The marks of greatness Kobe Bryant displayed on the basketball court usually came with a disclaimer.
Bryant only won his first three NBA championships because of Shaq. He’ll never match Michael Jordan’s six rings, and if he does, the Bulls superstar will remain the better player anyway. Bryant may be the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer, but he’s not the greatest Laker because Magic Johnson is more likable and Jerry West won as an executive. There’s certainly no way Bryant can match Bill Russell’s 11 championship rings.
Well, it appears Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, holds an even higher standard for the Lakers star.
“I certainly would not want to be married to somebody that can’t win championships,” Vanessa said in an upcoming issue of New York Magazine. “If you’re sacrificing time away from my family and myself for the benefit of winning championships, then winning a championship should happen every single year.”
The two have faced more significant issues. Kobe admitted to infidelity in 2003 after facing sexual assault charges that were ultimately dropped. In December, Vanessa filed for divorce. It appears they are trying to reconcile differences; they have been seen together publicly, including at the 2012 Olympics with their two daughters, Natalia and Gianna.
But if Vanessa’s words are to be taken literally, the bar she set for Kobe to achieve basketball greatness seems awfully impossible to clear. Bryant has won five NBA championships, trailing only 13 other NBA players. Yet, by failing short of an NBA title in 11 of 16 seasons, Vanessa seems to suggest she mostly sees Kobe’s nonstop work ethic as a waste of time.
Hard to fault Bryant for his first few seasons when he’s just learning the ropes as a kid fresh out of high school. Hard to fault Bryant for not carrying the Lakers to NBA championships with the likes of Kwame Brown and Smush Parker. Hard to really scrutinize. Hard to fault Bryant for the time taken away from his family when he’s simply filling the job description of an NBA player working through a busy schedule.
But if Vanessa’s words are to be taken for what they are, it could just show that the couple shares the same competitive mindset. After the Lakers fell in a four-game sweep by the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 Western Conference semifinals, he called the season a “wasted year” of his life.
There’s been plenty of justifiable criticism, ranging from his high-volume shooting and his intensity going a tad too far. But by every other measure, Bryant’s career has been a monumental success. If it wasn’t for that unyielding drive and time-consuming commitment to excellence, he wouldn’t have squeezed so much out of an already accomplished career.
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