The Hot Column

Wayland Radin

Kobe Bryant scored 81 points on Sunday. No, the NBA doesn’t play double headers; he scored all 81 in a 122-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors. Bryant, understandably, has garnered a lot of attention in the media and elsewhere since his offensive
outpouring. Yes, Kobe is a great scorer. But is he a great basketball player?
This question has nearly as many answers as there are basketball
fans, but these can often be reduced to two major camps: those that think Mamba (the nickname Bryant gave himself) is on par with, or better than, Michael Jordan, and those that believe Kobe’s selfish play is offensive in the negative sense.
The first group would even entertain discussion about Kobe being the greatest baller ever based solely on his ability to score at will and absolutely take over games. They would quickly point to the fact that His Airness, Jordan, considered
by many the best guard ever, has a career high of only 69 points. They would further point out that while the scoring
record still belongs to Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe’s recent feat is more impressive because he is a perimeter player and not able to simply lay the ball in fifty times a game. And yet he somehow managed to shoot a higher percentage, in six fewer minutes, on his way to 81 than Chamberlain did in scoring 100 in 1962.
The second group finds Kobe’s domination of the ball to be an affront to the spirit of basketball, in that the game often ends up playing like one-on-five, or worse, one-on-nine as the rest of his teammates lose interest in the (somewhat
pointless) competition. Granted, no one has done more with less, as Kobe’s Lakers currently
have higher win percentage
than Jordan’s Bulls in the year he averaged 37.1 points a game. However, Bryant’s individual scoring ability will not make his teammates better,
and ultimately, will not win him a championship. In fact, as long as Kobe is content with the unbalanced nature of the Lakers’ current offense, he must also content himself with first round exits from the playoffs.