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Wednesday, June 19
The Indiana Daily Student

Kobe may not be Jordan, but he’s close

It’s been 371 days since Kobe Bryant demanded a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers. 371 days since Kobe told ESPN reporter Stephen A. Smith there was absolutely nothing the Lakers could do to make him continue his already legendary career with the team. In those 371 days everything has changed. Kobe has played in all 97 games for the Lakers since then, including regular and postseason contests.\nUnless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, I’m sure you’ve either seen or heard about Kobe’s in-depth interview with Stephen A. Smith on May 30, the one-year anniversary of Kobe’s trade demand. \n“It’s amazing what a year does,” Kobe said with a semi-confused look on his face. \nYeah, I’ll say. But did anybody really think the Lakers would send him packing? I never bought it for one second. But what did change over the past year? Maybe it was his “emotional” meeting with head coach Phil Jackson last May. Or maybe he realized that his remaining contract that consisted of four more years during which he would make a total of $88.6 million is pretty good. Or it could have been the Lakers’ decision to trade Kwame Brown to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for the ultra-productive Pau Gasol, who was the 2002 NBA Rookie of the Year. I’m going to guess that all of the above were factors.\nKobe has officially made a true believer out of me. I know he’s been dominating his entire career, and has impressed all season, winning his first MVP award, leading his team during the regular season in points per game with 28.3 and an impressive 31.9 in this year’s playoffs so far. I’m late to jump on the bandwagon, but there’s a reason why it’s taken me until now to fully embrace Kobe.\nHe has been compared to Michael Jordan for quite some time now, but Jordan always made his teammates better and made himself a complete player. I was always skeptical of how Kobe handled tough situations, such as his dispute with the Lakers last year (or over the past few years, for that matter) and his relationship with Shaquille O’Neal. \nKobe appears to have long put all of his issues behind him. He seems more focused than ever, and he is making all of his teammates better. Pau Gasol has stepped up, and Lamar Odom is playing inspired. The rest of the team looks to Kobe for guidance and leadership. And each and every game he delivers, playing with the heart of a champion. All throughout these playoffs Kobe said he could smell the NBA Finals. Well, now he is there once again, and it’s no surprise to me.\nIt’s obvious that Kobe doesn’t welcome the comparisons to Jordan. \nWhen Stephen A. Smith asked him about them, he responded by saying, “Let me do me. He’s the greatest of all-time. Michael is Michael.”\nI’m sure Kobe knows it’s an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as his Airness.\nI’m not sure if Kobe is better than or even as good as Jordan, but it’s safe to say that he might be the closest thing we’ll ever see. So watch and appreciate Kobe in this year’s NBA Finals. And don’t be surprised if he drops 40 points on the Celtics on Thursday in Game 1 or steps up even more in a big way. After all, Kobe is Kobe and that’s what he does.

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