Kobe cast down with mortals as Woods soars to pantheon

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By Justin Grant

The talents of Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant were on full display over the last week amid the glare of championship spotlight, but as one man's legend grew, the other saw his legacy take a hit.

Ironically, both men have been compared at some point to Michael Jordan -- who sits atop the pantheon of marketing and sporting champions. Woods'dramatic victory at the U.S. Open -- on a shredded left knee no less -- moved him closer to not only filling those shoes, but perhaps one day passing them.

Kobe Bryant meanwhile, has been derided from coast-to-coast as a mere mortal after his Los Angeles Lakers absorbed a humiliating 39-point beating at the hands of the Boston Celtics in the deciding game of the NBA Finals.

"There was only one Jordan and that's who Phil Jackson desperately needed Tuesday night as Game 6 of the Finals quickly turned into Boston Massacre II," New York Daily News columnist Mitch Lawrence wrote after the Celtics clinched the NBA championship.

On the other hand, news that Woods played the tournament with a torn ACL and double stress fracture in his left leg, further enhanced his image before a fawning media corps. The feat led George Willis of the New York Post to declare Woods -- a mere golfer -- the toughest man in sports.

"Other athletes - Michael Jordan (flu), Emmitt Smith (dislocated shoulder), Lawrence Taylor (broken leg) - have played games with severe ailments, but Woods had to perform at a high level for five consecutive days. Remarkable," Willis wrote.

With Bryant and Woods each in the prime of his respective career, there are likely still many more chapters to be written, and many more questions to be answered.

Will Woods ever be the same after this victory, which he called his finest? How will recontructive surgery on his knee affect his push to supplant Jack Nicklaus as golf's greatest champion?

And will Kobe Bryant ever get that elusive post-Shaquille O'Neal championship ring?

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