The Equalizer Part 2: Cutthroat Kobe Bryant

He’s 35, but he isn’t that far removed from his fifth championship. In spite of his travails last season, Kobe Bryant represents a purely killer instinct that does not abate even after reflecting on the vestiges of prior failures. The Black Mamba is our second in a three-part series where we’ll give you the NBA stars who best represent an “Equalizer,” a person and a player who levels the playing field so everyone gets a fair shake. There aren’t many players capable of navigating the various obstacles blocking the bath to equanimity in the most dire of on-court situations, but our three Equalizers certainly fit the bill — both on and off the court. Nobody is steeped in the characteristics of an equalizer more than Kobe, perhaps the most reptilian of our choices, a man who will coldly do whatever it takes to get a victory.

[PREVIOUSLY: The Equalizer Part 1: LeBron James in Command]

The Mamba’s injury-plagued 2013-14 season only saw him appear in six games, offering feint glimmerings of a player considered one of the greatest of all time. Like LeBron, Kobe doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone, except to himself. But he’s always been his own harshest critic, and last season’s setback after an Achilles’ tendon tear didn’t allow him to compete in the 2013 Playoffs, just adds fuel to one of the most pathologically competitive people alive. Like when he twice blocked LeBron in the 2013 All Star Game:

It’s almost like Kobe’s injury has lulled fans outside of Los Angeles into thinking he’s done. It’s a popular technique of the Mamba itself, and even though the Lakers have lost most of the players from Kobe’s back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010, they’ve got the man himself. Perhaps he’s lost a half-step, but he’s made up for it in experience. There isn’t much Kobe hasn’t seen on a basketball court, and his adherence to the seemingly unimportant fundamentals like foot work, spacing and the tiny inches players work all offseason long to claim, can be the difference between a win or a loss. Kobe has owned those inches, and the edge they provide for the last 18 years.

Now, in the twilight of his career, Kobe’s will to do whatever’s necessary for a win will crystallize until all that’s left is that strident yearning to dominate. That’s how you know the Mamba is poised to strike; when you think you’re finally rid of him, he’s snapping back stronger than ever. No one else has Kobe, and that threat of attack still pervades the air around him every time he’s on the hardwood.

Tell us who you would choose as an NBA Equalizer using #TheEqualizer. Come back next week as we explain why Kevin Durant joins LeBron and Kobe as our final on-court Equalizer.

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