The Los Angeles Lakers have been busy doing two things this NBA season: trying to win games with a young core that includes D'Angelo Russell, Larry Nance Jr and Julius Randle; and celebrating the farewell tour of the great Kobe Bryant. With the imminent retirement of the Black Mamba, basketball big shots like Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade all have paid tribute to his career. In his last game against the Chicago Bulls, however, Bryant himself talked about the great Michael Jordan.
Recent reports revealed that Bryant had considered moving to the Chicago Bulls during his early years with the Los Angeles Lakers. However, the deal did not push through due to the demand of Shaquille O'Neal to be traded out of the Jordan Clarkson team at the time. The Black Mamba shared that he would have donned the Chicago Bulls uniform and held his farewell tour with Derrick Rose if O'Neal did not leave the Los Angeles Lakers then.
While the reason behind his move not to move to the Jimmy Butler squad is rational, some fans feel that Bryant might have feared not being able to leave up to the expectations. That is, the Black Mamba was not confident in his ability to perform on par with the Michael Jordan - a feat that no Chicago Bulls star has managed to accomplish to date.
"Do I seem like the type to cower to something like that?" responded Bryant to the insinuation, according to ESPN. He added, "C'mon, man. No."
The Black Mamba continued, "[If] I was fortunate enough to come here, if that trade had happened and I'd be here, it's not a pressure situation to live up to what he's done. It's more, can I carry on this man's legacy? Can I do it justice? Can I represent Chicago the way that it should be represented in his honor? Just a tremendous, tremendous amount of influence."
Instead of trying to beat Jordan, however, Bryant chose to imitate the competitiveness and determination of the Chicago Bulls legend. The Black Mamba revealed that he patterned his growth in the NBA with the path of his idol, even disclosing that he watched endless videos of Jordan to study the older player's moves. With the legacy he is about to leave the basketball community, it looks like Bryant succeeded. Throughout his career, the Los Angeles Lakers star has been dubbed as the Michael Jordan of his generation.
"[O]nce I came back to the States [and] I realized I wasn't going to be 6-9, I started studying Michael exclusively. And then when I came to the league and [was] matching up against him, what I found is that he was extremely open to having a mentor relationship and giving me a great amount of advice and an amazing amount of detail, strategies, workout regimen and things like that," shared Bryant.
He added, "Seriously, I don't think people really understand the amount of impact that he's had on me as a player and as a leader."
Meanwhile, the Black Mamba addressed the issue between him and O'Neal. Los Angeles Lakers fans would remember that the tension between the two NBA stars immediately started when Bryant entered the basketball squad. With a young talent practically taking over the Los Angeles Lakers in the hardwood court, O'Neal did not look kindly into his diminished role. Hence, he, later on, sought a trade and transferred to the Miami Heat in 2004.
"It was always the challenge of, 'Kobe can't win without Shaq,' right?" asked Bryant via USA Today, referring to the years he spent with O'Neal and the championship games they played together.
He went on to state, "If I had went my whole career and we had won championships, God bless you guys, but guys would be saying at the Hall of Fame, 'He won with Shaq.' I didn't want to hear that. I didn't want to hear it. Because I knew I had the determination to do it and it was either sink or swim. At some point I was going to take that challenge, and it was either you guys are right or I'm right. I had to take that challenge."