Nobody can truly master the art of basketball. There is too much to learn, too much to do. And then, even if you somehow spent a lifetime learning the moves of every artist, savant and genius that has previously played the game, you'd then have to learn it all over again. The game is ever-changing, and creativity is at its heart. Therefore, mastering the game consists not just of learning what the previous masters have done, but utilizing that knowledge to forge a new way forward. With so many different players, so many different styles, and an infinite number of new possibilities, there is no way one person can learn how to do everything possible on a basketball court. But one man has come closer than all the others.

Kobe Bryant is not the best basketball player in history. He's not the best basketball player at any one thing. Players like Ray Allen and Steve Nash are better shooters. Magic Johnson was a better passer. LeBron James and Michael Jordan are/were better athletes. Kobe can't dominate like Shaq or Wilt Chamberlain, can't anchor a defense like Bill Russel or Dwight Howard. But, when Kobe's legacy has been fully and finally written, he may just be able to lay claim to being basketball's greatest master.

This is not the same thing as being the best player ever to play the game. If Kobe's career ended today, he would not be remembered as the greatest ever. In fact, he would have to accomplish quite a bit on top of his already successful career in order for all but the most ardent fans that Kobe belongs at the top of that list. But the greatest master of the game? That's an argument Kobe definitely belongs in. Mastering a craft, any craft, requires innate talent, but it also requires dedication and focus. You'd be hard pressed to find anybody who has dedicated their lives to basketball with quite the same intense focus that Kobe Bryant has.