled finger. LeBron is gifted and has so much potential, but I think he’s more intent on being famous than actually winning, no matter what he says.