Kobe and LeBron’s Quest to Pass Jordan Makes them Rivals

In no way are Kobe and LeBron natural rivals, but the two have had their eye on each other from day one. Both at some point were labeled as Jordan’s heir-apparent and although they play on opposite coasts and haven’t ever met in the finals, the thought of the two facing off against each other in a championship game sends basketball junkies into a frenzy. Debates rage on, fans bicker over who’s better between the two and suddenly all is right with the world.

So maybe nobody wants to be tagged with all the hype and pressure that comes with being labeled as the next coming of Michael Jordan. Bryant may deny wanting to have anything to do with chasing Jordan’s legacy, but (should there be a season next year) his quest of tying Jordan for six championship rings would start nonetheless. It may not matter to LeBron what’s being said about him forming a super team, but he had to do what he thought was necessary to win as he so eloquently put it “…not five, not six, not seven…” championships. Without those championship titles nestled on his resume, he’s not even considered in the discussion.

Perhaps every championship title that LeBron wins with the Heat will have an invisible asterisk denoting he took the easy way out by pairing up with Dwyane Wade and recruiting Chris Bosh as their cling-on, but the way I look at it, he at least put himself in a position to be in the finals every year. Unless the East gets another super power in the near future, with the Celtics fading and the Bulls not-quite-there-yet, a Kobe/LeBron match-up in the finals could finally materialize.

As it is now, the league is full of talent. It’s somewhat evenly spread out between the two conferences–the East containing more players dubbed superstars, the West harnessing a handful of championship caliber teams. It all makes for interesting match-ups, exciting games, but not really any clear-cut rivals.

Yes, Kobe is older than LeBron. LeBron is about to enter the prime of his career while Kobe enters the epilogue of his. That doesn’t make the rivalry any less significant. Would it have been great to see the two in the prime of their careers? Of coarse, but what makes the rivalry relevant is the fact that Kobe would rather keel over than pass the torch over to LeBron. Meaning, so long as he has legs to carry him through an 82-game season and an extended stint in the playoffs, Kobe will find a way to maintain his game at a high level.

Until Kobe laces up his signature shoes one last time and until LeBron finally figures out how to win at all, let alone consistently, the two will be chasing each other to be considered the best there ever was. They may never get there, but for the moment, it’s that challenge which drives them individually and what drives us fans to the TV sets to catch a glimpse of the closest thing we have now to what Magic and Bird had back then.

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