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Latest News, NBA / Jun 7, 2010 / 11:45 am

Kobe Bryant’s Legacy Is On The Line Against The Celtics

It’s 2030. Someone’s hand digs through an old box, collapsed on the sides. The cardboard is held together because at the bottom rest old DVDs and cassette tapes. Luckily, the kid has an antique blue-ray player, chipped and scratched but still in working order. Pulling a case out of the box, dust swirls. He sets the disc into the player, tossing the “Greatest NBA Finals Moments” case back into the box.

Menu. Scenes. Hmmm, lets see. Bill Russell. Nah, who is that? Larry Bird, no. Michael JordanDwyane Wade…what’s this? Lakers and Celtics renew rivalry? 2008. 2010. The tape begins to play and Kobe Bryant‘s career arc is laid out in truth.

Jerry West. Elgin Baylor. Wilt Chamberlain. Between them, they scored 79,760 points in the NBA and made 27 All-NBA First Teams. None of them ever beat the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. You think Kobe doesn’t know this? Trying to get a piece of basketball history by Bryant is like snatching a few periodicals off the stands on your way out of the library. It ain’t gonna work.

For all of Bryant’s accomplishments, his four NBA titles have yet to yield him a singular enemy, one historians can link his success to. Maybe it’s because a score with him never remains unsettled. But, Indiana, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Orlando don’t make a legend.

In the Eastern Conference, Michael Jordan had the Detroit Pistons – his kryptonite that gave him something to shoot for. Once he overcame the “Jordan Rules” and then beat Magic Johnson in the Finals, it catapulted his stature. Bryant must do the same with the Boston Celtics.

June 17, 2008. Amidst a sea of green confetti, Bryant sauntered off the Boston parquet, a brooding haze covering him in exasperation and frustration. The ghosts of the Gaaaaaden followed, easing up on him. Bob Cousy was close behind him. So was George Mikan. Larry Bird was there and so was Kareem. The Logo. Magic.

Jordan might be the ultimate high for Bryant, but in order to get there, he first must conquer his purple and gold family. To do that, he must do what Magic and Kareem did: beat the Celtics. There is no way around that. If the Celtics are to beat him a second time, it will be the permanent stain that keeps Bryant from being anointed as the best Laker ever. The history between the two clubs is that important.

“I don’t think Kobe is the best player. I am the best player.”

Every scowl, every curl of the lips is aimed at the fans, the critics. He wants you to know, wants you to believe. Being the best, becoming one of the greatest ever is of no use if no one else sees it. Yet, Paul Pierce, as great as he is, doesn’t concern Kobe Bryant. For similes sake, Pierce is like the clouds. Bryant won’t stop until he is eye-level with the stars.

Brian Shaw loves to tell the story. Europe. Italy. Bryant, perhaps 11 years old or so, is playing guys on his dad’s Italian team one-on-one. To the kid, it’s all the same. Whether it’s June of 2010 and his legacy is on the line, or it’s 1989 in some backwoods, off-road gym with creaky, moldy spots in the floor, Bryant is convinced he will win. Dominate even. Shaw says the kid is still convinced he beat him. So what do you think is going through his mind right now?

He could never beat Boston. No one has more on the line during this series than Kobe Bryant. The last time these two franchises faced off, Bryant came into the 2008 NBA Finals riding a wave of momentum. The Lakers had been unbeatable after trading in early February for Pau Gasol. They raced through the Western Conference in the playoffs, stampeding Denver, Utah and San Antonio. Bryant was the reigning regular season MVP and was averaging 31.9 points in the postseason. Yet, the Celtics still neutered him. He eclipsed 30 points just two times during the six-game series, and had nary a career-defining moment or highlight-altering play. You don’t think he doesn’t remember that?

“The challenge is to win the championship. The Celtics are in the way.” Yeah, right. We all know it’s deeper than that.

In Game 1 on Thursday night, Chris Rock couldn’t faze him, couldn’t even get a smirk out of Bryant. It was like he was a droid, powered off as he sat on the bench. The finish line is too close. His foul shots have noticeably more arc and his pull-up jumpers are fluid. His whole game is on balance, slowed-down, tweaked to the point that a 10-22 night from the field is off. A first quarter fallaway left Pierce shaking his head. Two third quarter slams took the Celtics’ hearts.

In Game 2 yesterday, it was Bryant’s foul trouble that allowed him to log the least amount of minutes amongst the starters, finishing with only 21 points on 8-20 shooting.

There will always be talk about Bryant’s place in the annals of NBA history. People are obsessed with lists and this is as good a time as any to bring them up. Kobe Bryant’s career will never fully realize it’s potential unless he beats the Celtics. That’s a fact. How high can Bryant climb on that G.O.A.T. list? Two weeks from now, we will know for certain.

What do you think? If Kobe can’t beat the Celtics, will it tarnish his legacy?

Follow Sean on Twitter at @SEANesweeney.

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  • ab_40

    if it wasn’t for the hiv magic would have been the greatest I’m very sory that cut his career short. Right now it’s up in the air. Kobe is definetly up there in terms of stats and rings. He’s HOF material anyway he’s the best player drafted in 1996.

  • orickle

    title needs editing !!!

  • Heckler

    it wont hurt his legacy none if they lose.
    Jerry West and Wilt never beat the Celts. and it aint hurt them one bit.

    Magic Johnson was a finals LOSER 4 (FOUR!) times. and it aint hurt his legacy none.

    Kobe legacy is already done and in place.
    if his career ended today, he’d still go to the hall of fame. he’ll still have his jersey(s) retired be LA.

    and he’d still be in the convo for best laker ever and still in the convo for MJ comparisons.

    so…NO
    ..this will not effect/affect his legacy in anyway.

    last season…they said he needed to win without Shaq to cement his legacy. and he did. and his legacy is still being questioned. winning or losing this finals series wont change anything.

    even if Kobe wins this series, they gonna say can he 3-peat without Shaq for his legacy to be great. they gonna say, how can he be the greatest or one of the greatest with only ONE MVP award….and so on and so on…

  • http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/703154723/the-soulchorea-project?pos=1 Kermit The Washington

    “on the Life against the Celtics”?
    oh, sorry; we’re “overly concerned with grammar”, my bad.

    anyway, this article is right on. I can’t stand the tension, ’cause this is my second-favorite player of all time, climbing up the ranks…beating record after record, only to have people say “yeah, but he couldn’t do THIS! Hahaha, NOW what? He couldn’t do this one thing, so that makes him NOT GREAT!” and there’s nothing anyone can say back to people like that. The only way to shut them up is for Kobe to win this series. @ Heckler, those players you mentioned…it DID hurt their legacy. Magic and them would be even higher if it weren’t for those losses, imo.

    I feel like I have a chance to win the biggest sports argument in my entire life. And I also feel like my chance died last night. Ugh…

  • K Dizzle

    Really? It hurt Magic’s legacy to win 2 outta 3 Finals against Bird’s Celtics? Then lose 1 to Isiah’s Piston’s when Magic and Byron both got hurt and 1 loss to Mike’s Bulls when Magic was pass his prime?
    So his 5 rings and the fact that he’s the BEST POINT GUARD OF ALL-TIME was “destroyed” cuz he lost to other hall-of-famers? Wow.
    Article is way off.
    Kobe don’t need this year’s title for his legacy. Legacy is set already. At the very worst, if his career ended this june, he’s top 10 all-time, and if he keeps playing AND winning, he can catch Mike, Russell, Kareem for greatest ever.

    They keep changin the rules with Kobe.
    They say win. So he does. Then they say it don’t mean nuthin if you do it once, so Lakers get 3 in a row, then they say “Well, you can’t get it without Shaq”
    Get that done. Now it’s like “Kobe can’t beat Boston”
    When the Lakers win this one, they’ll say something else stupid. Lotta critics talk shit like Mike won his six without Scottie. Or Shaq got his four without Kobe and Wade. I hope Kobe gets 7 just to see what these fools throw out then.

  • @

    Yes, it will hurt his legacy. Of course he will be considered a great player no matter what, and one of the best to play the game. He is already guaranteed HOF (unless he pulls some kind of Pete Rose stuff)… but the part it will hurt is whether he can be considered THE best or even in the discussion.

    When it comes to being the GOAT, you can’t have any of those “but he couldn’t do ____” sitting in the back of anyone’s mind. Even if he was the most talented player ever to play the game, and I’m not saying he is or isn’t, when it comes to public opinion it’s the perception that matters moreso than the reality.

  • bullish_1

    Kobe has a chance to move into the top ten but to compare him to MJ is crazy talk….5 mvp’s, 6 finals mvp’s, 50% fg, nuff said.
    1) Jordan 2) magic 3) Wilt 4) kareem 5) Oscar 6) olojuwan 7) shaq 8) west 9) Russell 10) Isaiah

  • Quedas

    @ K Dizzle

    Seriously, man, don’t even go there… I think Kobe is a great player, top 10 ever, for sure – for a time I doubted his “top ten-ness” (?) but now I don’t – he’s done it, he’s an all-time great. But don’t compare him to Jordan, it’s just not fair (to Kobe). And most of all, don’t act like Jordan having Pippen is the same as Kobe having Shaq. You know why? Because Kobe didn’t have Shaq, Shaq had Kobe. Jordan was always the alpha dog on his team. Always. If the whole MLB thing didn’t happen, there’s no doubt on anybody’s mind that he would have had 8 straight. Kobe only now has that status, he was Shaq’s wing man and not the other way around. He’s good. He’s very, very good. He’s an all-time great. But he is no Michael Jordan. And it’s insulting to imply otherwise…

  • haslem

    this Brian shaw story sounds interesting, did they go easy on them and Kobe thinks they didn’t? If so I hate when younger kids do that

  • karizmatic

    Yeah I think it will tarnish his legacy, he’ll be stuck at 4 rings 3 of which he arguably wasn’t the leader for and he won’t have gotten a repeat or beaten the Celtics. The argument for his legacy if he wants to be compared favorably with Jordan or even Magic will be considerably weaker.

  • sh!tfaced

    Didn’t he say he doesn’t give a damn anyway? Yeah, right… Whether he likes it or not, his legacy IS on the line. His LAKER LEGACY, that is.

    And Kobe needs to have a “chicken-pox” game too and solidify his case vs MJ… LOL

  • http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/703154723/the-soulchorea-project?pos=1 Kermit The Washington

    @ K Dizzle:

    you’re confusing “hurt his legacy” with “kill his legacy” or “destroy his legacy”.

    When we say “hurt his legacy” we don’t mean to the point where he’s no longer considered great. It means that Kobe has the potential (whether people like it or not) to be considered THE best PLAYER EVER. And never beating the Celts in the Finals will hurt that legacy, reducing him to “top 10″ discussions.

    In other words, he might still not ever be considered the “greatest of all time”, even if he DOES get past the celts, but if he DOESN’T get past the celts, then he’d DEFINITELY out the discussion. Legacy hurt.

  • Quedas

    @ Kermit The Washington

    I swear I’m not trying to pick a fight with everyone here, but do you really think Kobe is in the discussion to be the “greatest of all time” if he does win this year? I don’t mean to pile on but… MJ has 10 scoring titles, to Kobe’s 1 – 5 regular season MVP’s, to Kobe’s 1 – 6 finals MVP, to Kobe’s 1… And I’m not even talking about the mental edge, in which MJ was absolutely unparalleled. I’m sorry, but unless you’re a sports writer trying to make headlines or a rabid, blind Laker fan, there’s no way any rational person can think the two are even close in the star hierarchy…

  • Quedas

    @ Kermit The Washington

    I swear I’m not trying to pick a fight with everyone here, but do you really think Kobe is in the discussion to be the “greatest of all time” if he does win this year? I don’t mean to pile on but… MJ has 10 scoring titles, to Kobe’s 1 – 5 regular season MVP’s, to Kobe’s 1 – 6 finals MVP, to Kobe’s 1… And I’m not even talking about the mental edge, in which MJ was absolutely unparalleled. I’m sorry, but unless you’re a sports writer trying to make headlines or a rabid, blind Laker fan, there’s no way any rational person can think the two are even close in the star hierarchy…

  • Quedas

    * sorry about the double post…

  • Claw

    MJ is the GOAT, and right now Kobe is not even in the top 5, but getting in the top 10 is still legit. Winning or losing doesn’t change his place, though being able to still play at this high level a few more years keeps moving him up but he never catches Michael, never.

  • http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/703154723/the-soulchorea-project?pos=1 Kermit The Washington

    @ Quedas:

    I think Kobe has potential to be considered the greatest of all time. I think his ability to catch up to Jordan’s accolades (not ALL of them of course, but enough of them) is VERY real. I do NOT think he will have achieved all this by beating the Celts this year, but he will have damaged his chances by losing to them this year.

    If he is able to get past the Celts, then he takes the next step in a pretty short list of things to do to catch up to Mike’s numbers. After that, it’s just a discussion about MJ’s drive and determination and intangibles like that. And really, that’s all Kobe’s after. He wants to be in the discussion. He’ll never get EVERYONE on board with this, but the legend will grow on its own over time, if he can get in the discussion.

  • Quedas

    @ Kermit The Washington

    Yes, I see your point. I just disagree that the list of numbers he needs to pull off to reach Jordan is all that short. The list of accolades I mentioned earlier speaks to that… Also, when Jordan was at his peak, there’s was no doubt about who was the best player in the league (even though he got screwed out of two or three other MVPs because people were getting tired of voting for him :p). Kobe has been the indisputable alpha dog of the league for two or three seasons, at best. GOATs (or potential ones) have an otherworldliness surrounding them that I think Kobe never quite had – Jordan had it. Big time. There’s was never a doubt. Let me put it another way – if he’s in the discussion to be in the discussion, then he’s still not there.

  • tiana

    kobe will beat the celtics this yr. n even if he couldnt its not like this is the last yr they will face each other he is still the best whether he beats the celtics or not n he will beat the celtics in 7 gms

  • PG13

    BS!
    I actually don’t even know what to say. That’s ridiculous. Just like those people who said that Jordan would tarnish his legacy by playing for Washington.

  • easy yeezy

    5 mvps
    6 finals mvps
    6 rings- 6-0 in nba finals.
    defensive player of the year
    rookie of the year
    multiple all-star (14) (3 mvps)
    multiple all nba first team (10times)
    multiple all nba defensive 1st team (9times)
    3 steals titles
    30.1 scoring average in reg season
    33.4 in playoffs?!

    lakers: magic johnson (best pg ever) *BEAT
    blazers: clyde drexler (top 10 alltime shooting guard *who at the time was considered better than mike by many analysts)*BEAT
    suns: charles barkey (4th best pf ever..in his MVP season… not to mention Kevin Johnson who is the best PG no one has ever heard of.) *BEAT
    sonics: payton (top 10 pg) and kemp(at the time was the 2nd best pf in the game)*BEAT
    utah: stockton and malone- in his MVP season.. (2nd best pg, 2nd best pf) x2 BEAT

    kobe took out an old reggie miller, played allen iverson 5 on 1 (with shaq as the centerpiece), took out jason kidd and a grossly overrated kenyon martin (with shaq as the man) and defeated d12 who might just be the most offensively useless all-star big man EVER. stop kidding yourselves.

    damn.. leave mike alone.

  • http://diaryofamiseducatedblackman.com Cal

    Kobe Bryant’s legacy will be he was a great player, one of the best Lakers ever. Even if he wins ten rings, there have been too many great Lakers to be the best ever, and the greatest basketball player ever, well that spots already taken. Doesnt matter if he wins another.
    http://diaryofamiseducatedblackman.com/2010/06/07/kevin-garnott-shout-out-to-skip-bayless/

  • ballin

    Kobe needs another ring to catch Jordan’s 6, and even then Jordan will have the edge. To truly be known as the best SG in history, if not the best player in history, which is Kobe’s real goal, he’d need 7 rings. Not happening.

  • Ian

    you guys cant compare this to magic his number 2 alltime for me theres no leapfroggin wilt so i dont know how it hurt his chances of anything.

    dizzle
    some time ago we were talking top ten and i said i had my tenth slot undecided and u told me that was kobes spot i didnt like but i couldnt disagree. if kobe losses this one i dont think i can drop him outta the top ten but he will have almost no chance to move up. thats 3 finals losses being the favs with the best team in the league. now with a win here he jumps over west , oscar , shaq for a solid 7th place (again this is just my personal list) with a chance to jump over bird , td and russell with another one and get a top 5 nod with magic , mj , wilt and kareem.

    still top ten is the worst he can do.

  • Ian

    bullish
    you posted some of jordans awards to make your point about jordan being way ahead then u fuck it all up putting isiah at 10. there are at least 30 players ahead of isiah on that list and dont make go awards and accomplishments for each but isiah over td and kobe just to give u two is a joke.

  • shiptar

    damn, another lame article from one of the new guys at Dime…

  • Ian

    quedas
    im with you on this one
    there no way he can come near all that.
    when we did the player of the decade thing the three players were
    shaq
    1 mvp 3 finals mvp
    td
    2 mvps 3 finals mvps
    kobe
    1 and 1

    some dude here was tryin to sell kobe sayin that he has played the most finals of the group. kobe is great but hes borderline top ten people right now you cant compare the stuff his won with the players ahead of him well at maybe 2 or 3 of them.

  • JBaller

    personally I like Kobe’s attitude on the whole thing. He can only play against the present NBA and he does it every day. In the end the only thing that matters is winning. He can’t beat the best players of all time, he can only beat who ever is up next, and he does beat them more times than not. He needs to just keep on focusing on winning and his place in history is locked up.

    That said, I think it’s simple; the guy with the most rings is the greatest of all time. Bill Russel. If it’s not him then that means something other than winning has become the point of playing, and I don’t buy that for a second.

  • George W Kush

    To hell with Kobe, I hope he loses, fucking wannabe, lol

  • K Dizzle

    @ Ian

    totally agree

    @ JBaller – so Robert Horry is the 2nd greatest player of all time?
    Might wanna rethink that one….

  • tommy

    just read this and i don’t think anyone will have anything to say … (the only caveat is that kobe made many finals appearances when he was young, the same age that mj was when he wasn’t winning any rings)

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/400778-kobes-ten-worst-finals-performances-and-his-ten-best

    but still, mj is far beyond kobe’s playing ability. plus defense was so much better in the entire league when mj was playing. i remember all those playoff series when they played the knicks and other teams where mj, pippen and other players would play the whole 48 minutes without a second thought, night after night, even when in foul trouble.

    i was never a fan of ewing’s knicks, but look how much trouble they gave the mj’s bulls every year. that knicks team, or any of the top 4 playoff contenders from that era could wreck any champion team from the past 5-10 years.

    the quality of play in the nba has just declined so far, i only watch the playoffs and highlight reels now.

  • kevin k

    @quedas

    you and i think a like except you know how to put it in words better than I do.

    Kobe is a special player. We are witnessing a truly great player that is a one of kind in the league right now. I dont see anyone in the league that is like Kobe after he retires maybe other than Dwade. Lebron is a spoiled lil brat.

    BUT, seriously, comparing Kobe to MJ is an insult to MJ.

  • bola

    MJ=GOAT.. nuff said.

  • hoopla

    There’s not point in naming a GOAT other than Jordan. The reason Kobe plays basketball was because of Jordan. The reason he wears an arm band is coz of Jordan. The reason he shoots fade aways is coz of Jordan. The reason sneaker companies fight for athletes is to find the next Jordan. Jordan may not have been the greatest player in some eyes, but he sure made the NBA a global phenomenon.

  • hoopla

    @K Dizzle

    I would say Horry should go down as one of the best playoff performers. He didn’t just ride the pine to a ring. Most of the times his buzzer beater allowed the team to get to the ring. If phil jackson is hall worthy for coaching the likes of mj, pip, shaq, and kobe, then horry should also get consideration for playing and winning.

  • http://minusthebars.blogspot.com don

    Kobe Bryant and the Lakers core are under contract for the next three seasons. If Kobe is to ever hold his own during the MJ/Kobe argument, what he accomplishes within those three years will forever make or break the argument.

    At the present, Kobe is nowhere near MJ’s legacy. Which isn’t a knock on Kobe, a great player, at all.

  • Paul Randall

    That Jordan never faced a serious opponent in the finals is the crippling evidence in Jordan’s claim of the “best” ever.. Sure he beat the Lakers, with both Magic and Scott hobbled with injuries. Then Portland, Phoenix and Utah. None of them anything special. Add to that once great but then over the hill teams like Birds Celtics and the Detroit bad boys.He was never really challenged, never faced teams as great as San Antonio or ever Sacramento. Never had to play Hakeem in the finals. No the legacy is tarnished.

  • Mel

    As far as the MVP awards Jordan vs. Kobe – Those are largely based on popularity. Kobe wasn’t going to win MVP with Shaq on the Lakers, even though he deserved at least one of those. If the media doesn’t dig you, you won’t win MVP. Kobe has carried the Lakers post Shaq (and during Shaq partially too but I digress) year after year, getting them into the playoffs. Teams in the West are a lot tougher to beat. Hence, eastern squads like Milwaukee etc..making the playoffs this year. His legacy won’t be hurt win or lose in my humble opinion.

  • http://dimemag.com Sean Sweeney

    I’m hearing a lot of comments here. I think most everyone will agree with me when I say Kobe can’t even be CONSIDERED in the same discussion as MJ until he becomes the greatest Laker of all-time. I think he will eventually pass Magic, but he really does need to beat the C’s to do that.

    Once he does that, then we can possibly start to talk about MJ…because once he passes Magic, there is really no one else to go after.