Thursday, April 14, 2016

Kobe Bryant vs. Derek Jeter: It's No Comparison

Dear Henry,
      As the madness of Kobe Bryant's last game wears off, I wanted to share a few reflections. For those of my thousands upon thousands of readers across the vast expanse of the universe who perhaps do not follow the NBA, let me provide some background: At the beginning of this year, Kobe Bryant, undoubtedly one of the greatest NBA basketball players of all time, announced that he would be retiring after the season. Since his announcement, every game he played was part of a grand farewell tour, where people flocked to the games to watch his lousy team play. Fans from all over the country gave him thunderous ovations, acknowledging their appreciation for his contribution to the game of basketball. This week, as his final game approached, Kobe was the talk of the World. His nickname is the Black Mamba, and Twitter declared yesterday, April 13, his last game, to be #MambaDay. Kobe was the talk of all the Sports Talk Shows in the country.
     What I wanted to write to you about today though, is not about Kobe's career. Nor is it about how I personally find the whole Farewell Tour concept that he embraced to be distasteful, as it removes the focus from his team, and places it squarely on himself (in contrast, by the way, with how Peyton Manning walked away from the game.) What I wanted to write, oh Henry, is about a tweet I saw earlier in the week from the one and only Skip Bayless. Skip excitedly announced to his 1.8 million followers that on his show, The First Take, he would be debating with Stephen A Smith on the topic of who had a better career: Kobe Bryant, or Derek Jeter. Upon reading this seemingly innocent inconspicuous tweet, I felt a little bit of my Wheaties start to come up in my mouth. I thought to myself how Skip apparently did not read my brilliant masterpiece blogg about Snoop Dogg. I thought to myself, how truthfully, we can never compare any two people because everyone is so different and has such a unique set of life circumstances. BUT, if we do compare athletes, perhaps it would make sense to compare athletes in the same sport. And if we do compare athletes in the same sport, perhaps it makes sense to compare athletes who play the same position. And if we do compare athletes who play the same position, it makes sense to compare athletes who played in the same era. Thus, perhaps it would make sense to compare Kobe Bryant, a shooting guard, to other great shooting guards in the league at the time, like Dwayne Wade, or maybe even Michael Jordan, who briefly overlapped with Kobe. That, oh Henry, kind of makes sense,
      But to compare Kobe to Derek Jeter? Why do we need to do that? Can't we be content with the notion that they were both legendary athletes in their respective sports? Why can't that be good enough? Why do we need to compare apples with oranges, pickles with ground beef, and pianos with the beautiful tulips in my garden ? Each athlete had a unique role on his respective team, each won five championships, each was enormously successful. Do we say that Kobe was the better athlete since he could nail the three pointer better than Jeter could, or do we say Jeter was better because could snag a ground ball coming to him at short stop? What on earth am I missing? Why do we always have to be comparing people to each other? Why can't we just stop and appreciate each person's inherent worth in and of itself? Why can't we suffice to stop and acknowledge the impact each player had on his own team and sport?
      We need to stop comparing ourselves to others, and we need to stop comparing others to others. Every human being is unique and has a totally unique purpose in this world. We need to hope that each person realizes his/her mission, and becomes the best him/her that he can be. As I alluded to above, and as I quoted on these pages in February, we need to follow the example of Snoop Dogg: We "got to be doin' me. I don't know how to do nobody but me. It's hard doin' you but I could do me very well." 
      As a life long fan of sports, I am tremendously grateful that Kobe Bryant did Kobe Bryant and that Derek Jeter did Derek Jeter. We sports fans could not have asked for anything more.

Forever yours,
Danny Wolfe

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