Feb 3, 2009

When 61 Equals 0

Many across the country, and especially in LA, are all misty-eyed today following Kobe Bryant's 61 point effort against the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden last night. How many times can one listen to the stat about the most points ever scored in MSG without dying a slow death of indifference?

Not only is Kobe the most overrated player since Larry Bird retired, but the cultural significance of MSG, relative to basketball, is also exaggerated beyond the boundaries of one's most vivid imagination.

Kobe is clearly a first ballot Hall-of-Famer and one of the greats in the game's history. Even I can't dispute that. Kobe was in the passenger seat while Shaq drove the Lakers to 3 straight titles from 2000-2002. After helping force the trade of Shaq following the dismantling administered by the Pistons in 2004, Kobe jumped to the top of the scoring charts in subsequent seasons, scoring as many as 81 points in a game back in 2006, while regularly putting up exceptional numbers, night in, night out. No one ever said that Wack Mamba couldn't score the basketball. He eventually made it back to the Finals last summer, only be to run off the court again, this time by the Boston Celtics. Let us not forget that Kobe's last two trips to the NBA Finals have ended in resounding defeat.

What I am reacting to here is the rather short memory or overall lack of knowledge that many fans who watch the NBA bring to their viewing experience. It's the fools who are saying that Kobe is on Jordan's level that irk me. Jordan won 6 NBA titles and at no point during any of those 6 titles was he ever the second scoring option on offense. When it was all said and done, Jordan had 10 scoring titles to go along with those 6 rings, not to mention countless other accolades and accomplishments. Those 10 scoring titles and 6 rings were all won consecutively also. This means that Jordan had a sustained dominance, without a drop off over an extended period of time. Kobe so far as 2 scoring titles and 3 rings as as the second fiddle. Case closed, suitcase filled with clothes!

Kobe scored 61 points in a regular season game against a team that has been in the draft lottery more so than the playoffs lately. It's like the year he scored those 81 points against Toronto, the Raptors ended up with the first pick in the draft they were so bad. 61 points against the lowly Knicks is nothing special for a player who has already put up the type of numbers that Kobe has. This is to be expected. He set such a high mark for himself, now he must live up to it.

When Kobe scores 61 points in a Finals game and goes on to win a title without Shaq then I'll give it up. Until then, those 61 points are empty for me. Do it when it counts. Do it in June, not February, then we have someone to talk about.

As for the so-called "Mecca of Basketball," this is nothing but more New York hype. It's the same hype that made the "LeBron is coming to the Knicks in 2010" non-story into a story earlier this season. Considering that the last time the Knicks won a title Richard Nixon was the President, as opposed to being a character in an Oscar-nominated movie, and that the last great NYC player, Stephon "Starbury," he of the $15 sneakers, is an absolute bust, maybe we need to accept the fact that the Mecca of Basketball has been relocated.

Group think is not a good look. Neither Kobe nor Madison Square Garden deserve the attention that comes from a herd mentality which is both uninformed and out to lunch. You can't just declare someone or something great and just assume that it is that way. At the end of the day it is about a body of work and though Kobe has an impressive one, to mention him in the same breath with Jordan is an insult to the greatest of all times.

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