Whose time is this again?
Here they are, on national TV this time, LeBron James, 24, vs. Kobe Bryant, 30, the future vs. the past.
Handy as this is for headlines, marquees and commercials, it leaves out one important thing: the present.
It's a funny thing about eras: They're not awarded, they're won.
Between 1997 and 1999, Utah's Karl Malone won two MVPs to Michael Jordan's one. Jordan's Bulls won the '97 and '98 titles, giving them six in the decade, which is why no one talks about a Mailman Era.
If James, currently the front-runner, becomes the MVP, it won't matter a bit if Bryant's Lakers win the title.
It took a turnaround that was stunning even for Bryant, going from raging at the Lakers organization in the spring of 2007 to MVP in the spring of 2008.
It has largely been lost, but this is a new Kobe, oblivious to personal achievements (unless he's in Madison Square Garden), often volunteering to spend the night hounding James or Dwyane Wade on defense, rather than shooting it out with them.
It's not a sophisticated subculture, deifying winners and demonizing losers, with a premium on recent events, since teenage boys, the key demographic, were in kindergarten in 1998 when Jordan left the Bulls.
If Bryant gets a fourth title, he may be anointed Jordan's peer, or perhaps the best ever, whether that's fair to Jordan or not, since six is still more than four.
You couldn't say his trip hasn't changed him. If you knew him as the golden child at 18, boyish, poised, serene in his belief in himself, you might say it changed him more than it ever changed anyone.
Whether he understands it or not, he's moving beyond cheap shots and bad notices. One more title and the people who bashed him for everything that went wrong will explain away anything he does wrong.
It won't ever get any better than this, at his peak, with a rising power and the world to be won.
He has known good times and bad times, but these are the best times.
rest of article, latimes
Edited by lili, February 07, 2009 - 11:01 PM.