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Blog Entry

Legend vs. Star: Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant

Posted on: August 6, 2011 1:55 pm
Edited on: August 6, 2011 2:51 pm
 
Posted by Ben Golliver

jordan-kobe

We live in an immediate society. The internet, social media, the ever-accelerating news cycle, everything means that the next 30 seconds is 10 times more important than the last 30 seconds regardless of what actually happened in the past 30 seconds. As a result, we lose perspective on what stands truly relevant from the past. The NBA is no exception. So in an attempt to merge the two worlds (since, as a blog, we love/hate/want to be BFFs within the next 30 seconds), we'll be bringing you a look at players past and present, in relation to one another. 

Previously: Isiah Thomas vs. Chris Paul | Larry Bird vs. Dirk Nowitzki 

Now up: Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant

--------------------------

We were all so busy gleefully burying the Miami Heat after they lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals that we missed out on acknowledging a crucial bit of basketball history: The 2010-2011 season will likely go down as the year Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant saw his best argument for becoming "Better than Michael Jordan" slip away for good.

When we talk numbers, awards, memories, legacy and fame, the Jordan vs. Bryant debate is dead on arrival. Really, debating Jordan vs. anyone in these categories isn't worth the time. Jordan's statistics are absurdly better than Bryant's; his switch-hand lay-up, shoulder shrug and stepback jumper to beat the Utah Jazz all trump any Bryant highlight; he was a significantly bigger worldwide star and one of the single greatest forces in globalizing the game; the Jumpman logo only becomes more ubiquitous by the year. Bryant has scored fewer points, grabbed fewer rebounds and dished fewer assists per game both in the regular season and the playoffs. He's sold fewer sneakers and touched fewer hearts. He's won fewer MVPs, Finals MVPs and scoring titles. There's not much argument.




Honestly, Bryant doesn't really deserve to be mentioned in a debate with Jordan, except for one fact: he had the chance to accumulate more titles. Winning in bulk will always get star players put up on a pedestal. 

Because Bryant skipped high school and didn't take two seasons off to play baseball, his argument for toppling Jordan has always relied on accumulation. He stands a very good chance of finishing higher than Jordan on the all-time points list, for example, an accomplishment he has reportedly been eying. But educated fans and the populous at large will both see through that accomplishment and conclude that more total points doesn't mean a better player. Not when Jordan averaged roughly five points more per game than Bryant over their careers and eight points more per game in the playoffs. Not when Jordan shot more than four percent better from the field for their careers. Not when Jordan's best scoring year (37.1 points per game in 1986-1987) was better than Bryant's best scoring year (35.4 points per game in 2005-2006). Not when Jordan won 10 scoring title's to Bryant's two. Not with Bryant getting essentially a five-year head start on accumulating thanks to Jordan's years in college and in the Chicago White Sox organization. When Bryant passes Jordan on the scoring list it will stand as a testament to his durability, consistency, determination, pure scoring instinct and will. But it won't make him better than Jordan. 

(Career statistical comparison courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com, click image to enlage)

jordan-vs-bryant-1

Instead, Bryant will get lumped in with two other great accumulators: Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone. Both sit above Jordan on the all-time list. Neither player is seriously and regularly mentioned in the conversation as the Greatest Of All Time, and neither is considered in Jordan's league as a pure scorer. 

It's not the scoring accumulation that would have propelled Bryant past Jordan. It was the accumulation of titles. And how quickly the narrative on that front has changed.

Bryant and the Lakers entered the 2011 playoffs intent on capturing the sixth title of his career. That number would have equalled Jordan's mark, but winning this year wouldn't have been enough to push Bryant past Jordan in this debate. Anyone coming to claim the throne has to make an overwhelming case for it. Bryant can't just match the level of greatness, he has to surpass it in such a way that his actions created the momentum needed to change minds and opinions that have been fixed for more than a decade. 

Unfortunately, Bryant has to deal with some undertow on the winning front. His Lakers twice lost in the Finals, first to an over-achieving Detroit Pistons team and later to a hard-nosed Boston Celtics team. Jordan, of course, was a perfect 6-0 in the NBA Finals. Not only did he never lose a Finals, much less lose one in five games like Bryant did, Jordan was never even pushed to seven games. 

It's not just the losses that count against Bryant. Some people hold the early wins against him, too. After all, Jordan never had or needed a dominant center like Shaquille O'Neal to win his titles. O'Neal was the Finals MVP for each of Bryant's first three titles while Jordan was the MVP for all six of his wins. Although it's not totally fair, because winning is winning, Bryant's second fiddle role early on works against him in the historical debate.

(Playoff statistical comparison courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com, click image to enlage)

jordan-vs-bryant-playoffs

To overcome Jordan's 6-0 record and six Finals MVP, Bryant needed to accumulate an overwhelming case. And that's precisely why this year was so important. Had the Lakers taken home the title, Bryant would have his six rings as he approaches age 33. Jordan played until he was almost 40 but Bryant likely doesn't have that many years left. Assuming he can hang on for another four or five seasons, though, there would have been a very decent chance that he could pull one, if not two, more titles out of the hat. Bryant had a chance to go heights that not even Air Jordan had ascended.

Getting to a career Finals record of 8-2 with five Finals MVPs would have been ideal. It would have stood as a testament of Bryant's ability to win with a variety of teammates and at all different points of his career. The extra rings would have made up for the Finals slip-ups and his MVP total would have put him in Jordan's ballpark. Ultimately, eight rings would have left him being considered as the game's second greatest winner all-time, behind Boston Celtics center Bill Russell. It would have helped address the questions about him being a "gunner". It would have buried all the arguments about his ego fracturing the early Lakers and it would have diminished the role that O'Neal played in his overall career accomplishments. Most importantly, it would have put real distance between himself and Jordan. Jordan diehards respect winning and Bryant simply would have won more than Jordan, by a significant amount. 

That narrative got wrecked hard, though, thanks to a coordinated attack from the Dallas Mavericks and a dual meltdown by Ron Artest and Andrew Bynum. Bynum didn't just send J. J. Barea tumbling to the floor with his cheapshot, he flung Bryant's "Better than Jordan" resume into a bonfire.



With the Heat and Thunder clearly rising and the Lakers againg -- and seemingly fracturing -- this offseason, there are real questions now about whether Bryant will get another crack at a title. It's hard to bet totally against his chances, what with the Lakers making the NBA Finals in seven of the past 11 seasons, but his winning ceiling has been lowered, without question. He might get another one, but there's no way he's getting three, not even if the Lakers pull off a transformational trade for a superstar.

We haven't seen Bryant's last days, not by a longshot, but his legacy is now all but secure. Top-10 all-time NBA player. Second best two-guard.
Comments

Since: Aug 28, 2011
Posted on: August 29, 2011 3:16 pm
 

Legend vs. Star: Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant

This year Kobe had the best team in the NBA and was sweep. Shaq gave him 3 rings, so you have to count only 2.



Since: Aug 27, 2011
Posted on: August 27, 2011 10:49 am
 

Legend vs. Star: Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant

IS THERE ANY WAY  2 PUT KOBE ON  THE BULLS  WIFF ALL THEM BUMS    MJ  HAD ???  LETS SEE IF WE COULDA  WON    1 RING     &
nbsp;     
      
;     &nbs
p;     CMON   KOBE   CANT  B LIKE MIKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Since: Aug 25, 2011
Posted on: August 25, 2011 5:37 pm
 

Legend vs. Star: Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant

I love reading the Jordan vs Kobe comparisons that pop up every 6 months. I finally decided to throw in my 2 cents. Simply my honest and educated opinion (I'm a 41 year old NBA fan so I was able to enjoy watching both Jordan and Kobe's careers). <br /><br />With all the statistics that people throw around, here's what I truly think separates Jordan from Kobe. <br /><br />Sure, Kobe scored 81 points. Thats an incredible feat. But that was also against a horrible Toronto Raptors team...in a regular season game that meant nothing. Jordan's high game was ONLY 69...BUT he also scored 63 points in a playoff game IN hallowed Boston Garden against the eventual champions that year - the 'Bird, Parish, McHale' lead Celtics. And keep in mind that was after missing 60+ regular season games with a broken foot...AND in Jordan's second NBA season.  <br /><br />And finally...No professional athlete walks away from the game in their prime...sits out for almost 2 seasons...comes back BETTER and wins 3 more titles, 3 more finals MVPS, etc etc etc etc....it's unheard of. <br /><br />Jordan is the greatest player in the history of basketball. You can insert him into any era, both past or current, and he would force his will on any team or player and win. No doubt about it. Once he won that first championship, he never looked back. 6 finals. 6 rings. <br /><br />As for the Kobe fans and their argument, be happy that he's even thrown in the conversation. Amen. <br />




Since: Aug 23, 2011
Posted on: August 23, 2011 6:46 am
 

Legend vs. Star: Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant

BUT HERES THE THING THE ATHELETES TODAY MIGHT BE FASTER AND MORE ATHLETIC BUT THEY CANT PLAY THE GAME AND IT SHOWS WHETHER ITS OVERSEAS OR IN CRITICAL TIMES IN PLAYOFF GAMES OR REGULAR SEASON GAMES FOR 4 THAT MATTER NO FUNDAMENTALS PLAYERS DONT KNOW HOW TO SHOOT 15 FOOTERS,OR PLAY DEFENSE AT ALL,NO MIDRANGE GAME,NO POST GAME ALL PLAYERS CAN DO WELL IN THIS ERA IS DUNK,SHOOT THREES,AND NO LOOK PASS BECAUSE MOST OF THESE PLAYERS EITHER CAME RIGHT OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL OR SPENT 1 YEAR IN COLLEGE WHERE THEY TEACH YOU THE FUNDAMENTALS OF THE GAME AND THATS WHERE THE SEPERATION BEGINS. THE KNICKS,PISTONS,HEAT,INDIANA,BOSTON,LAKERS ALL PLAYED HARDNOSED HANDCHECKIN GET KNOCKED ON YOUR ASS DEFENSE AND WHERE ALL FUDAMENTALY SOUND WHICH MADE FOR BETTER BASKETBALLL AND MIKE DOMINATED THEM ALL. SO IT REALLY NOT A TOUGH CALL



Since: Sep 7, 2006
Posted on: August 22, 2011 1:50 pm
 

Actual Words

Can we mandate that actual words and complete sentences be used in this forum.  One day we all may be able to argue in text language and just use emoticons for dramatic appeal, until then lets stick to writing like adults.



Since: May 8, 2007
Posted on: August 15, 2011 3:40 pm
 

Legend vs. Star: Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant

Theres no comparison on any front. Bryant is a Superstar, Jordan was a Worldstar. Kids from every nation wore a red #23 on their back, and they didn't even know what basketball was. All they knew were air nikes and a jersey that said Jordan on the back of it.
Jordans career averages are better across the board, i don't believe that Kobe has one career edge over Michael, and for anybody that wants to argue Bryant isn't done yet and will surpass jordan in points and possibly rings, if jordan doesn't retire after the 94' season we would be talking about the only team (BULLS) to have won 9 straight titles, because nobody would have beaten MJ in that stretch, and the points record would be his also because he would have added another 8000 pts to that total. People forget that Jordan won 6 straight titles, and yes Michael had is shaq and gasol in Scottie but people need to get over it cause nobody has ever won with just one great player. Lebron almost did with the cavs but don't even get me started.

Kobe lovers, keep lovin your man but stop bringing him up in the Greatest ever conversation, cause right now he's #5 cause he took way too long to get his mental and emotional levels of greatness upto his physical level of greatness. Michael learned early that he was going to need all 3 and thats why he is the greatest.

Also, what a worthless article, who compares anybody to MJ, why not just compare Kobe to Lebron. Now that would be a great debate.




Since: Aug 24, 2008
Posted on: August 14, 2011 2:13 pm
 

Legend vs. Star: Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant

I mean you have no clue what your talking about. You don't have one good argument, and your reply makes not one bit of sense. Your 19 and it shows, Jordan vs. Kobe is a lame debate that anyone that knows anything about sports and basketball knows Jordan will always be considered the greatest of all time especially now in this broke down league they call the NBA. 



Since: Aug 12, 2011
Posted on: August 12, 2011 1:04 pm
 

Legend vs. Star: Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant

1st. i don;t know where to start dis artictle is kind ridculos cuz soo many people don;t know wat the hell there talking about 2nd. jordan for now is the greatest basketball player and i watched enough jordan to say he is the greatest player of all time others might have diffrent opoins because am not older enough to see the other greats that played before the jordan era am only 19 3rd. MY FAV PLAYER OF ALL TIME IS KOBE BRYANT and i beilive when its all set and done he will become the greatest basketball player of all time but thats just me as i said others have diffrent prespectives and opoions but to me honestley i think he's gonna become the grestest basektball player 4th. when they said jordan scored more points then kobe if kobe stayed in charlotte hornets does anyone really think jordan would have more points 5th jordan deserve's to get the respect to have his own ground to stand and i don;t wanna compare kobe and jordan till kobe is done when he;s done we can agrue and debate about it all the time till then jordan gets the nod and the respect 6th kobe is the greatest scoring gaurd in history and history proves it wen he beats jordan in points in about 2years we can say kobe is the greatest scoring gaurd ever 7th. to the guy that wrote dis article has lost his made his jordan fan u can tell by the way he wrote the article favours jordan in everything and theres nothing wrong wif dat if he's ur fav player of course gonna do that and but give kobe some arguement to agrue wif on dis article 8th THE scoring titles is ridculos too cuz if kobe stayed in charlotte dis won't be a debate kobe would already had ten scoring titles 10th jordan to alot people is gonna be always the best no matter wat kobe does its always gonna be jordan and its pretty simple to understand dat cuz they grew up watching him and they fell in love wif the player same wif me wiif kobe and just there way it goes and its kinda sad cuz i don't know wat esle kobe has to prove he had shaq won wif him had pau won wif him jordan had no one at the start of his carrer and got bounced everytime before pipen came then won wif him and then wif rodman and kukoc and everyone esle who had something to do wif the titles to say jordan won by himself is bullshit was he the best player on the bulls team yes could he win by himself no no one can thats y its a team game and one last thing to those who say jordan is better then kobe in every aspect is not true jordan better defender yes kobe better score yes jordan better rebounder possiblily jordan better blocker yes jordan better stealer possibly to cuz scottie was guarding the best player on every team so much easier for jordan to get to the passing lanes theres one thing that kobe is and will always be better then jordan and thats creativity he's the most creativtest person in the history of the game theres alot moves he copied of other historical player and players in the league 2day to say isn't the most creativest its bull but this all my opoion and prespectives of it others have other sayings opions or prespectives thanks u for reading



Since: Oct 26, 2006
Posted on: August 11, 2011 1:18 pm
 

Legend vs. Star: Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant

think about it you should be able to answere your own question, and no it is not a tough call mj can hang longer than kobe. mj would still jump before all and land after all . MJ was a beast both physically and mentally on the court. are you kidding me the jordan of old was older playing athletes of today and still dropping what 18 in his 40,s.  cmon man jordan was ahead of his time and this time. seriously watch truelly watch old jordan games. watch the hang time not many today can even hang like that. never mind score like that. or even win like that.



Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: August 11, 2011 1:11 pm
 

Legend vs. Star: Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant

Wow, please not again.  Not even close, nice try, next.....there is no next MJ and Kobe isn't even in the same stratosphere.  He is a great player, not a superstar...big difference.   

Just let it go...MJ is the best there ever was, is, or will be....
Wow, so much wrong with these statements.  First, there is no guarantee that there won't ever be a player who is better than Jordan.  To make the statement that there definitely won't be is complete folly.  Second, Kobe is a great player but not a superstar?  If Kobe isn't a superstar, who is?  Easily the best of his era, 5 rings, lock Hall of Famer.  I'm not saying that Kobe is as good as Jordan because I don't believe that he is, but saying he's not a superstar is absolutely insane.


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