Akeem Anderson (Sports Editor)Akeem AndersonChoice: Kobe BrayntGo ahead and call me crazy. People have been doing it for quite some time now. They called me crazy before the 81, and they will call me crazy after I finish this article, but crazy doesn’t negate truth.

And in this case, the truth is that Kobe Bryant will end his career as the greatest basketball player ever. And yes, that means even better than Michael Jordan. And here’s why…From day one Michael Jordan was tabbed as the savior of the Bulls franchise. He started all 82 games of his rookie year, a luxury Bryant never had. Labeled as a project coming out of high school, Bryant rode the bench behind the likes of Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel. He wouldn’t see decent playing time until his third year in the league.

And in Chicago, Jordan was the undisputed first option in each offense he was in. With the Bulls, Jordan had to defer to no one else, while Bryant was told for the first eight years of his illustrious career to pass the ball down low to Shaquille O’Neal. Ask yourself this question – would Jordan have even entertained the idea of being the second option. Probably not.

Given the opportunity and leeway that Jordan received, Kobe would have flourished as much as Jordan. If anything, the first half of Bryant’s career should be compared to that of Scottie Pippen’s because of his second-tier status on the team. Like Pippen, Bryant guarded the other team’s best player – check the tape of the Bulls’ first championship over the Lakers. Pippen guarded Magic Johnson, not Michael Jordan. And like Pippen, he also handled the ball coming up the court for the Lakers, which reduced him to a setup man in the offense not the aggressor.

Phil Jackson and the big “add a ridiculously unnecessary nickname” left town in ’04. The result: a liberated superstar who is finally able to impose his greatness. After shaking off an injury-plagued year in 2004 under Rudy Tomjonovich, Bryant’s made the announcement that he was in fact the heir to the throne.

With Jackson back on the sidelines in 2005, Bryant became the first option in the triangle offense, an opulent treat that Jordan enjoyed his whole career. With that one change, Bryant had a career year that could be rivaled only by Jordan himself. Bryant torched the Mavericks for 63 points in 33 minutes(he sat out the fourth quarter) and played the second best game in history with the 81 point outing against the Raptors. Jordan’s greatest game was a 69-point game against the Cavs in 1990, and it took him all four quarters to get that.

And Kobe was no more selfish than Mike was. That is evidenced by Jordan’s career high 49 shots against Orlando in ’93. If you’re taking score at home, that’s two more than Bryant’s career high.

Jordan had to contend with a more physical style of play in his era, but he never had to deal with a zone defense that Bryant faces today. A zone defense is designed to deny penetration and single-player dominance. The most effective way to break up a zone is to shoot your way out. The classic Jordan highlights may not be as flashy if he was forced to shoot 20-foot jumpers for an entire game.

If you take a look at their career numbers Jordan owns a clear victory. But all things must be equal, and they weren’t until after Shaq left the Lakers.

Defensively, Jordan has better stats, but was the beneficiary of an error that allowed for more physical play on defense. If Kobe was allowed to hand-check without being called for a foul in today’s game, he too would be lauded as a defensive genius. Still Bryant has seven All -NBA defensive team selections to solidify his defensive prowess.

In arguably Jordan’s best year, he averaged 35 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists. In Bryant’s most dominant year, he averaged 35.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists. Those stat lines are fairly close. What makes Bryant greater? The fact that even as a second option, he picked up three championship rings on his way to rivaling Jordan’s career numbers. True, Jordan has six rings, but three of them came in his prime.Don’t look now, but Bryant is just now entering into that elite stage of his career.

It’s kind of like the global warming theory. It hasn’t happened yet, but the signs of its effects are here. And so it is of Bryant’s career. He isn’t the greatest just yet, but folks, we can all see the signs.

I’ll admit it. When M.J. wowed and dominated the league for 13 seasons – the two years with the Wizards don’t count – I bought into the iconic image of an incomparable greatness that was never to be matched. But then I tuned in to a Lakers game in ’96. And in a moment of mental telepathy, I realized that I was looking at the second coming of the greatest entity in basketball. No longer was Michael the undisputed king of the game. He was just a placeholder until Kobe could blossom into his regal ascension into the game’s elite.

Akeem Anderson is a sophomore Newspaper Journalism from Chicago. He can be reached at thefamuansports@hotmail.com. Stephanie Haughton (Deputy  Sports editor)Stephanie HaughtonChoice: Michael JordanIf anyone mouths the simple phrase, ‘I wanna be, I wanna be like…,’ without hesitation everyone knows what name comes next. Michael Jordan.

When you ask the question of who’s the player who had the biggest impact globally on and off the court, the undisputed champ is apparent.

The man who gracefully sported the number 23 for “The Windy City,” is known to many as the epitome of a basketball player. As a matter of fact, he is Mr. Basketball.

From a business standpoint, he can be credited for the reason athletes even have the chance to get huge endorsements from companies that sell everything from batteries to briefs.

He even afforded athletes the opportunity to become profitable in Hollywood. Notice the word ‘athletes.’ He didn’t just make an impact in his own arena but in every genre of sports. Now, ask yourself what’s bigger than that?

Notice how basketball numbers haven’t even been mentioned yet.

That’s simply because all of those aforementioned topics contribute greatly to why many people regard Jordan as the greatest player to ever play the game. You don’t speak of tarnished images, like Kobe’s, when speaking of the greatest of all time. Not now at least.

Sorry, he has to be in the game a few more years before you can attempt to put him in that category. When someone says the name Kobe Bryant, the first thing most people think of is his fall-out with Shaq.

Granted, Kobe put up more than 80 points one game, but when you think about it, could he have done the same against the caliber of players and defense M.J. took on? Jordan put numbers on the board facing “The Bad Boys” of the Detroit Pistons – legends such as Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, just to name a few. The type of defensive players present during Michael’s time have yet to be seen since. Not to mention Kobe only had two assists that game – a selfish player if you ask me. Leaders help themselves and their teams to grow stronger.

There’s no ‘I’ in team, Kobe.

When speaking of greatness you have to weigh all factors.

There are so many stories that one can pull from the portfolio of M.J. But I’ll keep it short.

We’ll just go to his impeccable performance in game five of the ’97 finals where he scored 38 points, not to mention hitting the game-winning three-pointer with only 25 ticks left in the game. Did I forget to mention he did all of this while having to deal with the death of his father and a crippling stomach virus that would have led most players to take time off?

That’s just one of many Michael moments. I wont even mention game six of the ’98 finals where the Bulls were down three with 40 seconds left, and he scored a layup, stole the ball on an inbound pass and hit the winning jumper to give the Bulls their second three-peat of the ’90s. He is a clutch player.

These are the things legends are made of. No offense, but I think a more realistic argument would have to be ‘Is Kobe Bryant better than Allen Iverson?’

If you look on most scholar-produced Top Athletes of the Century lists, Bryant is not even mentioned second. He has to get past Wilt Chamberlain, Johnson, Bird and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar before one can realistically compare him to ‘His Airness.’Bryant has to pay more dues. It’s only Bryant’s 10th year in the league, and these statistics will only reflect Jordan’s performance in his first 10 years in the league.

Just stating the obvious, M.J. has brought his team to six NBA championships and left with bragging rights as the NBA finals MVP all six times. Kobe has three rings, all of which he came in second to Shaq, who took home all three MVP awards. Within the first two years of Jordan’s career he made the All-Defensive team, which he then repeated eight times over.

I’ve heard it before, “If Kobe keeps going at the rate he is now, he will be better than Michael.” But it’s hard to convince an audience based on possibility. If is a small word, that can go a long way.

If that’s the case, one can say if Michael Jordan continued to play, he could have brought his team to six more championships. That’s if he didn’t retire.

Kobe ‘s ability to conquer is based on future possibility. When you speak of M.J.’s greatness, it is based on fact.

Jordan is a five-time NBA MVP, 10-time All NBA first team selection and six-time NBA Finals MVP. Not to mention the countless All Star Basketball games in which he’s competed. He is a role model, a team player and a legend. Michael was All American in college. Not to mention the championships he brought home through his university.  This only proves that Michael has done far more in his career than Kobe probably ever will.

Kobe will never take the place of His Airness. Look around you; just about everyone you know has a pair of Jordans. How many people do you know own a pair of Kobes?

Stephanie Haughton is junior public relations student from Miami. She can be reached at thefamuansports@hotmail.com.