Perhaps the most important trait that separates great ones from The Greatest of All Time is the relentless drive to be the very best. It is not a learned trait. It is natural.
Kobe Bryant has it.
Other current NBA players may have a dose of it, but it is negligible when compared to Bryant, who has spent much of his career – particular the late ’90s and early 2000’s – being compared to the fanatically driven Michael Jordan.
To his credit, Bryant always dismissed that silliness even though there is little doubt that he has earned the distinction of at least being in Mr. Jordan’s neighborhood.
It is cheap to say there will never be anyone better than a former or current player, because who knows? Maybe one day there will be another Clark Kent.
But we can assess the past and present, and these truths seem self-evident: There has never been a basketball player better than Michael Jordan, just as there has never been a boxer better than Muhammad Ali, a phenomenon greater than Elvis, a football player better than Jim Brown, a group better than the Beatles, a television show better than The Wire, a baseball player more legendary than Babe Ruth, a hot dog better than one made by a New York street vendor, a performer more electrifying than Michael Jackson, or a fast food better than a hamburger.
And there is no one in the NBA at this time who is better than Kobe Bryant, even though in the last few years it has become popular to rank others ahead of him. Even Laker legend Jerry West said two years ago that LeBron James had passed Kobe.
With all due respect sir — hardly.