Special thanks to LoLo for submitting his take to the Lakers Nation and giving us the rights to post it on the blog. Once again, if you have your own take and want to see it on TLN, feel free to e-mail it to us at Articles@theLakersNation.com.

I’ve always considered myself to be fair when it comes to criticism and praise. As my subordinates at work will tell you, I hold them to a very high standard, yet I praise them to no end when they perform well, and I critique them equally when they’re not up to par. The same can be said about the athletes I write about (granted most of them are Lakers and Dodgers).

Lord knows, I’ve had my issues with Kobe Bryant over the years. His play on the court though has never been an issue. I’ve always marveled at his basketball skills, even to a fault sometimes as I selfishly prayed that the title of Greatest of All Time (G.O.A.T.) would one day reside in my team’s corner, a title held by one Kobe Bryant.

That selfishness on my part has led to frustration over the years in waiting for Kobe to put the “entire package” together. I love Michael Jordan, and after watching him his entire career there is no doubt in my mind he is the G.O.A.T.

I’ve also concluded that as good as Kobe is, the best he will be is the second place G.O.A.T. To some, that’s a knock on Kobe. To me, it’s a compliment. One could do a lot worse than be second to Michael Jordan. To paraphrase Kobe, “Let M.J. be M.J.” Still, it pains me that for all of the Lakers’ history, the G.O.A.T. is not a Laker. But that is by no means a knock on Kobe.

I’ve had my issues with Kobe’s character in the past, but nothing could prepare me for the selfish act he played last year while basically quitting on his team over the summer. I praised his willingness to go public with his frustrations over the team’s seemingly weak roster. Toeing the company line doesn’t mean you can’t put a few ripples in the water to get things done. But when you quit on your team (which he did by asking to get shipped out), that’s a different story.

I could understand if he had a tiff with the coach or if his life was made utterly miserable by management, but that certainly was far from the case. Not winning basketball games is a far cry from misery, and any notion otherwise is childish gibberish. When you’re getting paid handsomely to perform under contract, you make your complaints, but you shut up and play, win or lose. I’ll reiterate this once again: I’m a Lakers fan first and foremost. If Kobe, or anyone else, doesn’t want to be a Laker, then they can go piss off! Fairly simple rules on my part.

To Kobe’s credit, he finally did shut his mouth and played. Not only did he play, he played very well. He played within the system, his relationship with his teammates improved, and he gave no indication on the court that he no longer wanted to be a Laker. Really, that’s all I ask for. If he wants to walk after his option year is over, then that’s his business and his right under the terms of his contract. I have no beef with that since he would have fulfilled his contractual obligations to the Lakers at that point. Just don’t quit on the team before that.

Issues aside, something magical happened to Kobe Bryant last year. I don’t know if it was the turmoil surrounding the team, or if the fact that he got booed on opening day ultimately gave him a reality check. Maybe he simply “grew up”. Whatever the case, Kobe transformed himself as a person, and his play on the court followed suit.

He’s a changed man, and all for the better. He seems to genuinely care for his teammates now, a complete contrast to earlier years when he was aloof and distant. He also seems to have learned the lesson that personnel issues should be handled by the front office, and not him (a notion foreshadowed by one Chucky Atkins years earlier when he proclaimed Kobe “the general manager”). And finally, he seems humbled by the notion of losing, evident by the fact that he gracefully accepted losing to the Celtics. You can’t win them all, but life could be a hell of a lot worse.

I give Kobe full credit for all of these things that transpired over the last year. He pleasantly surprised me how he handled the situation once the season started. Big kudos to him for finally growing up. But his actions, as graceful as they may be, pale in comparison to his exemplary conduct during the Olympics. I can’t begin to describe how proud I am of how well Kobe represented not only the Lakers, but more importantly the United States of America. He handled the situation with great poise and humility, all while giving even his strongest nay-sayers absolutely nothing to legitimately complain about.

Some people were taken aback by his comments that an Olympic gold medal was more important to him than an NBA Championship. Why? To me, there is no wrong answer. While he might be financially responsible to the Lakers, his patriotism is just as important in my book. You are talking to a veteran here, after all. For all the flack that the recent “Dream Teams” have received for not representing their country in an exemplary manner, here is Kobe Bryant saying he would rather win for God, corps, and country than for David Stern. Nothing wrong with that in my book.

The latest act of mature and good will came today. Turns out that Kobe has elected to not have surgery performed on the pinkie he injured last year. His reasoning behind his decision is valiant. When told that surgery could set him back 12 weeks – thus missing the start of training camp – his reply was “I just didn’t want to miss any time ‘punching the clock’ for the Lakers, given all we are trying to accomplish as a team this NBA season.”

Hello!

Yes, you heard him correctly. The same guy that no longer wanted to be a Laker last year, just said that he’s willing to put off surgery and continue to play hurt so that he doesn’t miss one second of wearing that Purple and Gold uniform. Valiant, committed, and most importantly, reformed.

Hearing that comment from Kobe reminds me of another situation that didn’t end up so well. We all remember a couple of years ago when Shaq elected to put off surgery until the start of training camp because, as he put it, he got hurt during company time therefore he’ll recover during company time. His selfishness caused him to miss a significant portion of the start of the season as well as cost the Lakers home-field advantage in the playoffs. End of dynasty. End of comparison.

Isn’t ironic that while Kobe was always labeled as the childish one, it is he, not Shaq, that has grown up with age, as opposed to Shaq who has turned himself into a joke?

I don’t know where this path will eventually lead us to. The Kobe Bryant ride has been anything but smooth. I’m hoping for the best though, and at the very least I’m hoping that Kobe continues to grow. It’s more important to be a human than a basketball player. He might never be M.J., but I’m happy with him being Kobe, so long as it’s the Kobe we have seen over the last year. In that sense, I’ll continue to give him all the kudos he deserves.

All hail the leader of the Los Angeles Lakers.

  • Mitch Kupchak

    first

  • oloccin

    Very well expressed!

    All for the best for our Purple and Gold!

  • ak24

    second! lol

  • http://TheVerveNerve.com Billy Kupchak

    third! :D

  • petah

    haha this guy has to think a bit more about what he writes. first of all, saying that Kobe’s decision this year was “valiant” and so on is bs. I mean, there is actually two ways of seeing this, kobe is brave, courageous, selfless, or he can be stupid by not choosing to get surgery. I just dont think this guy has fully thought it through. He is too much of an idealist and not a realist.

  • 8kb24

    Fourth! as in Kobes soon to be fourth championship =)

  • http://www.myspace.com/fabezee fabz24lakers

    WOW!!!

  • http://www.modenadude.com/ThaDogg Imadogg

    Great read, very nice choice of article. I agree with everything, unlike many people I know, I do criticize Kobe all the time when he does something wrong, but I also love all the things he does right.

  • kb24bestever

    mj its not better than kobe and kobe its not better than mj at this moment abd if you say he is give me a reason.
    there is nothing mj did that kobe cant do..

  • jamaicans-for-KOBE

    LET US ADDRESS THE MJ KOBE ISSUE..

    1. Kobe has a better all around game (skill, passing, shooting- 81, and dribbling.
    2. This summer (team USA), Kobe showed that his defense is just as good as any player in the league.

    Don’t get me wrong, MJ is amazing… But Kobe is just a notch better…If it was not for all the bullshit that happened to Kobe, that got most ppl hating him, they would give him the respect he deserves GOATTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT………….

  • daboss1849

    Thank god Kobe asked selfishly last summer or it would have been the same old Mitch who brought us smush, kwame, cook, walton, mimh, and vlad… I praise Kobe for making that stand and forcing mitch to do something and do it now. When Kobe does opt out next year and goes and gets paid in Europe the laker nation will finally know just how great he is when we miss the playoffs again without the man… He may not be Michael but hell who is, he is the best we got in the game who is playing now…

  • wanderer

    nice one… I liked it! First, second does it matter?! just be greatfull u have been here to witness it all!

  • e

    on any given night, kobe can put up the same numbers as mj did…over the years he hasnt been able to get far bcuz of teammates like kwame, smush, etc…the biggest thing everyone forgets is that mj had pippin and a solid starting five when he played for championships..give me a time when mj won a championship without pippin..and on that note, kobe is still playing in the league at the age of 30 and he has a lot of time left to prove what he is..so before the g.o.a.t. talk starts, lets see him play out the rest of his career

  • http://www.ballerblogger.com Brandon Hoffman

    Good read.

  • Paul

    MJ was the best at his time.

    Kobe is the best in the present.

  • LAKERNATION

    [Comment ID #50455 Will Be Quoted Here]

    You tell them. Smart person right here!!!!!!! As well as a lot of these comments. You guys aren’t like those ignorant F*CKS on youtube. Wow if anyone is ever on youtube just type in anything KOBE related and you will see some dumb*ss people.

  • Deus_Ex

    That is so true, some real dumb morons reside on youtube.

  • lakrfan4life

    [Comment ID #50454 Will Be Quoted Here]

    [Comment ID #50455 Will Be Quoted Here]

    [Comment ID #50461 Will Be Quoted Here]

    [Comment ID #50462 Will Be Quoted Here]

    agreed X 4, im glad to see im not the only person who thinks kobe is the greatest player to ever play basketball, G.O.A.T.

  • SliqRiq

    Agreed X 5!!!!!! Kobe is the G.O.A.T

  • Butch

    Kobe took the high road and Shaq chose the low. Maybe one day after he retires, Kobe will tell what really went on behind-the-scenes with him and Shaq. I can’t believe it was ALL Kobe!

  • e

    to me i think when kobe retires, if he gets a few more championships..he will indeed be the g.o.a.t.
    so yeah why not…agreed x7..kobe is the g.o.a.t.

  • e

    haha hit the wrong key..
    i meant x6

  • Kb_24mvp

    agreed x7 G.O.A.T.

  • SamV

    okay so first off…kobe just turned 30. MJ started showing his stuff at 29 when he got his first ring. Kobe isn’t the GOAT yet but now is the time when he will start having to show weather or not he can take that title from MJ.

    second of all, you can’t really blaime kobe for wanting to leave when he did. The management seemed to be using him to make money and you had some “inside source” talking a whole bunch of crap. If i’m someone trying to show the world i’m the best ever, then i don’t want to deal with any of that crap.

    i’m just saying Kobe isn’t the greatest yet…but now is the time when he can show the world he will be.

  • kobe4ever

    who wrote this crap?

  • e

    [Comment ID #50469 Will Be Quoted Here]

    well even tho i believe that kobe can woop mj in his prime on any given night now, i do agree with u in which u point out that kobe will show that in these next years now that he’s 30

  • yellowpurplefever

    MJ greatest ever, true. Kobe best player at present time, true.
    Kobe still has to be more mature in basketball and play smarter in basketball, if he wants to be GOAT. Growing up watching MJ in the late 1980′s and early 1990′s was something I will never forget. MJ controled the games and dictated the games. MJ set the tones of the games and expect his teammates to do the same. MJ sees 4 quarters in the 1st quarter.
    Kobe is now in his prime, and he’s the best. Only time will tell if he’s the best ever. GO GOAT!

  • LakersFirst

    [Comment ID #50456 Will Be Quoted Here]

    Thank God Mitch didn’t listen to Kobe or else we would’ve traded away Andrew Bynum for an aging Jason Kidd (I guess that would be better wouldn’t it? You can ask the Dallas Mavericks). Face it, to give Kobe any credit after his tantrum last year is ridiculous. Buss and Mitch make calculated trades, which sometimes work and sometimes don’t, but one of the greatest things they did was to tell Kobe to shut his a&& up and play basketball. I am glad they stopped listening to Kobe and his player recommendations (did you forget that both Kobe and Phil wanted VladRad).

    And if Kobe does decide to opt out after next season, don’t think that Buss isn’t going to try his a&& off to go after Lebron James when he can opt out of his Cleveland contract.

  • joseph

    Despite losing Posey, the Celtics are in very good shape this year compared to their main rivals. The age of the Celtics’ stars is not an issue. The ‘Big Three’ will be very rested for the season, having taken the entire summer off, whereas the stars of teams like the Cavs (LBJ), Lakers (Gasol, Bryant), the Rockets (Yao), the Hornets (Paul), the Jazz (Williams, Boozer), the Pistons (Prince), etc. all played long into the summer at the pre-Olympics and during the actual Games.

    The Celtics will also be better for having played a year together… a year in which over half of the roster was entirely new and the team instituted an entirely new defensive schema. Those were MAJOR changes. Most ‘experts’ predicted early last year that the Celtics would fail precisely because of the grand nature of the changes in Boston. Most boldly claimed that it would take too long for the team to gel. Guess what: they’ve now fully gelled through the process of surviving a tough finals campaign and winning a championship banner.

    The hunger factor will still be there, too. After going more than two decades without a banner, the most successful organization in the history of the NBA has only had its appetizer. The main meal is on its way.

    quote from dibbadobba

  • sketch

    c’mon…home boy puts so much into this read all you fools are content to just be the “first” or “second” or “third” to reply. It just shows that you’ve got no life and nothing to say. Give the man some respect by at least saying that it was a “good read” while claiming to be “first” huh? By the way, it was a great read and agreed with pretty much everything he said, even the point of him being 2nd to MJ.

  • T-Dub

    They are all opinions. We’ll never know. They will never battle each other night in and night out in their primes…which is the only way to know. You can’t say MJ played with this person and Kobe plays with that person…it’s irrelevant. Opinions are like A-S-S-HOLES…everyone has one. LET IT GO BECAUSE WE WILL NEVER KNOW!!!!

  • Fan of the Mamba

    Way to go LoLo,

    You are the man!

  • DCLAKER

    JOSEPH…IT’S OVER!!!

    And by the way,when you win a Championship.. have some DIGNITY…

    http://llnw.image.cbslocal.com/28/2008/06/18/370×278/bigbaby.jpg/GAY

  • DCLAKER
  • killer60

    My son contacted me and asked if I wrote this article, as it is exactly what I’ve been saying for the past year. It’s been encouraging to watch Kobe finally mature. I wrote a letter to both Kobe and Mitch expressing pride at how he conducted himself during his Olympic experience day in and day out. His expression of patriotism was enlightening as to his true character. I too waited what seemed to be forever for Kobe to mature, and am happy to concur that he finally has. His recent appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel show also was exemplary of the kind of man he has become . . . well spoken, well presented, and prideful, while showing humility. Congratulations Kobe, and thanks for this great article LoLo. (Except I have to disagree with you on one major item. Since I’ve been a Lakers fan since the 70′s, there’s on doubt to me that Magic is truly the G.O.A.T. – on and off the court.)

  • razz

    Obviously some of you have never seen MJ play. Highlights don’t count. MJ WAS/IS the greatest, but that Kobe guy is very very special. Appreciate it while you can.

  • DCLAKER

    I agree with killer60,MAGIC IS THE REAL G.O.A.T.(Add Bird to that list too).

    They(Bird and Magic) saved the NBA.If not for them there would be NO MJ OR KOBE,period.

  • http://www.myspace.com/krzyjin krzyjin

    lol. are you serious? michael jordan is the best player to ever play the game of basketball and i highly doubt there is anyone that can surpass what he has done. mentally, nobody can match his work ethic or his drive to succeed. i mean i love kobe. kobe’s one of my favorite players, but there is no doubt he can surpass jordan as the G.O.A.T. jordan can do things that kobe will never be able to do. jordan was the much better player. whoever wants to argue that with expert analysts, go ahead and try. jordan is the better all-around player, defender, shooter, etc. kobe has his qualities, but you know jordan is the best player ever to play the game. enough said.