Monday, February 27, 2012

When You've Come to the Abyss

When Kobe Bryant moved ahead of Shaquille O'Neal into fifth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list, an interesting conversation began. Three sportswriters on ESPN sat and wondered, "Where will Kobe stand among the greats of all time?"

Kobe, a 6'7" shooting guard, has amassed points, assists, rebounds - five NBA Championships - and is consistently voted to the NBA's all-defensive first team. Yet, one writer remarked: "I have trouble putting him up there with the best of all time when he has only one MVP," (the honor bestowed annually upon the league's best player). The writer added: "In fact, Steve Nash (who has won two MVP awards) has as many as Kobe and Shaq combined."

Suddenly, things got quiet - the sportswriters had gotten a glimpse into the abyss. None of them liked what they saw, and they turned away.

What the writers saw was a glimpse of themselves and their own petty ways of determining who is worthy of their favor. These sportswriters who vote for MVPs and Hall of Fame honorees have long ago forgotten themselves. They see athletes and imagine themselves their equals; they are emboldened by the privilege they enjoy sitting in judgment at critical moments in these athletes lives. They borrow on their positions as arbiters - expect to be courted, and liked. They are ruled by slights, and what they fancy to be personality clashes with athletes who reject them. They strive to even the score with their pens.

Steve Nash, a 6'1" point guard is a fine player. He is well-liked and a skilled passer and shooter. He has never been - and will never be - considered among the league's greats. Yet, this player - who won no titles, and was a poor defender - received the coveted MVP award twice during the same years when Kobe, a true all-time great, only received it once. One year, Kobe scored 80 points in one game! - on his way to winning the league's scoring title. That same year, he was named to the NBA's all-defensive team. Still, they awarded Nash the MVP.

In the sports world, MVP awards matter; their value grow with the aging of the athlete. When the ball stops bouncing, these awards become the pole upon which the athlete unfurls his legacy.

Kobe is known worldwide as a player who leaves it all on the floor…year after year after year. And you only once call "The Kobe" the league's most valuable player?

Today, these sportswriters stare into the proverbial abyss. Unfortunately, when you've gone so far that you can see into the abyss, it is already too late to do anything about it.

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