Tuesday, March 6

According to Mr. Riley

In an interesting interview aired on NBC last Sunday, Pat Riley, former Los Angeles Laker coach and current coach of defending Champs Miami Heat called Kobe Bryant the best player in the NBA (i wouldn't call it a slap in the face of D. Wade, but I'm sure some would). NBA pundits and an online survey say Kobe Bryant is the most difficult man to cover in the entire world. I don't think there is any doubt there. Just ask the self-proclaimed Kobe Stopper Ruben Patterson, in a game in Portland a few years ago where Ruben was guarding Kobe-- he wound up asking for Kobe's autograph after Kobe hit two buzzer beaters to send the game to OT and then win it, respectively. A good friend of mine upon hearing the Riley statement denounced Kobe and said Dwane Wade and Lebron James are better players, in spite of all his accomplishments (obviously not an NBA pundit). Interestingly enough he is the only Miami Heat fan that i know of who is a native Angelino, what a shame. For the sake of argument maybe Dwane and Lebron are better players than Kobe but these such debates are better reserved for the Media or the pundits, i am merely a fan and i prefer not to debate... Another friend of mine says he hates Kobe Bryant and thinks he is a jerk. I'm not even sure if that is a legitimate basketball criticism, besides it's not his character in question here. He says D. Wade embarrassed Kobe in the 2007 skills competition so much that Kobe had to redeem himself by winning the All Star Game MVP. I would call that skill, actually... Naturally, anyone that despises Kobe that much that is a resident of Los Angeles is a Clipper fan (Especially after Kobe turned down offers to join them several years ago. He did tantalize them with a visit). I think the perpetual losers in them begrudge the other L.A. team so much that they feel it is their duty to deprecate it. Don't get me wrong guys, i actually like both the Lakers and the Clippers (though more the Lakers). In L.A. the basketball fans seem to be divided, i tend to be more diplomatic.

Another pointless debate are the proverbial Michael Jordan comparisons. Sure Kobe has many Jordan-like abilities that are strikingly similar to Michael's but one thing we must learn is that no one will ever be another Michael Jordan so much as a Wilt Chamberlain. I suppose comparisons are inevitable perhaps even essential in sports but i think a more important discussion is how good a Professional Ball Player is and what he means to a city he plays for. The incomparable Allen Iverson, as much as he is revered for his archetype skills and personal basketball achievements is not nearly as respected, received, and legandized by the city he played for as Dominique Wilkins who is similarly archtypical is his day who also never won a championship (assuming Allen never wins a championship). I believe Allen simply did not love his team or the city he played for, not enough anyway. He self destructed when the team needed him most. A cowardly act i think. By the same token, although Manny Ramirez was an integral part of the Championship Boston Redsox team, Nomar Garciaparra who was traded away the year before and now plays for my beloved Dodgers will be remembered more than Manny, even with his 40+ Home Runs per year. You can't demand to be traded away and expect to be loved by the city. Fans don't tend to be fond of tacky players...

I was in complete and utter agreement with Jack Nicholson when asked whether he would prefer Kobe or Shaq to remain with the Lakers during that Laker fiasco a couple of years ago. And without thinking he said "I am a Basketball fan and more importantly a Laker fan, i don't have to choose between Kobe and Shaq". I got so pumped by his resolute answer that i leaped out of my seat, barking "Yeahhhh" as if Kobe just dunked on someone (Jack actually looked pissed that someone would ask him such an absurd question. I bet if he wasn't on camera he'd have told him off... i know i would have)... I don't think there is no doubt Kobe is one of the greatest and most exciting individual players of all time (And you you gotta give to him man. He works so hard on his craft) and becoming a better Team Player as the season progresses (credit that to Phil Jackson). It's pretty darn scary what Kobe can do on the basketball courts. He wows even the most austere of fans and coaches and there are only a few that could do that on a regular basis... He is so good he often leaves teams in his wake dumbfounded after he is done (Did you see the two road games when he was wowing the crowd soo good they began chanting MVP MVP?) . That 81 point night against Toronto, magical. That reverse dunk on 7 foot 7 Yao Ming, immmpossible. That block he put on Utah Jazz's guard Deron Williams, embarrassing... I think what people often forget is that basketball is entertainment as much as anything else. It's suppose to be fun to watch. So if we could try not to be so critical we might enjoy the games. And Who is more fun to watch than Kobe?

Above all though, beyond the negative Kobe criticisms, the proverbial comparisons to MJ, the naysayers, and the Kobe Haters, it makes me very happy that Mr. Kobe Bryant is playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. Because like what Mr. Nicholson said, i am a Laker fan, and we just happen to have the best player in the NBA right now. At least according to Mr. Riley...


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