Yesterday we compared Lebron James plight to a very young Michael Jordan. Today we are going to compare the plight of Kobe Bryant to an older Michael Jordan.
Legendary athletes in any sport when their physical skills start to erode their mental skills peak. When they no longer have the ability to physically dominate they get by simply on their athletic IQ.
Fans in general, especially if they are in love with the player don't like to acknowledge physical slippage. To the train eye though it should be obvious.
If you have been engaged in the Kobe vs. Lebron debate one thing should be clear, Lebron is a physical monster right now. This brings us to Darth Kobe.
Back in 1998 Michael Jordan already had five rings, but the signs of slippage were starting to show. Not as many explosive dunks and a lot more fade away jumpers (which he perfected by the way). Even though he played all 82 games you could see he was pacing himself. He had been hurting (knees and back), but would never let you see it or make excuses about it. The Bulls were a juggernaut team, but they were getting older and the dynasty was about to crumble. By the time the playoffs came around the Bulls had a relatively easy first two rounds but struggled mightily against an up and coming Pacers team, who a lot of people thought were better and more talented than them.
Fast forward to 2009, Kobe Bryant already has three rings, but the signs of slippage were starting to show. Not as many explosive dunks and a lot more fade way jumpers (which he perfected by the way). Even though he played in the Olympics and in all 82 games you could see he was pacing himself. He is hurting (finger and knees), but he would never let you see it or make excuses about it. The Lakers were a juggernaut team during the regular season, but appear to lack the killer instinct to start a dynasty. By the time the playoffs started The Lakers had a relatively easy first round, but struggled mightily in the second around against a team they should have swept. Now they are struggling mightily against an up and coming Nuggets team who a lot of people think are better and more talented than them.
MJ's averages in the 1998 Playoffs: 32, 5 & 3
Bean's averages in the 2009 Playoffs: 29, 5 & 5
Both players knew there window was short and both had specific things they wanted and want to accomplish. Michael Jordan desperately wanted to have more championships than Magic Johnson. Kobe Bryant desperately wants to win a championship without Shaquille O'Neal.
We all know what MJ did in 1998. The Bulls survived the Pacers barely. Then he produced the greatest three play sequence in NBA History in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on the road against the Jazz.
The Push off J
All three of those plays had nothing to do with Jordan's physical ability, but he mentally won that game and that championship.
It is unlikely that Kobe will be able to do anything like that, but part of being a legendary player is being able to evolve. Kobe last night showed why he is mentally better than everyone in the league. He took a risk and by allowing his "team"
to win the game as oppose to trying to win the game himself. It was a calculated risk and it worked out. Young Kobe would have never considered it, but this Kobe understands what needs to happen to win that Championship.
Can Kobe mentally will his team to the NBA Finals and the Championship that people close to him say that he would do anything short of death to get?
We will have to wait and see.