Metta World Peace, the Artest formerly known as Ron, played with and against some of the greatest players in NBA history, including a few years alongside Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, and plenty of chances to guard LeBron James and Michael Jordan.
This experience gives World Peace some interesting perspective on the greatest of all time debate that’s been raging once again following James’ eighth-straight trip to the NBA Finals, an argument he weighed in on in his recently released autobiography, “No Malice: My Life in Basketball or: How a Kid from Queensbridge Survived the Streets, the Brawls, and Himself to Become an NBA Champion.”
I believe that Kobe is the best player of his generation. Tim Duncan is close because he’s got five rings, too. I’d also give Kobe the edge over LeBron, and maybe even Jordan, but it’s so hard when you try to compare players from different eras. Jordan does have one more ring than Kobe. I grew up a Michael Jordan fan, but he was at the end of his career by the time I got to the league. Kobe was only a year older than me, so I got to watch him evolve. Then, when I got to the Lakers, I was able to see him every day.
World Peace also got into some of the things that influenced him to believe that Bryant was the greatest of his generation:
Kobe was extremely tough. He could do everything. He had ever move. He could shoot, go right, go left, fade away, and even hit a three. He could go by you or over you. He was very athletic and that made him hard to play against. Kobe and Jordan had similar games. If you watch them closely, they have the exact same moves.
World Peace’s semantic distinction that Bryant is “the best player of his generation” and not “the best player ever, full stop” is an interesting one that allows some wiggle room here. Does he mean that Bryant is the best player of World Peace’s generation? Of Bryant’s? The answer isn’t totally clear, and World Peace even acknowledges that it’s difficult to compare players across eras.
Still, it’s interesting just how many of Bryant’s contemporaries cite him as the greatest player they ever played against. However, as Bryant has said himself, the debate is ultimately a frivolous and unwinnable one, and we can just acknowledge that all of these players are awesome and spend our time on more interesting pursuits.
Or we can keep yelling “KOBE BETTER” at each other on Twitter. Somehow the latter seems more likely.