LOS ANGELES – There are very few guarantees in life.
Phil Jackson will never lose his cool.
Laker fans will riot after every NBA championship.
And with each NBA championship, Kobe Bryant’s legacy will be compared to Michael Jordan.
After the Los Angeles Lakers 83-79 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, basketball fans are left wondering the same question.
Has Kobe Bryant finally surpassed Michael Jordan?
And the answer, like in 2009 when he the Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic, remains the same.
But he’s getting closer.
“I mean, I think the fact that there’s even a conversation to have says a lot,” said Derek Fisher on putting Bryant in the conversation as one of the greatest players ever alongside Jordan. “I know we like to say Michael Jordan for a lot of people was clearly the best player ever.
Bryant took a huge step at gaining ground on Jordan’s legacy Thursday night at Staples Center by winning his fifth NBA title and second without former teammate Shaquille O’Neal.
Bryant would be the first one to tell you he struggled offensively when his team needed him the most.
With every off balance shot and missed free throw, the pressure continued to mount on Bryant as the Lakers trailed 49-36 with 8:15 left in the third quarter.
Similar to Jordan’s ability to will his team to victory, Bryant found other ways to contribute on the floor. Behind an impressive defensive performance by Ray Allen, Bryant’s 6-for-24 shooting performance from the field was nothing to write home about. Instead, Bryant made up for the lack of scoring by crashing the boards, grabbing 15 rebounds, one shy of tying his playoff career high.
“Well, I had to do something, I mean, I had to rebound the ball,” Bryant said. “You’ve got to do whatever it takes. That’s my job. Sometimes shots aren’t going to fall, but you’ve got to figure something out to help your team win, and nobody was better at it than MJ.”
And in true MJ fashion, Bryant was able to bait Allen into a cheap foul while attempting a three-pointer with 8:45 left in the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit from four to one.
Of Bryant’s five NBA championships, this one was easily the most impressive. Bryant cemented his title as the best closer in the league with six game-winning shots, highlighted by an off-balance running bank shot over Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat. Ankle, knee and finger injuries slowed down Bryant but were unable to keep him off the floor when it mattered the most — the postseason.
“I’m old,” Bryant said on his nagging injures during the season. “There’s some things I’ll have to figure out in the off-season, but it was good to get through this one.”
Not everyone agrees that Bryant should be mentioned in the same breath as Jordan and his six NBA championships.
Marcus Jordan, proving that the arrogance in the Jordan family is heredity, took to Twitter during Game 7 in order to defend his father.
“NO ONE…And I mean NO ONE should EVER compare Kobe Bryant to my dad an say that he is anywhere near close to my dad He’s jagging this game,” Jordan tweeted. Later in the game, Jordan tweeted, “Don’t get me wrong Kobe is one of the best in the league…. Just no where near my dad.”
At age 31, with the body of a 36-year-old from all the minutes logged in his career, Bryant needs two more championships to eclipse Jordan and strengthen his argument as one of the greats in NBA history.
“Does he belong in the conversation? For sure,” said Fisher. “There’s no hesitation there. He belongs in the conversation. The most interesting part about the conversation is that he’s not really close to being done. You know, that’s the interesting part about the conversation is that he’s already in it and there’s still some room before he gets to that ceiling. There will be a lot more to talk about there.”