They’re considered the two premier shooting guards of this generation. Both have won championships, Finals MVPs and both are on their way to the Hall of Fame. But was this year a passing of the torch? Have we seen the last of Kobe Bryant‘s reign? Is Dwyane Wade really better than him? Or will the Black Mamba come back next year refocused and eager to take his throne and cement his place as the best two-guard in the game?
Kobe or Wade. We argue. You decide.
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I remember the first time I beat my dad in ping-pong.
Growing up, we had a table in the garage. Summer time was ping-pong season for us. Each night I would beg my dad to play. My mom hated it because she knew things always ended badly, but he loved playing too much to say no. Five minutes into the game, I’d be in my room getting chewed out for throwing my paddle against the wall. I hated losing. But that was the drill. I’d go down early, immediately snap into Ron Artest-mode and the game would be over.
But he got older and I got better. And one day I beat him. I remember the day because we played for more than five minutes. He was in shock after the first game. I was too. He immediately challenged me to a second game. I beat him again. Another challenge. Another win. I went 4-0 that day and never looked back. His pong-ping game had peaked. He was over the hill. Mine – ascending to new heights each and every day.
Kobe Bryant is my dad in this story – a sadistic killer, dominant for so many years, ruthlessly crushing opponents (me and my little brother) without pity or mercy. But dominance can’t last forever. Knees and ankles can’t either. Kobe’s gotten old. He’s lost a step and there’s no denying that. He’s forced to rely on his jump shot now like never before. His ability to blow by defenders is no longer there and his explosiveness at the rim is simply in the past. He has to pick his spots now, choosing when to exert maximum energy. He’s also become craftier, scoring with pump fakes and sneaky scoop shots. His post game and footwork have improved, but only because scoring has become that much more difficult. When is the last time you saw Kobe go scoreless (Game 4 vs. New Orleans) in the first half of a playoff game? My Laker friends refuse to admit it, but he’s over the hill. Like my dad’s ping-pong game, he’s peaked, and the rest of the field has caught up. Kobe will be 33 in August, with 15 years of NBA mileage. He’s getting old. But people do that. Humans get old. And believe it or not, Kobe is human.
Dwyane Wade plays me in this epic novel, except he’s already won a championship and didn’t get his ass kicked by his dad every night in one-on-one. Wade is at the peak of his powers, the top of his game. Remember at the start of the year when everyone and their mother argued that either LeBron or Wade would have to take a back seat to the other, that one of the two was going to take a significant hit in the scorer department? Well, all Wade did this year was finish third in the league in scoring (25.5 ppg) while shooting a blistering 50.0% from the field. Thus far in the playoffs, he’s averaging a career high 7.3 rebounds and is dominating defensively, averaging over three combined steals and blocks a game. He also ranks as the most efficient shooting guard in the playoffs per 48 minutes. Kobe is fifth. Flat out, Wade does more on the basketball court than Kobe. He scores and he defends. He attacks the basket and shoots jumpers. He puts pressure on the ball and erases layups. Yes, Kobe has had a more illustrious career. Yes, Kobe will go down as one of the greatest of all-time. But right now, Dwyane Wade is better than Kobe Bryant.