POSTED: Nov 27, 2014 11:02 AM ET
TNT's Craig Sager gets Kobe Bryant's thoughts after a playoff game in 2010.
I have two sons, Craig Jr. (who is 26) and Ryan (8). Ask either of them who their favorite player is and, without hesitation, each will say "Kobe."
Kobe Bryant is the most fundamentally sound, physically blessed, single-minded athlete I have ever been around. His popularity, which spans a generation, is built around a slam-dunk championship, two Olympic Gold Medals, four NBA All-Star MVPs and five NBA titles. He holds numerous NBA records, including the not-so-flattering mark set in mid-November for most career field goal misses. (Through Monday night, it is at 13,527 and counting.)
The most recent record set by Kobe is by no means a reflection of his ability to shoot a basketball, but rather a testament to his longevity and resolve to carry his team. Kobe realizes his biggest strength is also his biggest weakness. He told his Lakers teammates, "Sometimes I shoot too much. It's not because I don't want to pass. I don't see you at all. My mind is built on scoring".
Kobe's mindset can create a rift among teammates and pose a challenge to coaches. In the book "Mad Game: The NBA Education of Kobe Bryant," by Roland Lazenby, Kobe's coach for 11 years, Phil Jackson, said, "Because Kobe is such a dynamic and idiosyncratic player, suddenly everybody's sense of rhythm was broken". Eventually Kobe made the necessary adjustment to be integrated into Jackson's triangle offense and flourished with five NBA championships.
Pursuit of Greatness
GameTime discusses Kobe Bryant's milestone quest to break Michael Jordan's scoring record.
Kobe isn't the only legend to see both ends of the spectrum in the NBA. Hall of Famer Jerry West, Mr. Logo, led the Lakers into the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics six times from 1962 until 1969 and lost all six. Yet West's clutch image is the face of the NBA. Although he holds the mark for Finals futility, West did win an NBA title in 1972 against the New York Knicks. And his record for the highest scoring average in a playoff series -- 46.3 a game in a six-game series in 1965 against the Baltimore Bullets-- has survived the test of time.
Lenny Wilkens holds the distinction of being the only person to be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. Until Don Nelson became the NBA's winningest coach in 2010, the mark was held by Wilkens (1,332) -- as is the record for most career losses (1,155).
The ability to overcome failure and achieve greatness isn't confined to the basketball court. Baseball's Reggie Jackson defined the idea of coming through when the pressure is the greatest. Yet "Mr. October" holds the record for striking out more often than any player in baseball history (2,579), too.
Each year NFL teams strive to capture the Vince Lombardi trophy. Yet Lombardi, who won five NFL titles in eight years with Green Bay, had a difficult time launching his coaching career because a so-called expert said he, "possesses minimal football knowledge."
Outside of the sports world the tales of overcoming failure and achieving greatness are abundant. Entrepreneur Ted Turner was told CNN was not an accredited organization and never would be; retailer F.W. Woolworth was let go at the dry goods store for having no sense of customers; manufacturer Henry Ford went broke five times; and visionary Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for lack of ideas.
While there are some who find Kobe's record for misses an embarrassment and fodder to criticize him, I believe Kobe when he says he hasn't given it a second thought. And as Kobe prepares for his next game and his next shot with physical conditioning and conscious planning unsurpassed in the game today, I can say only this: Keep on shooting.
Craig Sager is an analyst and sideline reporter for TNT.