2010-2011 Player Profile: Kobe Bryant
It’s great to go “first.” Ask Neil Armstrong. You have no idea who the other astronauts are, because you only know the name Neil Armstrong (Save it, space nerds. I’m making a point). “First” gets a lot of publicity. “First” place. “First” to “discover” America. Rambo’s “First” Blood.
But sometimes going second ain’t so bad.
Look at overtime in college football. Conventional wisdom says you always go second. Ooh. Even better. Minesweeping. Always let the other guy go first when you’re sweeping for mines.
And what about the Hold Your Breath Challenge? Everyone’s played that.
When you’re in a pool, and the gauntlet is thrown down, it is always, without question, in your best interest to go second. Watch your buddy start, watch the clock, and you’ll know the time to beat. Sure, fighting through those last few seconds underwater is going to suck, but you know what you have to do to win. You’re just concentrating on beating your opponent.
When you go second, you’re in control.
Well, in Kobe Bryant’s unending drive to be first on the list of greatest players ever, going second suits him just right.
Michael Jordan set the bar. And that bar is so goddamn high. I mean, it’s really f**kin’ high. It’s way up there. But I think Kobe likes it there.
About 14 seasons ago, Kobe began an elaborate chess match, or breath holding contest as it were, against Michael Jordan. Can he match Jordan on All-NBA or All-Defensive first teams? Maybe. Granted, Jordan has the better averages, but Kobe can and should pass him in career rebounds and assists. He’ll never catch MJ on MVP’s (Finals or regular seasons), but what if Kobe can break the NBA career scoring record? And, of course, there are the championship rings.
That’s where this season comes into play. Kobe must know his window closes as: a.) he gets older, b.) Phil Jackson retires and c.) Miami gains experience playing together. When an exacting guy like Kobe, who’s playing the game he’s playing with Michael, realizes these factors, I think he turns it up. I expect the most efficient season of Kobe’s career.
He knows he needs this one. Legacy is on the line. Michael went first. He held his breath for a really long time. Now it’s Kobe’s turn.
There’s another breathing analogy in play here. Take the deepest breath you can and hold it. Now take in a little bit more. Even more still. Now let it out. If you haven’t passed out, please continue.
The point of this exercise? The brain sets up obstacles, that when pressed, your body can jump over. People can give more, especially when they know the goal.
I’m not going to presuppose Kobe Bryant is the better basketball player than Michael Jordan, but I do think Kobe’s going second.
And I do think he has a couple more deep breaths.