Player of the Decade: Kobe Bryant

Kobe Sporting News

From L.A.’s PR desk:

Los Angeles Lakers guard and 2009 NBA Finals MVP Kobe Bryant is Sporting News‘ NBA player of the decade.

The honor is part of a 14-page tribute to the athletes, coaches and teams of the 2000s in the new issue of the magazine, which arrives this week at all Barnes & Noble, Borders and Hudson Retail outlets. SN honored one athlete in each sport and enlisted the help of teammates, coaches and legends to make a case for both the winner and runner-up.

Said former teammate Shaquille O’Neal of Bryant: “The thing about Kobe is that, over the course of my career, I have never played with anyone who was as fierce as he is. By fierce I mean just having that extra killer instinct that you know when the game is on the line he is not going to shy away from the big shot, he is not going to make excuses. If we would go into the fourth quarter, playoffs or just some game in the season and we were within a little bit of the other team, Kobe was not going to shy away from the challenge of getting the win. He was going to take the shots.”

Bryant was SN’s player of the year in 2008. But 2009 was his favorite. “This year meant a lot,” he told SN. “We won a championship. It was satisfying, very satisfying, because we put in a lot of time and effort to fix things and get better. It’s a great memory. I feel that we just had such a great team, such a fun team, from our chemistry to the way we executed. We went through some years and years of frustration to get to that point.”

Bryant also made SN’s NBA all-decade team:

FIRST
G Steve Nash
G Kobe Bryant
F Tim Duncan
F LeBron James
C Shaquille O’Neal

SECOND
G Allen Iverson
G Dwyane Wade
F Dirk Nowitzki
F Kevin Garnett
C Yao Ming