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Kobe Bryant, Ben Coates, and More

By Patriots Blog Writer Doug Cutler Jr.

First, a word about all the talk over Kobe Bryant being the “Greatest of all time”

It’s understandable that many people are starting to think that Kobe Bryant should be in the conversation when discussing the greatest players in NBA history. After all, he just won his fourth world championship, he scores points like Al Gore at a global warming conference, and he doesn’t shy away from taking the big shot at the end of big games. Then again, Bryant isn’t shy about taking any shot at any other time, either.

So why is he all of a sudden in the mix to be the G.O.A.T.? It can’t just be the multiple championships, because even today the NBA is replete with men who have more than one ring. It can’t be just the scoring either, as there have always been prolific scorers in professional basketball and today’s game is no different. What makes Bryant so special compared to his peers? Better yet, what sets him apart from the game’s all-time greats?

There is no doubt that Bryant can play a mean game of basketball, even at the NBA level. It isn’t a stretch to say he’s one of the best players of this generation, one with a rare combination of skills and tenacity. To go any further than that does a disservice to the truly great ball players of history, however. Men who brought unique talents or never before seen skills to the game are deserving of places at the G.O.A.T. table, not guys like Bryant. He’s like Dominique Wilkins only without the highlight reel.

If you were starting your own team composed of NBA hall-of-fame players, would you choose Bryant over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Wilt Chamberlain? Michael Jordan? Larry Bird? Magic Johnson? Hakeem Olajuwon? I certainly wouldn’t. Each one of those men possessed singular talents that earned spots at the table. Each one is notable for being unique in a sea of accomplished players. Players like Kobe Bryant.

“The best I ever saw” (Part four of a series)

Thus far each of the three designees we’ve discussed (Curtis Martin, Rodney Harrison, and John Hannah) are easily the best players at their respective positions and today’s selection is no different. Ben Coates is by far the best tight end I’ve ever seen in a New England Patriots uniform.

Between his monumental size (6’5” 250lbs) and surprising speed, he overpowered defensive backs on deep hooks and out ran linebackers on fades and quick slants. Like Hannah on the offensive line, Coates simply overmatched all but the very best defenders he faced, and even then he won more battles than he lost. In fact, of all the true tight ends that I’ve seen play since 1984, Coates is the surface film on the cream at the top of that list. Some may say that either Shannon Sharp or Tony Gonzalez is the best, but of the two of them only Gonzalez is a true tight end. Sharpe was a TINO (tight-end in name only) who lined up as a receiver and only blocked anybody when they were competing for a microphone or face time on television.

The most memorable play that I recall from Coates came during Super Bowl XXXI against the Green Bay Packers. He was the high receiver that day, catching six passes, more than anyone else on that grandest of stages, for a total of 67 yards and a touchdown. On one particular play, he ran a short-to-medium curl pattern behind the linebackers and just as Drew Bledsoe’s pass arrived, so did the defenders. As a result of the instant pounding, the ball careened off Coates, bouncing up and away from him. Seemingly undeterred, he reached out with one of his catcher’s mitt hands, snagged the ball out of the air, and then brought it back into his body in time to be the recipient of even more pummeling at the hands of additional Packer defenders. The completion went for ten or fifteen yards or so but it seemed to epitomize Coates’ career…a career where the stat sheet clearly didn’t tell the whole story.

Interestingly, there was a time when I thought I was seeing the reincarnation of Coates in the form of Daniel Graham, who has since departed for the Denver Broncos. Unfortunately, Graham was underutilized here in Foxboro and became expendable when Ben “Coffee and a Turnover” Watson inexplicably beat him out for the starting spot a few years ago. Graham was about the same size as Coates and his game even had striking similarities to his predecessor’s. In the end, it wasn’t to be and Graham was unceremoniously “allowed” to walk away and his potential was left largely untapped. However, it was fun to see flashes of the greatness Coates displayed in a younger player.

Interesting statistic I’ll bet you didn’t know

Rodney Harrison and Junior Seau were in Super Bowl XXIX with the San Diego Chargers. Both men also played in Super Bowl XLII with the Patriots thirteen years later.

Answer to last week’s question:

The following players were on the Patriots’ roster for at least four Super Bowls:

Troy Brown (5), Tedy Bruschi (5), Ted Johnson (4), Ty Law (4), Willie McGinest (4), Adam Vinatieri (4), Tom Brady (4), Kevin Faulk (4), Larry Izzo (4), Richard Seymour (4), Mike Vrabel (4), Matt Light (4), Lonie Paxton (4)

Question of the week:

Troy Brown and Tedy Bruschi have ten Super Bowl appearances between them. How many Pro Bowls have they appeared in?

(Answer will be provided next week)

1 comment:

  1. Well I do believe that Kobe is one of the "All Time Greats" in the NBA, I shouldn't have to exlain anything do I? Kobe can't do it without Shaq, he can't do it with what he has in teamates, and he can't do it while with Phil Jackson? He can't he can't he can't is all I here in many different fashions...who's better than him right now...ok so some say Lebran James who hasn't ever won anything yet, even so, if Kobe is the 2nd best player right now that's a great place to be 1 or 1a, he's been the best player for a while (consistant vs Dwayne Wade players up and down) and he still is the BEST FINISHER in the game 2nd to none. Ben Coats...I like him for sure, and Sharp and Gonzo were tight ends even though they were better receivers than blockers, their teams utilized their talents for sure. I still think TE Keith Jackson (Eagles/Miami) was def more of a receiver than any TE in my 25+ years watching football. By the way....I still believe if healthy...the Celtics would have won it all.