Kobe Bryant’s Hero Complex Drove Him To Greatness
I’m a diehard Lakers fan. Magic Johnson was my sports hero as a child, and it was with his team that my loyalties were attached. The appeal of Magic for me was 3-fold: his infectious smile, his competitiveness, and his unselfishness. The charisma and enthusiasm he had for life and basketball drew me to him, to enjoy basketball, and sports. I admired how hard he worked and how bad he wanted to win. His passing ability and overall ability to make those around him better was how I desired to be as a player. There has never been anyone quite like him.
Kobe Bryant is different. I’ve thought about what I wanted to say about a player I grew up as an adult watching. Kobe is just a couple months older than me, so my view of him has been different. I appreciate greatness in whatever phase of life, but sports is my field. It’s what I know and understand best. I’ve been thinking a lot leading up to his last game what I’d say to encapsulate what he was all about. What angle should I take? What can I say that hasn’t already been said a thousand times?
Kobe wasn’t unique like Magic. He didn’t want to be unique. He wanted to be like Mike. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery they say. He believed Mike was the best, and wanted to be just like him. Actually, he wanted to copy and improve upon him. He wanted more points. More buzzer beaters. More commercials. More rings.
Kobe Bryant can be described in many positive and negative ways. Just because I’m a fan, doesn’t mean I’m not aware of all the flaws. Basketball failures. Human failures. He came up short of perfect in many ways. We can have that conversation some day, but I prefer not to at this moment. He wasn’t the best at everything, and quite honestly I don’t think he cared about some of those things the way we as fans and media do.
The one thing to me that made Kobe stand out, for better and for worse, more than any other athlete I can remember in my lifetime; he cared about being the star more than anyone. Kobe Bryant wanted glory. Kobe Bryant wanted to win, and he wanted to win on his terms. He wanted top billing because he felt he earned top billing.
Unlike Magic, Kobe was driven by his selfishness. He wanted everything. He wanted to win. He wanted to be the star. He wanted the last shot. He wanted to be the hero.
Kobe had an ego. Most people that are great at anything do. When talent meets work ethic meets knowledge and then success occurs, ego emerges.
In some respects, Kobe Bryant’s greatest strength was his greatest weakness. He understands basketball as well as anyone ever has. His IQ is off the charts. But his ego, his desire to be the greatest, to be the star, to be the man would not allow for him to always make the right play because he wanted to do it. He didn’t always trust someone else who may not have been working as hard.
Naturally, this is an overstatement. Kobe Bryant wasn’t always selfish. I don’t mean for this opinion to sound negative at all. Some degree of selfishness is required for greatness. Being the best teammate and best player don’t always go together. Phil Jackson and Shaq suppressed him, but probably were the best thing for him developing as more than just a scorer who had to do it all by himself. Jordan had to suffer longer than people remember attempting to do just that before Phil arrived in Chicago. Without Shaq and Phil, Kobe may have become the game’s greatest scorer, but he never would have achieved the glory he desired and is only found by winning titles.
Kobe Bryant wanted to win, he wanted to be the best, and he wanted that glory more than anyone. Nobody that ever wanted to be the hero ever worked harder for it. For better and for worse. That’s his lasting legacy to me.