• Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

December 5, 2015, Troy, NY  In 1998, Sprite engineered an ad campaign that would combine hip hop and basketball. It featured old school rap pioneers, The Cold Crush Brothers and The Fantastic Five with an assist from Missy Elliott. The basketball was supplied 2 of the NBA’s brightest young stars, Kobe Bryant of the LA Lakers and Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs. Bryant in his 2nd season, was voted into his 1st All Star Game as a starter though he was still a reserve for the Lakers. Duncan, in his inaugural season, was selected as a reserve and went on to win the Rookie of The Year. Their potential was unlimited. Kobe the consummate showman after winning the Slam Dunk Contest as a rookie and Duncan being selected no. 1 overall in ’97. Bryant was the latest HS to NBA wunderkind while Duncan took a more traditional path, playing 4 years at Wake Forest. Both possessed high basketball IQs along with an abundance of fundamental skills.

Kobe was called the next, Michael Jordan and Duncan was the most NBA ready player to enter the league in ages. Bryant had a tendency towards selfish play while Duncan fit in immediately due to an understated style and teamwork. Each exemplified greatness in their own way. Bryant was a media darling, drawn to the limelight of Hollywood appearing in commercials, sitcoms and recording a rap album. Duncan on the other hand eschewed the spotlight. Their teams staged numerous playoff wars in a battle for Western Conference supremacy. Duncan has remained low key throughout his career, seldom showing emotion on or off the court. He has 5 NBA titles, 3 Finals MVPs, 2 regular season MVPs to go along with his Rookie of The Year award. Bryant also has 5 titles, 2 Finals MVPs and 1 regular season one in his career.

Bryant during his prime from 2005-2007, the Lakers missed the postseason once and were eliminated in the 1st round back to back seasons, though he would win 2 scoring titles. Duncan won 2 NBA titles during this same period providing scoring, rebounding and interior defense. Bryant became frustrated and demanded a trade, because of course it wasn’t his fault, it was his teammates’. Bryant, after receiving reinforcements, was able to win back to back titles in 2009 and 2010.The paths diverge after Bryant won has last title in 2010.

Duncan always an outstanding passer, de-emphasized statistics, allowing others to shine. Bryant since his last title run has played for 4 different head coaches from 2011 to present. Duncan has been the consummate teammate spending his entire career under head coach Gregg Popovich’s tutelage.  Kobe’s physical deterioration has him unable to dominate and is reflected in ESPN’s preseason ranking of him as the NBA’s 93rd best player in his 20th and final season, all with the Lakers. Father Time is the only undefeated opponent in sports, Duncan for the first time in his career, went an entire game without a rebound versus the Pelicans.

Both careers are winding down, Bryant chose to sign a cap clogging contract extension to become the highest paid player for the current season. Duncan, in his 19th season, all with the Spurs, signed a cap friendly deal allowing San Antonio the flexibility needed to acquire LaMarcus Aldridge, who was also pursued by the Lakers. Duncan is a beloved figure, so much so that David West gave up over $11M in guaranteed money to sign with the Spurs in hopes of winning an elusive title. The Lakers have been unable to sign marquee free agents the past three offseasons. Bryant remains a large impediment with a huge ego and unwillingness to relinquish his grasp of being the focal point. Duncan has chosen to focus on defense and rebounding, providing a stark contrast to Bryant’s one dimensional play which has resulting in an alarmingly low FG%. With their careers winding down, one has his own agenda and the other does not. Check the standings to see who is who.

By Vernon McKenzie

Graduate of New Institute Of Technology with a BA in Communications with a focus on Television Radio. Owner and Executive Producer of PureSportsNY

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