|ESPN.com: NBA All-Star 2011||[Print without images]|
|Kobe Bryant usually avoids Michael Jordan comparisons. But this time, he can clearly see the parallels.|
“"That's part of the game," Kobe said. "And the way to do that is to win. I do it my way. They have their own way of doing things that may be more popular. But I go about it my own way, as Mike did it, too. And let the results speak for themselves. "There's only two people that did it this way. We shoot first, he and I both. It's a street fight. We'll take on all five people we're going to scrap. And a lot of people don't understand that. That's why it's not the most popular way to go about doing it, but this is our way. "That's how I've always been. That's why I don't think everybody can understand that. But this is who I am." This is him: unapologetic, and about as honest and unfiltered as he gets. It might come off as arrogant when the words are typed out, but there is no humble way to assess your place among the elite, which is what Bryant was asked to do here. He was describing his greatness, not proclaiming it. Don't get bent because he compared himself to Jordan. Again, he did so because I brought it up although this is the farthest I've ever seen him take the baton and run down the track with it. Normally, he scoffs and shuts down at the first mention of Jordan, even if Kobe brought it on himself by his mannerisms when he first came into the league and then his high level of play. In this case, I think hearing the commonalities Jordan saw between them caused Kobe to elaborate. Jordan created the template, gave Kobe reason to believe this way could work. Before Jordan started his three-peat roll in 1991, it had been 20 years since a player won a scoring title and a championship in the same season. Shaq was the last to do it, in 2000, and Jordan remains the only guard to pull off that double feat. It's an unusual blueprint for a champion: build around a shooting guard who shoots a lot. Jordan took the most field goal attempts in the NBA nine times, including his six championship seasons. Bryant took the second-most shots in the league while winning championships the past two seasons and had the most attempts the three seasons prior to that. Bryant could match Jordan in volume but not accuracy; Kobe's best field goal percentage, 46.9 in 2001-02, wouldn't crack Jordan's top 10 shooting seasons. See, that's why Bryant is wise to usually avoid the Jordan discussions, because he usually comes up short. But having watched both of them at their peaks, I'll say Kobe's competitive fire burns with just as much intensity as Jordan's -- exceeds it, even. Twice we've seen Jordan walk away from a winning team, even though it turned out he still had more basketball left in him. Bryant has gone nonstop, each championship only making him hungrier.
I've seen those generations come and go. And here I am now, [battling] LeBron [James], [Dwyane] Wade and people who were like, 10, when I was doing it. So I take a lot of pride in it.” -- Kobe Bryant
|Kobe Bryant dropped in 20 points the last time the All-Star Game came to Los Angeles in 2004.|