Why I Look Up To Kobe Bryant
Ever since I started loving basketball and watching the NBA, I was a Laker fan. And the length of time I was a Laker fan, I was a Kobe Bryant fan. More than that, he is one of my role models. Yes, I have a lot of “favorite” people. Lots of people I admire. If I’m going to make a list, it’s going to be long (even if we minus the fictional characters). I admire them for their talents or intelligence or achievements or characteristics. But if I have to make a list of people – the people themselves and not only their successes or skills – I really look up to and want to emulate, the list would be shorter. Kobe Bryant is in this list.
Kobe Bryant is an amazing basketball player. He is probably the most explosive and versatile offensive player in history. He possesses wide arsenal of moves, footwork, and ways to score. And being an all-around player, he is also an elite defender, and brilliant passer and rebounder. More than that, he possesses genius level I.Q. which he utilizes in understanding the game of basketball very well. But if these are the only indications, he would only belong to the first category (people I admire because of possessing admirable talents, intelligence, or characteristics) and not the second (people I look up to and want to emulate).
So what made him become part of the second category? It would be his admirable attitude and incredible mental focus. These two are actually the reasons – the sources – that allowed Kobe to have such amazing basketball skills.
Kobe is known to have a good work ethic. He is a hard worker. He possesses such skills because he developed them through regular and rigorous practice. He is usually the first guy to arrive at the gym and the last to leave. Practice, practice, practice. Training, training, training. He continually works to improve his game, or add something to his already wide collection of weapons. One illustration of this was during the 2009 offseason, fresh from winning his fourth ring, he called up Hakeem Olajuwon to improve his post-and-pivot game. “I’m chasing perfection,” he once said.
In contrast, I am usually a lazy person. The compliments “versatile” and “smart” have been used on me by several people. However, oftentimes, I do not work hard to improve these initial gifts of mine. I am a “just enough effort” kind of guy, as long as it gets the job done. How I long to have Kobe’s attitude of “chasing for perfection” through hard work.
This season, he was quoted:
“I’ve always been comfortable as a kid growing up to think that when my career is over, I want them to think of me as an overachiever despite the talent that I have. To think of me as a person that’s overachieved, that would mean a lot to me. That means I put a lot of work in and squeezed every ounce of juice out of this orange that I could. Hopefully, they perceive me as person who did whatever he had to do to win above all else. Above anything. Above stats. If they say that about me I’ll be happy.”
Epic. I really want to have this same mentality. I want to be an overachiever with the talents I have. God help me.
Kobe's Greatest Weapon: Mental Toughness
His mental focus is the best I have ever seen in the NBA. He can detach himself from everything, and put his full concentration on a goal. Best example:
This mental focus also translates to mental badassery. He is also never intimidated. Best example:
A mental focus that even allows him to play through pain.
I haven’t seen someone with such focus, motivation, obsession, and mentality as Kobe Bryant in sports today. I mean he is probably the Sherlock Holmes of the NBA as far as a dehumanized mental machine is concerned… no, wait, not Sherlock Holmes – since Kobe has a near sociopathic/psychopathic drive to execute to get a goal – but the Batman of the NBA (which I already mentioned in my article after the Lakers won the 2010 title).
It can’t be denied that Kobe is awesome – if you’re being mentioned in the same sentence as Batman, then you’re definitely awesome.
Haters Gonna Hate
But still some do try to deny his greatness. I found that Kobe just inspires as much irrational hate as President Bush, and because of this hate, they refuse to acknowledge his greatness.
Some criticize Kobe for selfishness, for having an itchy trigger finger, for jacking up a lot of shots. But this “selfishness” is more due to his obsession with getting the win (and avoiding a loss) rather than stacking up his personal numbers. If given a choice between team success – i.e. NBA championship – and personal glory, Kobe would pick the former in a heartbeat. Of course, he would definitely prefer getting both, but getting the championship is paramount if he had to pick one and sacrifice the other. Again, Kobe has a Batman mentality. A cold-blooded gambling gunslinger. So, he is not afraid to gamble in shooting a lot. To risk getting crucified by critics for shooting too much, especially if they lose because of it. But, these shooting gambles of his can also win games. And Kobe already earned the reputation (and legend) that his coach and team are willing to give him the power to win or lose the game for them with his “cold-blooded gambling gunslinger” mentality. Again, this is more because of his strong desire to win rather than selfish desires to get personal glory. He really just wants to contribute to making his team win (or by dragging them to win), no matter what his role is, and he just sincerely believes that he can do this by shooting a lot. To quote Kobe: “I'll do whatever it takes to win games, whether it's sitting on a bench waving a towel, handing a cup of water to a teammate, or hitting the game-winning shot.”
We also do hear “Kobe is not Jordan” a lot. I agree. Kobe is not Jordan. But I always believe that if Kobe and Jordan had switched places in generation in the NBA, Kobe would have been considered the best instead of Jordan. That’s how Michael Jordan-esque I believe Kobe to be. In fact, in some aspects, Kobe is better. Kobe is more skillful than Mike (ask Phil Jackson), though MJ is more athletic and more physically gifted (i.e. bigger hands and better leaping ability). But that’s the point on why Kobe is better than MJ in a sense. Even if Kobe was not really that initially gifted (in terms of raw and physical gifts), he developed and obtained the amazing skills he had now – to the point that he is being compared to the player that many considered as the best basketball player ever (Michael Jordan) – through pushing himself through Batman-ish hard training. (Just imagine how much Kobe could be better if we put him in LeBron’s body! He would dominate basketball to the point of overkill!)
There are other Kobe attacks, but the most annoying is the “Kobe is a rapist” hating. When a hater finally sinks to this level, that hater is just so intoxicated of hating that he can’t be convinced by a reasonable argument in Kobe’s defense. I mean what does “Kobe is a rapist” got to do with basketball? Besides, we all know that Kobe was vindicated already in this matter.
Greatest Of All Time?
Even if we, say, insist that “MJ > Kobe”, well, that can’t be used to deny Kobe being a great player. If we consider Jordan as the best anyway, then MJ is greater than every other player, and not only Kobe. Why would we then use the detail of Jordan being better to discount Kobe’s greatness? As one writer illustrated, it’s like seeing a 7’6 guy and then saying, “He isn’t the tallest man that ever lived.” So? He might not be the tallest man that ever lived, but he sure is damn tall!
Will Kobe take the greatest player title away from Jordan? It’s possible, but very unlikely. As far as being on the basketball court is concerned, in my humble biased “Kobe Bryant-fan” opinion, Kobe and Jordan are equals. But MJ greatly separates himself from Kobe with his tons of personal achievements. And observers would look at MJ’s collection of MVPs and scoring titles and defensive-player-of-the-year award and then look at Kobe’s and they would conclude that MJ is the better player. It can’t be helped.
Still, Kobe is the closest thing to Michael Jordan we would ever see. The facts that he is being compared to MJ and MJ fans and/or Kobe-haters are being threatened by that comparison prove the point.
Kobe will never catch up with MJ as far as individual awards are concerned. But I think getting more championships than MJ is more important anyway. I will be satisfied if Kobe retires with 9 to 10 championships.
It would be lovely, though, if Kobe will have another MVP season or two.
I love seeing this during the regular season…
…which will culminate to this: