Is Kobe Bryant the NBA's Derek Jeter?

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Sports fans saying their goodbyes to Derek Jeter should save some for Kobe Bryant.

As the longtime Lakers star enters the final stages of his career, it may be time to start a Kobe farewell tour.

Derek Jeter played his last game of professional baseball last week, and sports fans everywhere were subjected to seemingly endless commercials and scenes of opposing teams showering the former Yankee shortstop with gifts.

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Will Bryant get the same treatment?

Jeter was an icon of class and professionalism. This article goes as far to say Jeter should be president. Another says Jeter is this generation’s Joe DiMaggio, referencing the center fielder’s handling of celebrity.

Bryant, on the other hand, is hardly regarded in the same way.

Bryant has a reputation of being a selfish teammate. He even admitted he can be a bit of a ball hog here, saying, “Getting 30 shots up ain’t easy.”

Don’t just take his word for it.

Future Hall of Famer Steve Nash, a teammate of Bryant, was asked to describe Bryant in three words for a Sports Illustrated feature. Nash’s response was hardly a ringing endorsement.

“Mother. F------. A------.”

Bryant reportedly said he loved the response, which is the most Kobe response to someone saying something that harsh.

Bryant’s performance on the court, though, is far from controversial.

5 rings. 1 MVP award. 2 NBA Finals MVPs. Member of the 30,000 point club. 2008 scoring champion.

It would be hard to build a case saying he isn’t one of the best of all time against those numbers. But where Bryant excels, Jeter falls short.

Case against Jeter

ESPN late night host Keith Olbermann recently did a story railing against the perception that Jeter was one of the greats. Using mostly statistics, Olbermann bashed the idea that Jeter’s stats are deserving of the farewell parade Jeter received.

The story caused an uproar on Twitter, causing Olbermann to start his show the following day with the quip, “You would have thought I insulted one of the best players of all time!” However, Olbermann does have a point.

Jeter never won an MVP award.

He never lead the American League in home runs, hits or RBI’s. Like Bryant, Jeter does have five championships. The majority came very early in his career, when Jeter was hardly considered ‘The Captain’ as he is referred to now.

I’m going to withhold my opinion on Jeter and his place in baseball history.

Compared to the Lakers ace?

But Bryant? Absolutely deserves to be in top ten players of all time. For that, he deserves to be recognized.

Will his controversial reputation stop him from getting that recognition?

Maybe. But I doubt it.

The American public is fairly forgiving. Especially when it comes to athletes.

Michael Vick, LeBron James, Ray Lewis. All athletes who overcame public relation nightmares.

When Bryant decides to retire, it’s hard to imagine fans refusing to acknowledge one of the game’s most marketed, popular and talented players for one of the league’s most storied franchises.

Whether they do or not, and when Bryant decides to retire, remains to be seen.

Kobe Bryant

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