Two men anchoring two storied rivals. One plays on the East coast, the other on the West coast. One has played 15 seasons in the NBA, and the other has played 13 years. One has won just one title while the other has won five.
Don't be fooled, though, as these two aren't completely different. They both have one things in common. Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant are some of the last members of a dying breed in professional basketball ans sports in general. Pierce and Bryant are both sports lifers.
Between the two, they have played for two only franchises: the one's they are with now. Not once has either player put on another uniform. Pierce has always been a Celtic, and Bryant has always been a Laker. It has always been that way, and it always will. The Truth and the Black Mamba.
Bryant's career has been nothing short of legendary. He's won five championships, winning three straight to start the decade and back-to-back titles to end it. Bryant has scored more points than all but four men in the game's history, amassing 28,601 points in 1,128 games. He's also an NBA (once) and NBA Finals (twice) MVP and a 13-time All-Star.
Pierce, meanwhile, has built a historic legacy of his own in Boston. On Tuesday, Pierce moved into second place on the Celtics' all-time scoring list, surpassing Larry Legend (a.k.a. Larry Bird). Pierce has 21,797 points in 985 career games. He's a nine-time NBA All-Star and a four-time member of an All-NBA team. Oh, and he's a one-time NBA champion and an NBA Finals MVP.
Impressed? You should be. These are two of the greatest players ever to play the sport of basketball. Not to mention, they have flourished with the top two franchises in the league's history -- the Celtics and Lakers have 33 combined championships, making up over half of the leagues titles.
One could debate who has meant more to their team, but no one can argue the impact the two have had on the game. What makes them special? For starters, they're both extremely talented, multi-faceted basketball players. Their games certainly aren't one-dimensional. Whether it's scoring, passing or stepping up one defense, they'll give you whatever it is you need. Count on it.
Yet there is something else that makes these two men special, and it's their extreme loyalty. Pierce has embraced everything pertaining to what it means to be a Celtics. Bryant has done the same think in Los Angeles with the Lakers. It's not a new concept by any means, but it's one that is being rapidly abandoned in sports and in life.
LeBron James is the prime example and leader of this growing trend. Growing up in Ohio and going to high school in the area, James was destined to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. After the Cavs tanked an entire season to get him, he fulfilled that destiny. James would go on to become the greatest player in the history of the Cavaliers franchise.
James almost led the Cavs to a title, but he couldn't quite get there. Instead of sticking around and waiting to see what might be in store, LeBron decided that he didn't want to stay. Once his contract was up, he was gone. Just like that.
Carmelo Anthony did the same in Denver, forcing his way out of town. Chris Paul wasn't going to stay in New Orleans. Dwight Howard probably won't stay in Orlando. Unless you're blessed enough to be a major market team, you just might be out of luck. Sure, you can draft a star, but once their deal is up or things go sour, it's over. See you later. Goodbye.
It wasn't like that for Pierce and Bryant. Things never went as badly for Bryant as they did for Pierce, but he had his share of down times too. There were certainly rumors about their potential departures. Bryant had to deal with the entire Shaquill O'Neal saga. Remember that? Which one would they keep - Shaq or Kobe? (P.S. Los Angeles definitely made the right decision).
As for Pierce, he went through plenty of struggles. In fact, there were points where he was being booed by Celtics fans. There were the Pierce-for-Paul rumors, the reported spats with head coach Doc Rivers, and lots and lots of losses.
Despite all of this, they both stayed. They could have left town like James and Anthony, but they didn't. It's clear that they are both better off for it. Their legacies reflect the fact that they have stayed the course. Even if James and Anthony go on to win championships, as they may very well do, they won't have the same legacy as they would if they won with their first teams. Pierce and Bryant will always have that in their corner, and it makes their legacies all the more special.
In the day and age of the desire for instant success, you can't help but admire Pierce and Bryant and their loyalty. We can all learn an important lesson from them. Stick with it, and one day, you'll accomplish your goals. They certainly have, and their impact will not soon be forgotten.