The 2013 NBA Finals is a matchup to determine legacy. It is a turning point or a final chapter in the annals of NBA history. What will get filed away in our short-term memories for who and what happened in the careers of these Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs will be built upon this turning point of new and old guard. Not 4. Not 5. Not 6. Not 7 memories of legacy. Just 1. And 1 more person’s legacy hangs in the balance–Kobe Bryant.
This NBA Finals is a crucial cog in determining the legacy of this generation of NBA players, and no one has more invested in their legacy than Kobe Bryant. In 18 seasons in the NBA, Kobe Bryant has done this dance called the NBA Finals 7 times. No one is deeper in the NBA Finals forest than Kobe. But despite the tall tall trees in the forest you better believe that privately Kobe sees that unless or until he wins another NBA title the outcome of tonight’s game directly affects his legacy as well.
So who does Kobe want to win?
If Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs win Game 7, he will equal Kobe Bryant’s total of 5 NBA Championships. Sir Charles Barkley and Karl Malone are NBA legends, despite never winning a championship. 5 titles unquestionably puts Kobe near the top of the NBA All Time pyramid. His ability to win in the clutch made him a beyond a phenomenon. He is a force of nature altering the futures and careers of his peers with daggers at the buzzer.
In contrast to Kobe is Tim Duncan. The Big Fundamental’s constincy and no flash approach is nearly unnoticed, yet superbly great
If Tim Duncan mathematically arrives in a discussion he should be part of already–who is the greatest player of this generation–that undercuts Kobe’s legacy. Kobe was standing alone on the mountain. If the Big Fundamental is Kobe’s Championship equal, it takes away from Kobe’s aura. No one thinks Robert Horry and his 7 titles is greater than Kobe. But still Kobe’s image is tied up in accomplishing what no one else can do. It’s not just that Kobe will have company at the top of the mountain, it’s that the person up there is Tim Duncan.
But if Lebron and the Miami Heat win Game 7 at home, then Lebron takes a much more direct route to the top of the NBA mountain. Lebron played with an efficiency that was unmatched this season, and coming from his massive, impossibly quick frame he became part of the discussion of one of the all time great players. He bypassed the best of a generation conversation, and it became Michael Jordan or Lebron?
If Lebron loses, he will continue to have that chink in his armor. He can’t get it done in the clutch. He can’t win the big game. Whether its a fair assertion or not, Kobe will always be able to point to the rings, and Lebron will have 1. But if Lebron wins, his ascendancy will continue. His legacy will not rival Kobe’s. His legacy will be greater because of his all around, impressive, physical gifts.
It’s a lose-lose for Kobe. Everyone knows Lebron is great. He is so physically gifted. But if Tim Duncan takes a big bite out of Kobe’s mystique, that puts his legacy to an almost attainable perspective.
I personally think Kobe will wind up rooting for the Heat.
What outcome is better for Kobe’s legacy?