Just a few days after the terrible news, the grief is still raw and the NBA world is still struggling to accept it - Kobe Bryant is no more. One of NBAs all time greats met with an unfortunate accident that led to his untimely demise, along with his daughter and seven others in a tragic helicopter crash in California. As wishes and prayers to the Bryant family are pouring in from every corner of the world, basketball fans are remembering Kobe's legacy and the lessons we can learn from his illustrious career.
Fondly called the Black Mamba for his never-quit mentality and ridiculous work ethic, Kobe has given us a plethora of things to dissect and learn from. While there's been plenty of discussion about his commitment to the craft and his basketball acumen, this article focuses on something different. It's about a bad habit that the media and sports fans have when it comes to incessantly comparing two great athletes. Or as the internet likes to call it - The GOAT Debate.
What is the GOAT debate?
GOAT, acronym for Greatest Of All Time, refers to a player who has no equal when it comes to his sport. Irrespective of the era they played in or how the game has evolved, the GOAT is supposed to be better than everyone else. It's a way for fanbases to glorify their heroes and keep them relevant long after they retire.
But why is the GOAT debate flawed? Because it can never be answered.
No matter how many numbers we crunch, no matter how many tapes we rewind, the GOAT debate will never have a right answer because we are almost always comparing legends who played in different generations. Would Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls beat Lebron James's Miami Heat team if they somehow played against each other? Would Shaquille O'Neal be able to guard Wilt Chamberlain? Was Diego Maradona a better dribbler of the ball better than Lionel Messi? Was Rod Laver's backhand more graceful than Roger Federer's is? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Hypothetical questions can only get hypothetical answers.
Does that mean we can compare players who played in the same era? Well, just ask Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi fans who have been at war since a decade. Or Federer and Nadal fans, who have been coming up with that 'one last stat as proof that settles it all' since the last fifteen years. These debates are bound to go on forever.
What Kobe taught us about these debates
What does Kobe Bryant's life got to do with the GOAT debates? Everything.
As soon as Kobe made his mark as a talented rookie in the NBA, the comparisons with Michael Jordan began. While the Laker guard had to deal with this for the first half of his career, the second half was filled with comparisons to the next-gen star - LeBron James.
As one of the fiercest competitors the game has ever seen, Kobe relished the comparisons while he was playing. But he surprised everyone by doing something once he hung up his boots: He moved on. The Black Mamba set his goals on other things in life, and didn't care about whether or not he was the 'GOAT' anymore. Even if he had tried hard his entire career to outshine Jordan, Kobe showed there is more to life than stats and trophies.
Today, after losing a special person like Kobe Bryant at a young age, we can't help but applaud how unique he was, his impeccable talent, and his charming personality. Comparing him to someone else now feels like an insult to his legacy. If at all we learnt something from this, it is to appreciate how lucky we are, as sports fans, to witness athletes like Kobe Bryant. It's time we take a small break from the meaningless comparisons and debates, and appreciate what we have before it's too late.