Is Kobe an NBA great?

On Monday, Kobe Bryant announced to the world that this would be the last season of his 20-year career. Yes, Kobe is retiring.

In a poem released on the Players Tribune website, Kobe wrote "this season is all I have left to give."

He added later at a media event: "I've known for a while. A decision like this, you can't make that decision based on outside circumstances.

"It has to be an internal decision, and finally I've decided to accept that I can't actually do this anymore, and I'm OK with that.

"It takes a weight off my shoulders and everybody else's."

The 37-year-old has spent his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning five NBA championships with the storied franchise.

But what exactly is Kobe's legacy. Is he truly one of the greatest players to ever grace the court?

Kobe's legacy will be hard to explain to future generations, especially as he's continued to play through three ineffective and injury-marred seasons.

It's this persistence which has perhaps defined Kobe's career, a player who would rather shoot 0 for 30 than 0 for 9 as he once told Gotham Chopra, the director of a Bryant documentary.

Indeed, Kobe has missed more shots than any other player in NBA history with 13,919 missed field-goal attempts, surpassing John Havlicek's record 13,417. In all likelihood, Kobe will surpass 14,000 missed attempts this season, if he stays fit.

But then, Kobe has always been a volume player. As mentioned, he leads attempts missed, but Kobe is also third, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone, in field-goal attempts.

For the Lakers, he has played more games than Abdul-Jabbar, played more minutes than Elgin Baylor and is in the top five for career rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, free throws, three-pointers, fouls and turnovers.

But as Kobe will tell you, the five championships the Lakers have won with him justify every miss, every turnover and every foul.

It's also his confidence in his own ability that led to one of the greatest performances in modern basketball when Kobe dropped 81 points, the second most in NBA history, on the Toronto Raptors in 2006.

In 42 minutes on the court, Kobe shot 28 for 46 from the field, 7-of-13 from three-point range and 18-of-20 from the line.

Ultimately, Kobe's legacy falls short of that of his idol, Michael Jordan, but it is hard to argue that he is the game's second-greatest shooting guard and one of the most accomplished players ever.

Chris Vermeulen

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