Kobe Bryant wants to win this NBA championship.
Anyone who fails to realize that can't read body language because, at this moment, Bryant's body is using terms we simply aren't permitted to use here.
But Kobe Bryant doesn't need to win this NBA championship.
Not for any legacy, validation or argument about his greatness.
Bryant's legacy is as golden as the jersey he'll be wearing in Game 7. He could retire during the national anthem Thursday and they'd still build him a statue outside Staples Center.
His career needs more validation like Lamar Odom needs more shampoo. Eight times he has been on the All-NBA team. Eight times he has been on the All-Defensive team. He has been MVP of the All-Star Game, the Finals and the league.
His greatness cannot be questioned any more successfully than his fadeaway jumper still can be defended. Bryant has won four championships and, just for emphasis, done so with two distinctively different teams.
The only significant gap -- and we're using that term just for the sake of argument -- in Bryant's resume was filled exactly a year ago when he won everything without getting anything from Shaquille O'Neal.
Understand a fact right here: We aren't in any Kobe Bryant fan clubs. We've been critical of his play, his arrogance and his whining for fouls -- and that has just been during these playoffs.
We don't believe Bryant, in his most complete form, is Michael Jordan's equal because Jordan, despite also possessing a maniacal drive to win and unquestioned arrogance, remained likeable throughout his career.
But the idea that winning Game 7 now -- and only by winning Game 7 now -- will complete Bryant is the talk of fools. We all should be so fortunate to live such incomplete lives.
So Bryant has yet to win a title by beating a collection of players wearing Celtics uniforms. That's what this suddenly is all about? Seriously?
Bryant will not be facing Bill Russell or Larry Bird or even Jerry Sichting in this next game. Thursday night has nothing to do with what Jerry West or Magic Johnson did in other eras.
It makes for a nice portrait, the symmetry of the two most successful franchises in NBA history occupying yet another all-time moment together. But, like every other picture, there's no real substance beyond what can be seen.
We get it, OK, all the history between these franchises. But Magic versus Bird was a rivalry that changed college basketball, that defined the NBA for a stretch, that they're still writing books about.
A quarter century from now, is anyone going to be writing volumes about Kobe versus The Truth? Is anyone going to remember who was nicknamed The Truth?
West famously never beat the Celtics in the Finals. There was a time when this was a topic people often discussed. People, though, used to talk about cordless phones, too.
Please realize that there are generations of Lakers fans, some of whom probably own No. 44 gold jerseys, who don't even know West never beat Boston for a title.
With the all-time greats, history remembers the good things way longer than the bad. And in the example of Bryant, he has provided so many more things that will be recalled first.
If this is all about history, which is what we're being told over and over, Bryant's failure to topple the evil Celtics wouldn't survive the test of time. Besides, like we said, he will topple Boston shortly.
A poll on ESPN's Web site this week asked where Bryant belongs in the argument about the NBA's all-time great players and how winning this series would impact his position. One of the answers was nowhere, meaning he isn't even among the best.
Kobe Bryant is among the greatest players to ever dribble a basketball. He might never be the best, but he's close enough to the top -- and right now, we mean -- to high-five anyone considered No. 1.
Think of it this way: If basketball's all-time pickup game was staged and let's say Jordan and Magic were named captains, do you actually think both of them would make four selections before picking Bryant? Please.
Winning Game 7 won't make Bryant's career. It's already made. This victory will only make a great career greater.
Y! Sports: For Roy Hibbert, a sense of ownership means knowing he should have fought to get in the game with two seconds remaining in overtime, when his absence allowed LeBron James to hit the winning lay-up.
Going the distance
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Video: NBA from NBC Sports
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