*You can also vote for the LeBron James/Dwyane Wade semifinal.*
That was Martin Kessler‘s first reaction when I threw out Kobe Bryant‘s name. Two years ago, that reputation held water. When we gave all our to LeBron, there was nothing left for Kobe. Great but selfish. Confident bordering on arrogant.
Then LeBron did his whole Miami thing and the tide turned. Our venom shifted to a new and unsuspecting victim. But the question remained: how do we treat Kobe now?
He wasn’t public enemy no. 1, so the hatred morphed into undying respect. Not that it wasn’t there already. No one has ever doubted his immense talent, unmatched work ethic and place in history. But LeBron’s departure to Miami put that respect into overdrive. He was still selfish and arrogant, but he never left the Lakers. He may have shopped himself around, but he ultimately stayed in town. But there was a large part of the American conscience that still hated Kobe. We just didn’t have enough in us to proliferate our antagonism.
Kobe’s still in limbo. Lakers fans love him, and always will. (Understandably so. He has brought them five rings.) The rest of NBA fans, however, are somewhere between revering and loathing. We can’t hate two of the NBA’s best players, right?
The national mood towards Dirk, however, couldn’t be more positive. So much so that he upset the third-seeded Carmelo Anthony to make the semifinals. His story represents everything good in the world. He’s clutch, unassuming and hard working. Only if he were American.
When the two hit the hardwood, all memories of the Western Conference Semis will disappear because the Mavericks, and not Dirk, beat Kobe and the Lakers. Although Dirk will render Kobe’s post game moot, I find it hard to believe that he could stick Kobe’s pull-up. But then there’s Dirk’s offensive game, which nobody in the NBA can stop anyway. So how do we decide who wins? I have no idea.
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