On June 17th Kobe Bryant won his fifth NBA championship ring by leading the Los Angeles Lakers to an 89 – 73 game seven victory over the Boston Celtics. With his fifth championship, discussions have started about Kobe’s place in basketball and Laker history. Does this championship make Kobe a greater Laker than Earvin “Magic” Johnson? Does this championship put Kobe one ring away from being as good as Michael Jordan? These questions have many answers that can be supported by statistics, history, and highlight reels, however there are a group of people who choose to ignore all the evidence and on court history. These people are called Kobe Haters.
Kobe Haters are individuals who possess an enormous amount of disdain for No. 24. Some hate Kobe because of his shoot first mentality. Some hate Kobe because of his arrogance and the childish attitude that broke up a Laker dynasty, and some hate Kobe for what happened in Colorado.
The biggest reason people seem to hate Kobe Bryant is because of the similarities to the movements and mannerisms of Michael Jordan. Ever since Kobe entered the NBA in 1996 Kobe haters have scolded him for trying to be like Mike. However, since Micheal Jordan has retired Kobe Bryant has been the best basketball player on the planet.
The post-Jordan NBA was hungry for another fierce competitor with an immeasurable will to win. The stand outs of the post-Jordan NBA were champions like the quiet Tim Duncan and the jovial Shaquille O’Neal. Although Kobe and Shaq won championships together, Shaq was the dominant force in their three peat from 2000 – 2002. In 2004, when Kobe attempted to lead the Lakers to another championship against the Detroit Pistons, his teammates did not follow. The team full of veterans led by Shaq and coaching great, Phil Jackson, were not happy with the “selfish” actions of the young star.
After the 2004 finals, Kobe haters all let out a collective “I told you so”. The following season, Kobe and the Lakers did not qualify for the playoffs, and spent the next two seasons being eliminated in the first round. However, what Kobe haters do not realize is that during this down time, Kobe was humbled by his team’s failure. In 2006, Kobe was forced to watch his old teammate/rival, Shaq, win a fourth championship with an up and coming (humble) superstar shooting guard in Dwyane Wade. The early playoff exits and off court troubles led to a Kobe transformation.
During the 2007-08 season, Kobe’s game changed. He still remained the main scorer for the Lakers, but was passing the ball more, and encouraging his teammates to contribute more. This new attitude, plus a new bag of offensive tricks Kobe picked up in the off-season, led the Lakers into the finals against the Celtics.
During the finals, the NBA and the fans finally got to see the competitive fire that made MJ so popular, in Kobe Bryant. Although the Lakers lost, Kobe’s passion was on full display with no sound bites from Shaq to drown it out.
Kobe Bryant has a will to win that is unmatched in pro sports. Even though Kobe is on the wrong side of 30, he approaches every season with a new tool to take the stress off of a body that has millions of basketball miles on it. Most importantly Kobe is on a team full of (young) veterans that now follow his lead.
So Kobe haters, stop your hating and appreciate a quality of basketball we may never see again.