Monday, September 18, 2017

DUAL PERSPECTIVES: Chymere A. + Stik Braxton | Who was the Better Kobe...8 or 24??

CBS Sports
In honor of our mutual favorite retiring both of his no. 8 and no. 24 jerseys in December 2017,  3 months exactly from today, Braxton and I compared notes on which version of Kobe Bryant was the better Kobe. Whether you were a fan or not, one thing all basketball fans can agree on, the Black Mamba has always been in competition with himself. Always. The Sky Box Suite was long overdue for a fresh take on the 'DUAL PERSPECTIVES' series with one of the greatest basketball debates to get into: who was the better Kobe...8 or 24?



Chymere's choice: Mr. Kobe vs. everybody #8

Queues 'Can't Tell Me Nothing' by Kanye West ]


Determining that no. 8 was classic, and therefore, the best version of Kobe is more of sentimental decision than actual numbers and statistics. This was the Kobe who made me love basketball more than just hooping with my dad; he literally changed the game for me. Generations before me had notable names like Dr. Jay, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan even, listed as their heroes and mine was Kobe Bean Bryant. Entering the league with this overtly cocky-almost unbearable-larger than life attitude, and from 1996 on, I loved every minute it. It's almost like he had a point to prove. To be a star in this game, or even on a team with clout like the Los Angeles Lakers already owned in the early 90's, you had to believe in your own greatness, you had to play on nothing but heart, and you had to know that the love of the game transcended above everything else. From day 1, Kobe has had that competitive edge and drive to remain great.  

Photo credit: Michael Conroy/Associated Press
Let's fast forward to the Lakers' 2001-2002 historic three-peat, which was - essentially - the final hoorah of the Shaq-Kobe era, although they managed to survive one more season, that was easily one of the most iconic basketball duos of all time. It was one of those partnerships that fans still have a hard time letting go of, simply because they were better on, if that makes sense. Players just don't seem to have that same chemistry to hold each other accountable anymore, aside from maybe Westbrook-Durant and James-Wade. To this day, some say that Kobe couldn't lead the team without Shaq, but Braxton will clarify that soon. In the mean time, here is a wrap up of KB #8 milestones:

Accolades:

  • 4 NBA Finals appearances
  • 3 Championships 
  • 8 All-Star Game appearances {see my 2003 NBA All-Star Throwback}
  • 1997 slam dunk contest championship
  • 6 All-Defense selections
  • average ppg by 2003: 32

Recall back to his epic 81-point game back in 2006 against the Raptors. Not only was that a pretty remarkable career milestone, prime-time Kobe was hungry - I would dare to say starving - to win. At that point, he was immersed in his natural element in full mode beast mode; he simply could not be stopped. The downside was that he wasn't a big fan of sharing/passing the ball, but man...you could not tell me he wasn't the best player in the league at the time. Careful not to discredit what he was able to accomplish in #24 era, no. 8 Kobe Bean Bryant reigns supreme in my eyes.

Braxton's choice: Greatness Personified #24 

Photo credit: Harry How/Getty Images
As stated before, number 8 is very much a Hall of famer on his own.  With his list of accomplishments as Chymere stated, his resume during this time really speaks for itself.  But even with that, number 24 is just on another level.  In addition to two more scoring titles, #24 had 10 more All-Star appearances, 7 All NBA First Team selections, and 5 All Defensive First Team selections.  More importantly, he was able to add two accolades that eluded him as he wore number 8.  Kobe won his only MVP as number 24 and added two Finals MVPs as well.  


Speaking of Finals MVPs, it could be argued that number 8 was the better Kobe because he actually won three rings vs 24’s two.  But according to a popular theory that I myself don’t subscribe to, number 8 wasn't “Batman” on those teams.  Many will say he didn’t really earn those and just rode Shaq’s coattails to his first three rings.  If you want to use that horrible theory, that’s fine although it’s a little ridiculous.  However, no one can make that argument with number 24.  There was no doubt who was leading those teams to victory.  Kobe put on all time performances and ended up with more rings than Shaq at the end of their careers.  

Kobe Bryant gave us a lot of iconic moments and in both jerseys.  And yea, number 8 dropping 81 was one of those moments where you remember where you were when you saw it.  But for me there are three moments that really define the character and competitor that he was: 
  • 2009 Finals against the Orlando Magic:  Matt Barnes decides he’s going to be the guy who finally intimidates the Black Mamba.  While taking the ball out of bounds, Barnes does a very convincing pass fake DIRECTLY in Kobe’s face.  Any man would have flinched or been ready to fight immediately.  That may have been the day that Matt Barnes realized the Kobe Bryant wasn’t human or at least not a normal one and that Kobe was a different kind of beast; it didn’t even affect him.

  • Warriors vs. Lakers - April 12, 2013:  One week before my birthday, Kobe Bryant was taking on the Golden State Warriors before they became a cheat code.  The Dwight Howard-Steve Nash had been everything but what everyone thought it could be but Kobe had been on a tear during the final stretch of the season, determined to get the Lakers to the playoffs. Unfortunately, the stress of basically doing too much for the team finally caught up to him and he tore his Achilles tendon.  Now I’ve seen certain superstars struggle through cramps and had to be taken off the floor and I wouldn’t have blamed Kobe if he had to fall victim to the same fate.  But he didn’t.  He stayed in the game after the injury and shot his two free throws—and made them.  That gave Kobe 34 points in the game.  Oh and those two free throws?  Turns out that was just enough as the Lakers won by two. 
  • April 13, 2016:  Kobe’s final season was filled with a lot of things but vintage Kobe Bryant performances were few.  It was more of a celebratory tour than a great season.  But on the final game of his career, Kobe was able to turn back the clock and put in one of the greatest performances of all time.  I’m going to tell you this right now:  your favorite player isn’t going to drop 60 in his last game.  It’s just not going to happen.  Only Kobe could do something like that and hit the go-ahead bucket no less.  

Final Statements:

Chymere:  Like Stik stated, Kobe #8 vs. Kobe #24 is one of those sports debates that's impossible to reach a complete disagreement, especially for those who are die-hard Kobe fans like the two of us, or just Lakers fans in general. Now, I can argue all day with anyone who even thinks to not rank him as one of the greatest to ever do it, but I think we both made some valid points to defend who we thought was the better Kobe. It's one of those rare moments of the who's better sports debates where it's possible to stand on both sides. 

Braxton: The Lakers made the right decision by raising both jerseys, never to be worn by anyone ever again. They will run into this dilemma again when they eventually give Kobe a statue.  As much as I appreciate everything that Kobe #8 did for the game, I think it’s the more cerebral #24 who will end up being remembered more by fans for years to come.

Now, it's your turn: Who do you think was better...8 or 24?
Feel free to leave your thoughts below in the comment section! 

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