Why I think Kobe Bryant is the best player in NBA history…

10 05 2010

Since I often find myself getting into this argument, I figured it’s time to just make a blog post about the reasons why I think Kobe Bryant is a better basketball player than Michael Jordan (and any other NBA player that has ever played) so that every time I come across a Kobe vs. MJ convo, I can just post the link to this blog post, and leave it at that haha 🙂

Before I begin, I’d just like to make it clear that I was a HUGE MJ fan (as I write this, right behind me is: a life-size cardboard cutout of MJ; a MJ Bulls jersey; and a MJ poster… and to the left of me, taped to my wall, is the front page of the [Monday, June 15th 1998] LA Times Sports section of MJ winning his 6th championship!). I believe that Kobe Bryant is the player he is today, because he watched MJ, learned from him, and modeled his game somewhat after Jordan’s. Also, Michael Jordan helped make (some might even say he individually made) the NBA what it is today, and I don’t think anyone will ever be able to have the same impact on the game as he did (just like no one will ever be able to do for golf, what Tiger Woods has done for it); but that doesn’t mean that someone won’t ever be as skilled, or more skilled, than he was.

So here are some of reasons why I think Kobe is a better basketball player than MJ. First, MJ played in a big man’s era while Kobe is playing in a league full of superstar guards that are just as athletic as he is (now I understand this is something that can’t be helped, but it definitely needs to be pointed out). Jordan was in the league when it was predominately big men that were having the greatest impact on the game, guys like: Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Dominique Wilkins, Charles Oakley, and even Shaq in his early days. Some of the players that MJ was going head-to-head with were: Mario Elie, Dan Majerle, Jeff Hornacek, Bryon Russell, John Starks, Detlef Schrempf, Craig Ehlo, Eddie Jones, Joe Dumars, Gary Payton, Mookie Blaylock, Dennis Scott, Byron Scott, and the closest anyone got to matching up with Jordan (in terms of size, athleticism and skill) was probably Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, Clyde Drexler, or maybe even Grant Hill, but that was only at the very end of Jordan’s career. While each of those guards was a pretty good player in the league back then, most of them wouldn’t be seeing too many minutes in the NBA today. Now you can argue all you want about there being other good guards in the NBA at the time, but the simple fact is that the only other guard to win an MVP award during Jordan’s career was Magic Johnson, and he just happened to be a 6’9” point guard that was playing on the same team as the guy who scored more points than any other player in NBA history, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In Kobe’s career (so far, up until the date of this blog post), 3 other guards, Steve Nash (2), Allen Iverson, and LeBron James (2) have won the MVP award (and so did a 7-footer that plays like a shooting guard, Dirk Nowitzki).

Second, and kind of going along the same lines as what I already mentioned; MJ was ahead of his time – there was no one in the league that could match-up with him in terms of size, strength, speed, agility, athleticism, leaping ability, quickness, and skill (again, this is something that can’t be helped, but it’s worthy of being pointed out). Since day one of Kobe’s career there have been guys in the league that are at least as: strong, fast, quick, athletic, agile, and able to jump as high as him… he just happens to have a mental toughness, and a desire to be better / achieve greatness that is above-and-beyond the others. In this aspect, and this aspect only, LeBron James is like Jordan – they are both genetic freaks / athletic monsters that we hadn’t seen until them. Now the league is full of guys that are not only the same size that Jordan was, but are also as: strong, athletic, quick, skilled, etc., but they’re definitely lacking the mental aspect that made Jordan (and makes Kobe) great. Within the next 10 years we’ll probably see more guys that are as big as LeBron, and also: as athletic, strong, quick, skilled, etc. (Blake Griffin is already one good example).

Lastly, and the reason I think these things are significant to point out, are because MJ and Kobe are so close in skill – the only thing that allows me to argue that Kobe is better is the fact that he has to go against guys night-after-night that are not only the same size as him, but are also as: athletic, strong, quick, can jump as high, etc. Whereas MJ (like LeBron) had strength, athleticism, leaping ability, etc. that stood out from the other guards in the league at the time. So while Jordan was defending, or being defended by: Jeff Hornacek, Bryon Russell, Eddie Jones, Detlef Schrempf, Craig Ehlo, Mookie Blaylock, Dennis Scott (and the rest of the players listed in the second paragraph), Kobe is/was going against: Dwyane Wade, Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Brandon Roy, Ron Artest, Ray Allen, Gilbert Arenas, Bruce Bowen, Joe Johnson, Shane Battier, Allen Iverson, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and even Michael Jordan (while Jordan was collecting his last couple rings, and Kobe was celebrating his 18th & 19th birthdays).

To close, I am fully aware that there have been other GREAT players throughout the course of the NBA – but I’m strictly talking about all-around (and mostly offensive) basketball skills (shooting, dribbling, passing, etc.); but the main argument that I care to defend is the fact that I believe Kobe Bryant has the most complete offensive game (skills) of any other player in the history of the league 🙂

A few other noteworthy points:

I guess one could mention that Jordan career stats (30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists) are better than Kobe’s thus far (25.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists) – but I don’t think that’s a fair comparison since Kobe was drafted to a winning team, and only averaged 15.5 minutes per game as a [17 year old] rookie (compared to MJ who averaged 38.3 minutes per game as a rookie, on a below .500 team).

If I happened to leave out some other good guards from Jordan’s days, I apologize. Regardless, the point remains the same – for the most part, the guys that were MJ’s size, weren’t as athletic as him; and the one’s that were as athletic as him, were smaller/weaker than him. Whereas currently, there are guys in the league that are as big, and as athletic as Kobe that don’t even start!

(there’s some cursing in the song playing in the background of this last vid)




One response

11 05 2010

I’m gonna post one of the comments I got on fb here, because 1) I think it was a good point, and 2) my goal for this post is so I don’t have to continue to engage in this argument… I just want to be able to copy and paste the link to this blog post haha 🙂

His comment:
“I read the reasons why you think Kobe is the greatest player of all time and I have to disagree with one of the reasons(still a good read though!). You said Jordan played in an era dominated by big men. In every era the teams that have won multiple championships had great big men. 2000s Lakers- Shaq and then Gasol, Spurs- Tim Duncan, 90s Rockets- Hakeem, 80s Lakers- Kareem, Celtics- Mchale & Parish, 70s no dynastys but the Lakers had Wilt in 72 and the Bucks won with Kareem, 60s Celtics- Bill Russell 76ers- Wilt……every eras dynastys had great big men except for the bulls(unless you count Rodman) who completely dominated which is why I believe Jordan is the best. Jordan was winning with Bill Carwright, Horace Grant, Luc Longley and Bill Wennington. Kobe is obviously right up there with him but in my opinion he just hasn’t dominated enough.”

My response:
“good point! I do think what gave Jordan (and Pippen) the edge over the teams that had great big men, was the fact that the big men weren’t able to do anything about Pippen and Jordan… they couldn’t guard them even if they wanted to. In a sense, this is why they revolutionized the game… teams needed to find bigger guards, that were also great athletes, in order to compete w/ the Bulls. And I think the reason Kobe never got that chance to ‘dominate’ (although I still feel that he has dominated… 81 points, scoring titles, MVP, 4 rings, finals MVP, etc.) like Jordan, LeBron, and Iverson – was because when he entered the league, he came onto an already good/winning team. MJ, LeBron, and Iverson came onto teams where from day one they were the go-to-guys. This is also why Jordan’s career stats look quite a bit better than Kobe’s haha… Kobe’s 15 minutes per game as a rookie def hurt his stats.

The ONLY reason I give Kobe the slight edge, had to do with the fact that night after night he’s going against some of the greatest athletes on the planet. I mean even the bench players are as big, strong, athletic, etc. – but his determination (like Jordan’s) is what set’s him apart from the others… the only difference between Kobe and Jordan is that Jordan didn’t only have the mental edge over all the players, but he also had the physical edge (which Kobe does not have).”

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