Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Who's Got Next?

The Celtics won, the Lakers lost, Phil Jackson got his coaching whiteboard handed to him by Doc Rivers, and the person that came out of this whole experience with a significant blemish was Kobe Bryant. For some reason we’re all rubbing the sleep out of our eyes this morning and “coming to terms” with the fact that Kobe Bryant isn’t (or wasn’t) the next Michael Jordan.

The concept of comparing Kobe – or anyone, for that matter – to Jordan was always more a marketing/branding ploy than anything else. The league has always wanted another Jordan because it’s easier to sell the NBA to people who are longing for the MJ years. And why not? The Jordan years were by far the NBA’s most compelling and appealing era. By constantly telling people, “Look! Here he is, the next Jordan!” the NBA (and its marketing and media partners) persist in trying to capture those glory days of yesteryear.

No one who seriously understands basketball should ever think that Kobe, Allen Iverson, Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, or even Lebron James can be the next Michael Jordan. Kobe is Kobe; he’s a great player and a Hall of Famer in his own right. He doesn’t need to be validated as the next MJ because it’s neither true nor fair to him.

The truth of the matter is that there’s a very good chance that Lebron James never wins an NBA title, let alone six of them. By our narrow definition, Kobe or LBJ ≠ MJ. Tell me something I don’t already know. More importantly, will anyone out there ever be the next Kobe or LBJ? You can bet your ass that the answer is no.

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