What is it about Kobe?

Someone recently asked me who my favorite player in the NBA was and without even thinking about it, I immediately responded with “Kobe.” It was funny to me that “Kobe” came out so quickly, since I hadn’t even really thought about having a favorite player since I was 12 years old (back then it was Patrick Ewing). But, there I was admitting that Kobe Bryant was my favorite.

Obviously the next question was “why?” and that is really where I had to start thinking. I am an avid college basketball fan, but Kobe never played in college. In fact, I was a huge proponent when the NBA changed their eligibility rules to force these 17 and 18 year old kids to go to college, a rule that clearly would have affected Kobe back when he decided to go pro.

Patrick Ewing was my favorite player, not just because he was the best player on my favorite team, but because he was a center and I always had a huge respect for big men in the NBA (despite never reaching 5’10” myself). Not only is Kobe not a front court player, but he forced one of the most dominant ones in the history of the game out of Los Angeles.

He is considered a ball hog, a bad teammate and a whiner. He doesn’t feel he can take his current crop of teammates to the NBA Finals, so he demands that the Lakers trade him. But when they finally find a good enough deal that still helps the Lakers, he rejects it because the team he is going to would be decimated.

He has openly admitted to cheating on his wife and was accused of sexual assault. The latter was dropped because the accuser did not want to testify against Bryant and the case was settled out of court. I take this as Kobe being guilty, others may not.

Many people consider Kobe the best player in the game, but there are just as many who will vehemently disagree. ESPN’s Chad Ford just wrote a nice piece about how Kobe isn’t the best player in the NBA and may not even be in the top 5.

“For instance, Bryant has never led the league in John Hollinger’s PER (player efficiency rating), which combines a player’s stats and percentages into a single measure. Last season, Bryant was well behind Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade.

To put his numbers into historical perspective, his career-high PER of 27.97 in 2005-06 ranks No. 42 all-time in the league. Several current players have posted a higher PER than Kobe did in his best season, including Wade (twice), LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki (twice), Shaquille O’Neal (six times), Tracy McGrady and Kevin Garnett (twice).”

Ford admits that Kobe may be a great player, but is not the best.

He has been to the All-Star game nine times and is also a nine-time All-NBA player, a seven-time All-Defensive player and has won three NBA Championships. How many MVPs has he won? Try zero.

And yet, despite all of these negatives, he is my favorite. And you know why? Because on any given night, you might see something special. LeBron showed that he can take over a game last year in the playoffs against the Detroit Pistons when he scored 25 straight points to will his team to victory. Dwyane Wade carried his team to an NBA championship in 2006. And as great as those two are, the possibility of Kobe Bryant dropping 81 points on another team is too much to pass up.

The biggest complaint about the NBA these days is that it’s too selfish, there isn’t enough “team play,” which I agree with. Then again, two of the more dominating teams in this decade, the San Antonio Spurs and the Detroit Pistons, have been able to win consistently without a superstar in Kobe’s realm. Yet no matter how often these teams win, it’s still a superstar that will get people watching. And that’s why I love to watch Kobe.

Kevin Durant is slowly taking Kobe’s place as my favorite, but until I am convinced that Kobe can no longer threaten Wilt Chamberlain’s single game scoring record, I’ll keep watching him.

He may not be the best, but he is definitely my favorite.

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