To Be Determined – NBA’s John Cena or WWE’s Kobe Bryant?

As a Lakers fan I followed this year’s NBA playoffs and finals closely. And as the Lakers drew closer and closer to winning their 16th NBA championship, something became very clear to me – Kobe Bryant is to the NBA what John Cena is to WWE.

Cena and Bryant are the two most underrated performers of their respective fields in the last decade. They both try hard to get out from the shadows of the great athletes they followed. No matter what they do, no matter how well they perform, they will never receive their proper respects and for some reason, they draw fans who want to see them succeed as well as those who want to see them fail, people simply enjoy hating them and refuse to look beyond the conventional misconceptions about these two.

John Cena has been the face of WWE for the past five years. Soon after he won his first title at Wrestlemania 21, backlash started. He was criticized by so called “smart marks” for not being good enough in the ring, for not being good enough on the mic, for not being edgy enough. Soon people jumped on the anti-Cena bandwagon not because they didn’t like him but because it was the cool thing to do. If you admitted you liked Cena, people looked down on you. The peak was of course One Night Stand 2 and the now infamous “If Cena wins, we riot” sign, prepared by some 40 year old ECW fanboys still living in their parents’ basements, who probably had to ask said parents for an early allowance in order to buy the materials for that sign.

Years later and people are still stuck in the “Cena Bad” routine, and it’s now clear that the only thing smaller than the d*cks of Cena haters is their brains. WWE turns to Cena not just because he’s their biggest name, but because they know that they can count on him in a big match situation. Some people may actually open their eyes and ears and realize that Cena constantly delivers good performances in the ring and on the mic. But even they still feel the need blame Cena for everything that’s wrong in WWE. A few years ago our own Pulse Glazer wrote that “John Cena is bad for the WWE”. He put forward some well constructed arguments but you know what? None of them actually show that Cena is bad for WWE. He blames the WWE creative team for the way they use Cena and other talents and for being lazy. Here’s the deal – John Cena is not WWE’s creative team! But since a title like “WWE’s creative team is lazy because it relies too much on John Cena and badly books him and other wrestlers” isn’t as sexy as “John Cena is bad for the WWE”, it was much easier to go with the latter.

And then we have Kobe Bryant. Here’s a guy who polarized the audience from the minute he entered the NBA draft without going to college. That move determined his future as the NBA’s most hated player. “Who the hell does Kobe think he is?” was the question on everyone’s minds. To be fair, over the years Kobe rightfully earned a lot of the criticism that was thrown his way. He was selfish, he did think that it was all about him and he did not care about anyone else. But all of that is in the past. Yet, people will still not give Kobe Bryant the accolades he so rightfully deserves. If he outscores everyone, he’s accused of being selfish. If he doesn’t outscore everyone than he’s accused of failing his team (Even though he may compensate for less points with more rebounds or assists). I heard people criticize Kobe both for being too selfish and for not winning games on his own, in the same commentary!!! The same people who blamed Kobe for only caring about points criticized him for “disappearing” during game 7, completely ignoring his great rebounds figures. Several weeks ago, after the Lakers beat the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference finals, Magic Johnson was on the panel of ESPN’s post game show and when he started hinting that Bryant may be the greatest Laker of all times (Mind you, not the greatest basketball player of all times), the other panelists told him to shut up because Kobe is not in this league. They were not just trying to be talk up Magic (who, for me, is one of the reasons I became a Lakers fan more than 25 years ago), they actually think that Kobe should not even be considered for this title, despite everything that he achieved. After he won his first series of championships, his critics said that it was all thanks to Shaq, so Bryant lead the Lakers to the 2008-9 NBA championship. Then they said that he didn’t beat a truly great team, so he lead the Lakers to a hard-fought 4-3 finals win over the Celtics. Doesn’t matter what Bryant does, his critics will still underrate him, just like the Cena haters.

Both Cena and Bryant have to deal with giant shadows over their heads. As the face of WWE, Cena has to deal with people who still remember the last people in that role, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin. As one of the greatest basketball players of all times, Bryant has to deal with the legacies of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. The problem is that so many people simply cannot let go. Yes, John Cena is not The Rock, someone like The Rock comes along perhaps once in twenty years. Bryant is not Michael Jordan, but he is definitely one of the greatest of all times, and perhaps the greatest today (Please don’t say LeBron James, please). I guess some people are destined to only be appreciated after their time, and after last week’s Doctor Who, perhaps we should look at Cena and Bryant as modern day Vincent Van Gogh (Without the crazy).

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