Kobe says he has no active rivals left in NBA

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Dwyane Wade and LeBron James will be fired up when the Heat take on the Lakers Sunday afternoon in a nationally televised game.

Not because the Lakers are particularly threatening this season, but because of Kobe Bryant. He is the measuring stick for all the great players in the NBA right now — five-time champion, 14-time All-Star, MVP, finals MVP, one of the top scorers ever to play the game. Even at 33 playing through torn wrist ligaments (and right now a mask) he leads the league in scoring.

But while the contemporary players are trying to measure themselves against Kobe, Kobe is measuring himself against the greats.

He is thinking about his legacy and says right now his challenges do not come from contemporary players, Kobe told Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

“At this point my rivals, in terms of what I have left to accomplish in my career, (left the game) when Magic (Johnson) and Michael (Jordan) retired in ’98,” Bryant said, referring to the second of Jordan’s three retirements that came after he won his sixth and final championship with the Chicago Bulls. “That’s it. In terms of what I’m looking to accomplish, that’s about it….

“What I have left to accomplish, those players retired a long time ago,” Bryant said.

He’s right in the grand sense — there is no contemporary player who right now has a legacy like Kobe. Tim Duncan is close, but as Kobe said you think of him differently because he’s a big, you compare him to different people. Kobe is the direct line with Jordan and Magic.

But to add to his legacy — to get that sixth ring like Jordan — Kobe is going to have to find a way to get past contemporary players. Specifically LeBron and Wade, who with the Heat look to be the team every other team must measure itself against for the next few years.

We’ll see how ready the Lakers are for that. We know Kobe will be ready.