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Sunday, June 20, 2010

 

Kobe vs. Jordan, give me a break

June 20, 2010

Historical perspective needed in NBA's 'best ever' debate

DREW SHARP
FREE PRESS COLUMN

The need for instant historical judgment belittles the definition of true NBA immortality. Why the rush in determining where Kobe Bryant ranks among the all-time greats? I don't believe he announced his retirement upon winning his fifth NBA championship. 

But such limited perspective is inevitable in a sport cursed with the attention span the size of a flea. If it didn't happen in the last 5 minutes, it won't register as an actual occurrence.

It's from such narrowness that a ridiculous Michael Jordan or Kobe debate gained traction.

Stop the nonsense right now. Kobe's a great player. He might already rank among the top 10 of all-time. But it's not only crazy suggesting that he and Jordan belong in the same historical sentence, it's sacrilege.

This doesn't happen in baseball or football. But the next guy in basketball must be the best because there's a stubbornness to consider that several aspects of the NBA game could have been better 20, 30 or even 40 years ago.

Baseball embraces its heritage. There's probably only a handful around today who could say they saw Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig during his peak in the 1920s and '30s, but even the younger baseball historians appreciate what they never saw. Just recite the numbers 714 and 2,130, and they genuflect in reverence.

Jim Brown remains the greatest running back who ever breathed to those whose most vivid personal recollection of him is that of the B movie star. But they trust their elders' stories of Brown as that unstoppable combination of pizzazz and punishment back when 1,000 yards rushing really meant something.

But if you didn't see it in the NBA, it somehow can't qualify when compared with a modern standard.

You're too young to remember and thus appreciate Bill Russell's dominance (11 NBA championships) in the 1960s? Read an NBA history book. Watch a video retrospective of those great Boston teams. You think the NBA athleticism today is unmatched, then try explaining why we've still never seen a 7-footer as physically punishing in the paint yet artistically graceful off the dribble as Wilt Chamberlain more than 40 years ago?

Kobe was a dog offensively in the Lakers' Game 7 victory over Boston in the NBA Finals on Thursday night. He contributed rebounds and played well defensively, but there were too many occasions in that ultimate championship moment where you wondered if Kobe was even on the floor.

That never happened with Jordan, or Russell, or Magic, or Bird.


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