Specifically remembering Kobe’s basketball legacy, something that I noticed has always separated Kobe from anyone else during his career, was how determined and aware he was about his legacy and about the competition that he faced.
Kobe carried the torch from the old NBA to the new, modern NBA, when he entered the NBA, the internet was not important, by the time he left, every one of his games had been uploaded to the internet.
Another thing that was different from many basketball legends and Kobe was that when Kobe was a young player, he embraced comparisons to Michael Jordan, and tried to live up to them. Other great players, even legends usually shy away from comparisons to previous players because they don’t want to have to live up to said expectations, but not Kobe.
Kobe grabbed the spotlight, and shined it on himself, he welcomed all criticism, he welcomed the media narratives and he wanted to control them simply by dominating the game, just like many fans have always wanted players to do.
After 3 titles, and a dozen arguments with Kobe and Phil Jackson, Superstar Center Shaq left the Lakers. After losing a championship to the Detroit Pistons with the Lakers, he would go on to win a title in Miami just a few years later.
Kobe would lose his first title opportunity without Shaq against the Celtics in 2008. The narrative after that loss was incredibly loud,
“Kobe couldn’t win without Shaq”
Shaq even rapped about it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z49whgBNCyE.
Every talk show, every sports media outlet asked the question “Can Kobe win a championship without Shaq?”
To everyone’s surprise, Kobe embraced the narrative and pledged he would win without Shaq, then. After many years of struggle, horrible rosters, and having to face the toughest competition in the history of the NBA according to win/losses, Kobe would reach the title game again. Despite having a torn ligament in his finger, and various other injuries, Kobe would win not one title, but two in a row.
Those two titles showed us the pure will power that Kobe possessed. Fighting through injuries, fighting through a western conference that had 50 win teams in every playoff spot some years. With his second best player being Pau Gasol, who was a great player, but was not even close to a super star, Kobe won back to back titles. This relentless willpower was labeled “mamba mentality” which could be translated into “no excuses” “get the job done” “be more focused than anyone else”.
To put into context what Kobe did during his time in the NBA, and the ridiculous competition he had to go up against, I have retrieved all the teams Michael Jordan and Lebron had to face, and the teams Kobe had to face in the west.
Here is Michael Jordan beating 50 win teams:
(90/91) – 58-24 LA Lakers
(97/98) – 58-24 Indiana Pacers
(88/89) – 57-25 Cleveland Cavaliers
(91/92) – 57-25 Cleveland Cavaliers
(91/92) – 57-25 Portland Trail Blazers
(96/97) – 56-26 Atlanta Hawks
(92/93) – 54-28 Cleveland Cavaliers
(89/90) – 53-29 Philadelphia 76ers
(88/89) – 52-30 New York Knicks
(91/92) – 51-31 New York Knicks
(97/98) – 51-31 Charlotte Hornets
(90/91) – 50-32 Detroit Pistons
(94/95) – 50-32 Charlotte Hornets
60 win teams: (95/96) 64-18 Sonics
(96/97) – 64-18 Utah Jazz
(92/93) – 62-20 Phoenix Suns
(97/98) – 62-20 Utah Jazz
(96/97) – 61-21 Miami Heat
(92/93) – 60-22 New York Knicks
(95/96) – 60-22 Orlando Magic
Here is Lebron James beating 50 win teams:
(17/18) – 59-23 Toronto Raptors
(12/13) – 58-24 San Antonio Spurs
(10/11) – 56-26 Boston Celtics
(13/14) – 56-26 Indiana Pacers
(15/16) – 56-26 Toronto Raptors
(06/07) – 53-29 Detroit Pistons
(16/17) – 53-29 Boston Celtics
(16/17) – 51-31 Toronto Raptors
(14/15) – 50-32 Chicago Bulls
60 win teams:
(10/11) – 62-20 Chicago Bulls
(14/15) – 60-22 Atlanta Hawks
70 win teams:
(15/16) – 73-9 Golden State Warriors
Here is Kobe beating 50 win teams:
(99-00) Phoenix Suns Record: 53-29
(99-00) Portland Trail Blazers Record: 59-23
(99-00) Indiana Pacers Record: 56-26
(00-01) Portland Trail Blazers Record: 50-32
(00-01) Sacramento Kings Record: 55-27
(00-01) San Antonio Spurs Record: 58-24
(00-01) Philadelphia 76ers Record: 56-26
(01-02) San Antonio Spurs Record: 58-24
(01-02) New Jersey Nets Record: 52-30
(02-03) Minnesota Timberwolves Record: 51-31
(03-04) San Antonio Spurs Record: 57-25
(03-04) Minnesota Timberwolves Record: 58-24
(07-08) Denver Nuggets Record: 50-32
(07-08) Utah Jazz Record: 54-28
(07-08) San Antonio Spurs Record: 56-26
(08-09) Houston Rockets Record: 53-29
(08-09) Denver Nuggets Record: 54-28
(08-09) Orlando Magic Record: 59-23
(09-10) Oklahoma City Thunder Record: 50-32
(09-10) Utah Jazz Record: 53-29
(09-10) Phoenix Suns Record: 54-28
(09-10) Boston Celtics Record: 50-32
Kobe beating 60 win teams:
1997-98 Seattle SuperSonics Record: 61-21
2001-02 Sacramento Kings Record: 61-21
True Record against 50+ win teams
Lebron 12 Playoff Series wins
MJ 20 Playoff Series wins
Kobe 25 Playoff Series wins
This is the basketball legacy Kobe left us, a cold blooded, relentless basketball assassin who laughed in the face of pressure, who faced the very best basketball had to offer in his time and won 5 championships.
He will be remembered for:
Beating all of the best players in his era
Winning despite injuries
Winning with less than most later in his career
Dominating the game with Shaq
Being arguably the most complete two-way guard ever
The student who became the master.
The only man to live up to Michael Jordan comparisons
Tell us what else you think Kobe will be remembered for.
Thanks for reading and God Bless