Posted by C.L. Anthony on Tuesday, December 25, 2012 with 4 comments
There's only one name that universally comes up as the greatest of all time.  Love him or hate him, he is the standard that all current NBA players want to surpass but how realistic is the thought.  Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill, and even Dwyane Wade have been compared to him.  A former teammate of his even proclaimed that one day LeBron James could be better than his Airness but there's only one player that can compare to the greatness that was Michael Jordan.  On April 16th 2003, Jordan scored the last 13 points of his career total 32,292 points.  Jordan spent the last two years of his career with the Wizards but that's not what he's remembered for.  Michael Jordan was and will always be a Chicago Bull and will always be remembered for one number......VI.

For the past 17 NBA seasons we have witnessed the closest incarnation of Michael Jordan that perhaps we'll ever see and sadly he's nearing the end.  Still effective on certain nights, he is considered a relic in this new era blooming in the NBA.  His career blossomed during the time of relics and now he's become one his self.  It's funny because I once heard that as humans we all begin in diapers and most end their lives in them as.  It's a sad but cruel truth that afflicts us all too often and thus the career of an NBA player is no different.  There comes a time when it all ends, the mind wanting to soldier on but the body slowly betraying the wishes of its true master.  It's the moment that every athlete fears, the moment where one question is asked....."What do I have left to give?"  That one singular question has dethroned the greatest athletes, the most fierce champions and now facing his own mortality stand Kobe  Bean Bryant.

What does he have left to Give?

Over 30,000 points scored, 5 MVP Championships, 1 Gold Medal, and 1 NBA MVP.  Kobe Bryant has seen and done it all.  From the moment he entered the league he knew what his destiny would be, there was only one thing that he wanted.  Jordan was the measuring stick and Kobe wanted to surpass his idol at all costs.  The obsession eventually transformed "media friendly" Kobe into the Kobe that most of the NBA world loves to hate, The Black Mamba.  Demanding, foul mouthed, in your face Kobe but I forgot another label........multi-time champion.  With that being said isn't odd that the Mamba has been virtually absent this season?  The production is there, the foul mouth is there but something is missing.  Is it possible that Kobe has given us all that he has?  The endgame is upon us has Bryant himself has already stated that he may walk away from the game in two years once his current contract expires.  When I look at Bryant I see a great player that's 34 years young but in NBA years he's closer to 38 years old, having lived through countless deep playoff runs and multiple knee injuries. At this stage in his career what does Kobe have left to give?

Obsession:  The dominations of one's thoughts or feelings by persistent idea, image, desire, etc

It's no secret that Kobe Bryant is seemingly "obsessed" with becoming the best player that the NBA has ever seen and he has stopped at nothing to achieve it.  There's been feuds with coaches and teammates and some say that Bryant is even responsible to single handed breaking up the last true dynasty in the NBA, the Lakers team that began the millennium.  In his mind Bryant can do no wrong i.e. the departure of Shaquille O'Neal from the Lakers.  During the summer of 2004 Bryant had threatened to leave the Lakers for the Clippers and seemed serious about it.  The relationship between he and O'Neal was fractured beyond repair and once the Lakers moved O'Neal to the Miami Heat, Kobe Bryant signed a 7 year contract with the Lakers the next day.  The timing of Bryant's new contract spoke volumes.  The Lakers had made their choice and good or bad they had to live with it.  Kobe's profile skyrocketed and the "Black Mamba" was born but it was at the cost of several disastrous seasons for the franchise.

Kobe's move to run O'Neal out of town was finally validated 5 years later as Bryant began a string of 3 straight NBA Finals appearances, losing the first and winning the final two.  Not without the help of Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant had once again returned to the throne that he had grown obsessed with; capturing 4 and 5.  The Los Angeles Lakers are used to winning championships in bunches but in the NBA Championship teams/contenders usually only have a shelf life of about 3 years....the kings have their reign and then they die.......

A Thunderous End..............

As they always seem to do, the Los Angeles Lakers have regrouped and added star power but the one constant for the last 17 seasons has been Bryant or what is left of the Bryant that we once knew.  The additions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash were supposed to propel the Lakers to the top and they still might, these things often take time but that's the very problem that the Lakers are faced with.....time.  Howard and Nash are not 100% and the Lakers are a bunch that are long in the tooth.  They've already endured a coaching change this season and question still remain about their defense but yet Bryant is that constant, trying to will the franchise for his own gain, that elusive number six.  If championship were won on will alone, all great NBA players would have one but sadly that's not the case.  The West's franchises growing in strength as the Lakers are seemingly in decline is no coincidence as the last two seasons the Lakers have been eliminated from the playoffs in embarrassing fashion.  The Lakers currently face great threats from the Grizzlies, Spurs, and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

If the Lakers are to overcome the challengers that were mentioned above will the Black Mamba be able to lead them to victory or will it be a new Bryant, an incarnation of Bryant that we haven't seen before.  Known for being aggressive at all times on the court, Bryant has never come across a shot that he doesn't like but now in the twilight of his career Bryant must do something that he was forced to do early in his career.......he has to become the second option.  Kobe Bryant will have to accept the role of being selfless and defer to the Lakers prized off season acquisition Dwight Howard.  VI is not even feasible if Dwight Howard isn't allowed to take his place among the Lakers greatest centers, Mikan, Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar, and O'Neal.

Acquiring IV would be a great Christmas gift for Bryant and perhaps the final milestone that'll be reached in his career but it's a gift that he'll have to wait until June to capture.  In the eyes of many, IV would be a coronation for Bryant and the cementing of his greatness next to the standard bearer, MJ.  Once his career is over, Bryant will have more points scored, more assists dished out, and more rebounds grabbed than MJ but it is the elusive IV that will truly make the defining statement and bring finality to a Hall of Fame career, one that will leave Bryant on a list of the top 5 players to ever play the game.  What does he have left to give.............................................VI