By Kirk Jackson
One stands at roughly 6’1” and currently fights the 175 pound light heavyweight division. The other stands 6’6” weighs roughly 205 pounds.
One is described as a tactical, in-ring executioner. While excelling in the art that is known as the sweet science, he possesses the ability to physically and mentally dissect opponents inside the ring.
The other is regarded as the “black mamba.” A basketball savant, equipped with an assassin’s mentality, possessing the testicular fortitude to take extreme risks and deal with the consequences of his actions. He has the ability to quickly strike and annihilate opponents at will.
Both guys seem to have a strong base of haters who dislike them for a number of reasons. Whether it is perceived arrogance, ignorance or whichever the case may be, there is one thing about each person that cannot be questioned. Whether you love them or hate them, they certainly deserve respect for their accomplishments.
Bernard Hopkins is known for his controversial and offensive personality outside the ring (depending who you ask) and excellence inside the ring. Relying on wisdom, fundamentals intelligence, near immaculate defense, Hopkins is one of the all-time great fighters and recently surpassed his own record becoming the oldest man to win a world championship title at the age of 48.
Kobe Bryant, brash, arrogant, venomous like the black mamba, is a cold blooded killer on the basketball court. A well rounded player that can seemingly do anything, Bryant is already regarded by many as one of the greatest players of all time.
Although from opposite spectrums in regards to the type of neighborhoods they grew up in, Hopkins living in the Raymond Rosen Housing Projects and eventually settling in Germantown, while Bryant traveling around Italy at an early age and eventually settling in Philadelphia suburbs.
Both guys are Philadelphia products.
Bryant and Hopkins are known for their legendary work ethic, dedication towards their craft, longevity and are regarded as all-time greats in their respective sports.
Bryant, the flashier of the two, captivated NBA audiences entering the league at the tender age of 17-years-old, joining one of the league’s most prestigious and historic franchises, the Los Angeles Lakers.
Although initially experiencing humble beginnings, it wouldn’t long before Bryant dazzled audiences with his athletic flair; dunking on countless victims, shattering ankles with killer cross-over moves, playing tenacious defense, showcasing an array of jump shots, while eventually and most importantly displaying the will and intelligence that led to winning multiple championships.
Hopkins endured humble beginnings as well, getting his first title shot against another legendary fighter from his era Roy Jones Jr. Although suffering defeat against Jones, Hopkins would capture a middleweight world title against Segundo Mercado a few years later in route to establishing eventual dominance in the division.
But Hopkins would get his big break when he defeated the heavily favored Felix Trinidad to unify all of the middleweight titles and in doing so established himself as a household name.
They are comparable because of their dominance, longevity and believe or not they are underrated in a sense and not truly appreciated.
The accolades both have amassed speak for itself.
In terms of dominance, Hopkins has a record 20 title defenses of his middleweight championship. He is the first fighter to unify all major sanctioning groups winning the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO Middleweight Titles.
Has the longest reign as World Middleweight Champion 10 years, 2 months, and 17 days.
Hopkins was named 2001 “Fighter of the Year” by the BWAA, The Ring, and the World Boxing Hall of Fame.
He is a multiple light heavyweight titlist and the oldest man to win a world championship title at 48 years of age defeating Tavoris Cloud this past weekend.
Along with Cloud, Hopkins has defeated the likes of Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, Glen Johnson, Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, Jean Pascal, Kelly Pavlik, William Joppy, Roy Jones Jr. and Howard Eastman.
And thus far has compiled a record of 53 Wins (34 knockouts, 18 decisions), 6 Losses, 2 Draws, 2 No Contests.
As of 2013, with 63 games into the season, the soon to be 35-year-old Bryant is having one of his best years.
In his 17th season, he is averaging 27.8 points per game, 5.4 rebounds 5.7 assists and 1.2 steals on 47.5% shooting.
He is a 5 time NBA champion, four time All-Star Game MVP, 2 time Finals MVP, has one regular season MVP award, two time Olympic gold medalist, 14 time All-Star, 14 All-NBA selections (10 first team nods), 12 All-Defensive team selections (nine of those first team), has a plethora of other awards and achievements and aims to add to the list before it’s all said and done.
Bryant and Hopkins have the career achievements and they’ve each outlasted their contemporaries.
Gone are the days of Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad, Winky Wright and Roy Jones Jr. Guys who all tasted defeat by the hands of Hopkins by the way.
Bryant is one of the few players remaining from that star studded draft class of 1996.
He outlasted Allen Iverson, Shareef Abdur-Raheem, Stephon Marbury, Peja Stojaković and Kerry Kittles.
Although 1996 draftees Ray Allen and teammate Steve Nash still remain in the league, Bryant is performing at a higher level. He has also outlasted Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and others who were thought as his near equals on the basketball court.
Hopkins and Bryant both seek challenges. Of course with Bryant, he is chasing the elusive 6th championship trophy. Having to go through the likes of Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and others, Bryant has a tall task ahead of him.
In recent years, Hopkins is striving to enhance his legacy and has done so challenging these young athletic lions of the squared circle. Hopkins fought Chad Dawson twice, Jean Pascal twice and recently against Tavoris Cloud.
They’ve overcome adversity
Hopkins survived a rough neighborhood, served a four year stint in prison and managed to overcome all of his obstacles and became a champion.
Bryant has had some off the court issues, with the sexual assault case that was later settled out of court.
He had to deal with media scrutiny and criticism after Shaquille O’Neal left the Lakers for The Miami Heat. Not only did Bryant persevere, but he ended up with more championship trophies than Shaq.
They have both played through injuries.
Hopkins fought with a separated shoulder against Antwun Echols back in 2000 and showed guts and will to not only emerge victorious, but he accomplished this in theatric fashion scoring a TKO in the 11th round.
Bryant has played through seasons with all kinds of physical ailments; torn ligaments on fingers of shooting hand, twisted ankles, bad knees, back spasms you name it. Having his knee drained of fluids in the 2010 Playoffs, Bryant has shown you pretty much have to kill him to keep him off the court.
They both have the reputation of dirty play. Hopkins has been known for his rough house tactics, head butting, taking cheap shots during clinches and for milking injuries. Bryant has been known to throw an elbow here and there.
Most importantly while displaying the trait of a true champion, Bryant and Hopkins have also failed at the highest level in their respective sports but responded in a positive manner. Despite suffering disappointments, they have not let setbacks deter them.
Bryant has been on the losing end in the NBA finals, suffering defeat against the Detroit Pistons in 2004 and against the Boston Celtics in 2008.
Many critics thought Bryant would never reach the promise land; that he would never win a NBA championship leading the team without Shaq but he was able to accomplish this feat and proved the nay-sayers wrong.
Hopkins has been on the wrong side of some closely contested match-ups. Split decision defeat against young challenger Jemain Taylor back in 2005, split decision loss against super middleweight great Joe Calzaghe back in 2008, controversial draw against light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal in 2011.
But after each set back Hopkins would respond triumphantly. Whether it’s defeating middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, beating light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver in the following years despite being the underdog heading into each fight and despite his declining skills and old age, Hopkins proved his critics wrong.
They are both still really good.
Bryant’s last two games heading into the weekend of March 9th, Bryant posted 41 points, 12 assists, 6 rebounds and 42 points, 12 assists and 7 rebounds.
Hopkins just won the light heavyweight title at age 48.
They both have christened the new Barclay center in Brooklyn, with Bryant dunking over Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace in route to a victory over the Brooklyn Nets and with Hopkins scoring a unanimous decision to capture the light heavyweight belt against Cloud.
Bryant and Hopkins are geriatric wonders, legendary competitors, so different in many ways, but similar in so many ways.