L.A. Lakers Kobe Bryant-One of the Greatest?
The Lakers are riding high, feeding off a boisterous crowd that will now be in a Kobe-induced frenzy. I imagine the hottest NBA ticket is in Los Angeles when the Lakers play at home, Tickets are selling like hotcakes these days, as a lot of people are going to want to see what Kobe's doing each night. After scoring 81 points in one game, Kobe Bryant's status as a player is now in the company of Wilt Chamberlain, arguably, the greatest NBA player to ever play the game. Bryant's feat is second only to Chamberlain, who scored 100 points in a game for the Philadelphia Warriors in 1962 against the New York Knicks. So, it begs the question; Is Kobe Bryant one of the greatest? Well, at least he had his name placed next to Chamberlains in the record books.
Kobe Bryant says he feels a little embarrassed by his 81-point effort against the Toronto Raptors, and that he is not trying to eclipse Wilt Chamberlain's long-standing record of 100 points in a game, according to a Reuters report. Bryant continues to be hounded by questions after his scoring outburst. "I'm a little embarrassed actually," Bryant said after a Lakers' practice. "I think it's exciting for the game and the organization because of all the buzz, but personally it's a little embarrassing." Kobe Bryant may have some personal issues about which he should be embarrassed, but scoring 81 in a single game is not one of them.
He is trying to lead the Lakers to a successful season, and ultimately, a good showing in the NBA playoffs. Bryant leads the NBA in scoring, averaging 35.7 points per game. In January, with his 81 point game, he averaged 43.4 points per game. He joined Chamberlain again in the record books as the only other player to average over 40 points per game in a single month. He says winning is the most important thing for the Lakers.
"The concept is not about going out there and putting on a show or going out there and scoring points," he said. "It's to win games. I'd much rather go out and score 25 points and get 10 assists and see everybody in a rhythm, everybody in a groove." About Chamberlain's mark Bryant said, "I don't even think about it. That's unthinkable. It was done once by Wilt, and I'm not Wilt."
One of the most controversial topics for basketball fans is whether Wilt Chamberlain is the best player ever. His incredible statistics are unparalleled, but the great argument against him is that he "only" won two championships. So, there are several players who arguably rival Chamberlain for the title of greatest basketball player of all time, including Bill Russell, his lifelong on-court nemesis, who won a mind-numbing 11 titles and regularly beat up on Chamberlain's teams in the playoffs. There is also Michael Jordan, who earned six titles and won five NBA regular season and six Championship Finals MVP titles; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who also won six titles and is the NBA's all-time leading scorer and Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who won five titles and was more of an all-around player than Chamberlain.
Statistically, Johnson was arguably the greatest offensive producer ever. Assuming every assist creates 2 points, he produced 54.85 points per 48 minutes, compared to Michael Jordanís 50.98 or Wilt Chamberlainís 40.82. Johnson also scored 17,707 points over the length of his career of 906 games, averaging 19.5 points per game. However, there are several arguments that support the idea that Wilt Chamberlain is the greatest player. In his prime, Wilt was so dominant that the NBA actually changed the rules to stop him, including outlawing the inbounds pass over the backboard and prohibiting dunking from the foul line during free-throw attempts.
The NBA hasnít changed any rules due to Kobe Bryantís play. However, his career straight out of high school has taken many twists and turns with numerous well-documented off-court troubles, but his game has always shown steady improvement despite various distractions. The Los Angeles Lakers became perennial championship contenders under Bryant and former teammate Shaquille O'Neal, who teamed up to form one of the deadliest center-guard duos in NBA history. Their success gave the Lakers three consecutive NBA championships in 2000, 2001, and 2002. The 2003 season saw the end of the Lakers' run as a mini-dynasty, but also became the definitive season for Kobe Bryant. An NBA superstar at only 24 years of age, Bryant averaged over 30 points per game and embarked on a historic scoring run, posting 40 or more points per game for nine consecutive contests.
To be fair, offense is only part of the game of basketball. So trying to crown a "greatest ever" in the NBA is nearly an impossible task. To be even more fair, the game has changed radically since 1962 and so has the athleticism of the players. The NBA is inundated with players that perform specific roles for their team. These "specialists" do what they do very well, such as three-point-shooting, defense, distributing the ball, inside game, etc. Wilt was maybe not the best, but for sure, he was the most dominant player the game ever produced. The question is, would he be as dominant in today's game with today's players? Kobe Bryant is an amazing athlete, an all-around player. It is still early in his NBA career, and although has all the tools to eclipse the greatest players in history, he hasn't done so yet. Kobe Bryant...WE WILL BE WATCHING.
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