Kobe vs MJ: Why You Shouldn’t Trust the Conventional Wisdom

[Editor's note: I am very, very pleased this morning to introduce the newest member of our blogging team here at MSF.

Jon Washburn is an Indy native, a sports fanatic, and just dorky enough about his sports obsession to want to share his thoughts with others on the Internet; so he'll fit right in with the rest of here at MSF. And let's hope that his first article, posted below, is indicative of how good his content will be. If so, the rest of us are going to have to work really hard to keep up.]

Let’s break away from the “Summer of LeBron,” “The Decision,” and countless hours of commentary that have nothing to do with the actual game of basketball.

Instead, let’s talk about what should have been the topic of conversation all summer; let’s talk about people who have actually done something on the basketball court besides quit on their teammates during the playoffs so they could go play with his best friends on the beach.

Let’s talk about and compare the greatest player from this era and the greatest player from any era: Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan.

michael-jordan-v-kobe-bryantFor over ten years now, Michael Jordan has been the clear, and undisputed, Greatest Player of All Time. We have tried to bestow “Next Jordan” status on countless players (Isaiah Rider, Grant Hill, Allen Iverson, Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, etc.), and failed each time. Every time one of them fails, we are vindicated in the thought that our hero, the Walking Swoosh, remains the greatest. Each time one of these “punk kids” proves that he doesn’t have what it takes, be honest, you have been a little happy.

Why? I’m not sure, but it really goes beyond the game, right? I mean, it’s not like we grew up singing, “I wanna be like Magic.” We never “dreamed we grew and flew like Bird.” There was just something so cool about MJ. He literally transcended the sport. He was the first legitimate “Global Icon.” Sorry, LeBron.

So pause, right now. Think about the Jumpman. Think about what he did for the game. Think about how he revolutionized and globalized it. Think about how he made you feel when you were a young kid who was just beginning to like basketball. Think about how he ripped your heart out when he beat your favorite team, or how he made you rejoice because you were one of the countless fans that started liking the NBA because you liked him. Think about how you would go to war with anyone that wanted to tell you that another player was better. Think about the ridiculousness of the conversation.

Do you have that all in your mind? Are you thinking about him?

Good. Now stop. Put that all out of your mind…because we are about to do the unthinkable. We are going to (once again) compare him to someone else. Someone that is not likable. Someone that definitely never had that “cool factor.” Someone that you think is another one of these punk kids. Someone that has no business being mentioned in the same breath as him.

We are going to compare him to Kobe Bryant.

So before you read the rest of this article (if you haven’t slammed the computer lid closed already), stop worshiping Jordan and put your biases aside.

If I wanted to play the emotional, subjective angle, I would point out right here that there should be no reason at all why Kobe is less likable than Jordan.

  • Jordan – a guy that punched his teammate in practice for not playing hard enough.
  • Jordan – a guy that recently went through one of the LARGEST divorce settlements in history (pre-Tiger of course) because he was so egregiously unfaithful to his wife.
  • Jordan – a guy whose Hall of Fame speech was more arrogant than anything else I have ever heard.

(That’s right…Michael Jordan didn’t always get along with his teammates, he was unfaithful to his wife, and he was one of the most arrogant players of all time…and you thought those were the three reasons that you hated Kobe, right? Does it make any sense at all that Jordan is almost universally liked and Kobe is hated? And I won’t even mention the fact that Jordan may or may not have been banned from the NBA for 2 years for gambling).

kobe-bryant-v-michael-jordanBut let’s be honest, Kobe just isn’t cool like Jordan. He doesn’t necessarily command your respect and attention. He doesn’t have that charisma. You would never ever sing, “If I could be like Kobe.” So let’s not talk about personalities. Kobe could never compete with Jordan there…nobody could. But I don’t need to play the emotional card. I want to compare their actual games.

In my mind, there were three things that made Jordan great: unmatched drive and competitiveness; unbelievable athletic ability and work ethic; and the ability to change his game late in his career.

If you are honest with yourself, only one man came close to him on the first one (Bill Russell), a few guys have had his athletic ability or work ethic but never both, and even fewer guys changed their games to stay great. And even if someone was lucky enough to come close in one area, no one came close in all three…no one except the Black Mamba.

Now I could exhaust myself trying to prove that Kobe is Jordan’s equal in each of these three areas, but that is not really where the crux of my argument lies. In reality, any true basketball fan, someone that follows the game, would give me those three points. You would at least say something like,

“Ok, maybe he doesn’t quite have Jordan’s drive, but he’s right there with Bill Russell for second place. You are right, his work ethic is legendary…just like Jordan’s (just ask both the Dream Team and the Redeem Team). And yeah, the way Kobe has changed his game this year (adding a post game and shooting better from outside) is very much like Jordan.”

So with those three points a given, I want you to consider three thoughts: an argument, a comparison, and a hypothetical.

  1. How is ’99 Kobe – ’06 Kobe any different from ’84 Jordan -’90 Jordan?
  2. Who did they have to beat to get to the top?
  3. If we could ever invent a time machine and make them switch places, would things be any different than they are currently?

1) How is young Kobe any different from young Jordan?

Forget about stats. They are often misleading, and in this case, they really don’t tell the whole story.

Yes, Jordan averaged over 25 a game as a rookie and Kobe didn’t even crack double figures. Yes, Jordan was the ROY and Kobe famously hoisted up air-balls in the All-Star Game. But stats really can’t tell the whole story.

Jordan came into the league as a 21-year old-man, while Kobe came in as a 17-year-old kid. Jordan was handed the keys to the car from day one, while Kobe went to a team with Shaquille O’Neal and played behind an all-star (Eddie Jones) at the same position. If you honestly think that Michael Jordan would have scored more as a 17-year old on the same team…you need a reality check.

No, my point is this:

Up until 1991 when Jordan won it all, we thought we knew three things about him: he was an amazing scorer, he hated losing, and his team could never win it all with him leading the league in scoring…selfish scorers like that just didn’t win championships (think about Magic’s Lakers, Bird’s Celtics, and Isiah’s Pistons during the 80s.) In fact, only one person in history (a young kid named Lew Alcindor) had ever won a championship while leading the league in scoring. Jordan would join Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, and all the other selfish stars that lost to the unselfish teams, the thinking went.

Of course, we forget about that now that he has six titles and is considered the GOAT, but to quote Jordan from his book, For the Love of the Game, “By the start of the 88-89 season, the challenge was mental. I was perceived as a great player, but the criticism was still the same: The Bulls will never win a championship with Michael Jordan leading the league in scoring.”

Be honest. Haven’t you heard all of those things about Kobe? Kobe couldn’t win by himself. He is too selfish. He’s a great player, but he doesn’t “get it.”

Of course, we remember this so well because it’s much more recent. As little as 5 years ago, Kobe was scoring 81 points and missing the playoffs. The last thing we remember about Jordan was his shot over Russell. But ask “Air” himself…the feelings about young Jordan were very similar to those of young Kobe.

So what happened to change these thoughts about Jordan? Well, most people would say that he just “got it.” He bought into the triangle. He became unselfish. But in reality, the changes had nothing to do with Michael, and everything to do with what was happening around him.

Scottie Pippen came into his own. The Bulls got Phil Jackson. And not coincidentally, Magic, Bird, and Isiah all became old. That’s right. It’s easy to forget now, but Magic and Bird had both been in the league for ten years, and Isiah’s teams were washed up (by the way…if you are under the unfortunate delusion that the 90s were great and Jordan was the “King of the Greats,” you might want to stop reading when I get to point #2).

Unfortunately for Kobe, the only reasons that he won were because of his teammates…at least, that’s been the conventional wisdom. We deliberately choose to forget about the fact that he basically beat the Kings by himself in 2001 (48 points and 16 rebounds in the clincher!). We gloss over the fact that he has made so many All-NBA Defensive teams.

Look, both young Jordan and young Kobe had their shortcomings. But it’s much more fun to say that Jordan just “got it” whereas Kobe lucked out and got Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom later in his career. You can make that choice, but I’m here to tell you that you are wrong. They both grew up a little bit, they both got a little lucky, and their competitiveness eventually pushed them over the top.

2) Who did they have to beat to get to the top?

Think for a second. Think hard. How many teams in NBA history have won with only one superstar on their team?

Still thinking huh?

This argument can get rather lengthy, but I just want to make this point. Think about all of the “great” teams in the 90s. How many of them had more than one superstar? I guess if you want to say the Jazz, I’ll give you them. The Sonics had one good year with GP and a pre-coke Shawn Kemp. Shaq and Penny split up the year that Jordan got back. If you really want to press things, Hakeem and Clyde the Glide can make 1 1/2 stars. Those are the only teams, right?

Let’s evaluate the teams that Jordan actually had to beat.

The New York Knicks
Yeah, they were tough. Yes, they were incredibly physical. They absolutely took advantage of the rules as they were written back then. But weren’t Michael and Scottie BY FAR the two best players in this series? Really. Ewing, Starks, and Oakley? Who is legitimately scared about that team.

Besides all of that, the Bulls nearly beat them the year Jordan was gone! I think it’s safe to rule out the Knicks as some sort of “dynasty that would have been.”

The Utah Jazz

We’ll agree that Karl Malone was great…during the regular season. And we can say that we kind of enjoyed watching John Stockton play too. But if Jordan and Scottie played 2-on-2 against them 100 times, don’t they win them all? Honestly, the Jazz were just the left-overs of the Western Conference – the team that couldn’t get it done for years until Hakeem, Clyde, Barkley, and Magic were all old.

The Indiana Pacers

Quite possibly the only team that you could argue might have been better than the Bulls. They had Jalen Rose, Antonio Davis, Derrick McKey, Travis Best, and Austin Croshere…all coming off the bench. Their starting lineup included Hall of Famers Chris Mullin, Reggie Miller, and Mark Jackson, as well as All-Stars Dale Davis and Rik Smits. But really, at the end of the day, even as a die-hard Pacers fan, I have to admit that Jordan and Scottie were still by far the two best players in the series. And when you have a team that has won five titles playing a team that has never even been to one…it’s no surprise that the Bulls pulled it out.

So with all of that in mind, are you going to tell me that Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen…the only team that had 2 bonafide superstars in the entire decade…shouldn’t have won that many titles in what was quite possibly the weakest era in NBA history?

That’s right. We don’t think about it now, but the 90s was the weakest era in the history of the league. The NBA expanded from 23 to 29 teams. Then we had the high school infusion of guys that would eventually be good…but not for 3-4 years. You don’t think this would water down the league? Sometime, when you are bored, you should just “dissolve” the 6 worst NBA teams and put all their players on other teams…tell me how much better each team gets.

This brings us back to Jordan and Scottie – the only team with 2 superstars. Plus, let’s give them the winningest coach in NBA history. Now riddle me this: why is the fact that they basically ran off six straight titles against a watered down league really that big of a deal?

Now you might try to tell me that Scottie wasn’t a superstar. Don’t waste your breath. I could tell you that he made more All-NBA First Teams then Stockton, Drexler, and Isiah. Or I could remind you of how he took a mediocre Bulls team to the Eastern Conference Semis after Jordan left. But here is my favorite stat:

In the ’94-’95 season, before Jordan came back, Scottie became the first player in history to lead his team in pts, rebs, assts, blks, and stls. The point? Scottie Pippen was REALLY REALLY good.

Now we have Kobe. The shortcomings of his that I hear most often are different versions of the same two arguments: A) He could never win without Shaq/Pau/Odom/Artest/etc. and B) Something about 6 for 24 in the NBA Finals.

Number one, if my previous novel about Jordan in the 90s proved anything, it’s the fact that NO ONE has ever won by himself. LeBron played about as good as is humanly possible these past three years and he didn’t even get all that close. Let’s stop pretending that Jordan is so much better than Kobe because he “did it himself.” Let’s stop pretending that anyone could ever “do it by himself.”

Let me also take the time to point out that Kobe had to go through the greatest PF in history (Tim Duncan), a top 4 PG (Nash), the greatest shooting big man (Dirk) and countless others (KG, Melo, D-Will, C-Webb, Bibby, Finley, Manu, Parker)…every year…just in his own conference. If you really break it down, the NBA is surprisingly MUCH deeper now than it was in the ’90s.

Now to the whole 6 for 24 thing. I get it. Jordan “rose to the occasion.” He “came up big when it mattered.” He had 63 in the Garden, The Shot, The 3-pointers, The Father’s Day Game, The Flu Game, The Shot 2, etc. You know what? You’re right. You can’t take those things away from Jordan.

But then I think about the fact that Kobe legitimately fantasizes about being guarded by Jeff Hornacek and Bryon Russell in BACK TO BACK NBA FINALS.

Seriously. I can’t stress this enough. There are two guys on every team now that are just as athletic as Kobe. There weren’t 2 guys in the entire NBA that were as athletic as Jordan. The only one that was even close was on his team. This, in part, makes the whole “6 for 24” argument bogus.  But let’s look at the argument a little closer.

Look at the stats for Game 7 of the 2010 Finals. Seriously, I’m going to wait for you to look up the stats for Game 7 this past year.

What you will find is this:

  • Pau Gasol – 6 for 16
  • Ron Artest – 7 for 18
  • Andrew Bynum – 1 for 5
  • LaMar Odom – 3 for 8
  • Guards on the Lakers’ bench – 0 for 6
  • Paul Pierce – 5 for 15
  • Ray Allen – 3 for 14
  • Rajon Rondo – 6 for 13 (pretty good)
  • Rasheed Wallace – 11 points on 11 shots
  • The entire Lakers’ team – 83 points on 83 shots
  • The entire Celtics’ team – 79 points on 71 shots

I mean really, it’s not like Kobe was the one guy who couldn’t rise to the occasion in this game. It’s not like the Lakers would have won had he just played as well as the rest of his teammates. The Celtics played some of the best defense of all-time.

In the playoffs alone, LeBron’s shooting percentage dropped from 58% to 45% against them. The great Pau Gasol’s shooting fell from 57% to 48%. And Kobe went from 49% to 41%. This was the Celtics. This is what they DID. Kobe actually had the smallest drop-off of any of the superstars.

Would Jordan have lit it up against that defense? Would Magic? Would Bird? Would anybody?

Yes, Kobe shot poorly, but so did Jordan in his final game. No one remembers this, but Jordan shot 15 of 35 from the field in Game Six against the Jazz in ’98. The rest of his box score wasn’t that glamorous either. 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 turnover.

With Jordan, we ignore all of that and remember the layup, the steal, and the shot. Kobe, on the other hand, somehow pulls down fifteen rebounds, plays stellar defense, and manages to get to the free throw line time after time in the fourth quarter to lead his team to victory, with a broken digit on his shooting hand, and what do we remember? 6 for 24.

You know what else? I’m willing to bet that if Kobe ever scored 45 points, but did it on 15 for 35 shooting and only had one assist, we’d kill him for that too. Preposterous.

Look, I’m not going to say that Jordan was able to just “waltz” through the 90s. I remember those series with the Knicks, Pacers, and Jazz. They were tough. He was beaten up. They were genuine battles. But could you ever say, even once, that the Bulls shouldn’t have won a series? No. In fact, I will go so far as to say this: in my mind, I think that Kobe’s five rings (in a more athletic era, against more quality teams, etc.) are just as impressive as Jordan’s six.

3) If they traded places, would things be any different?

Here is where you have to make a decision. Again, we know a few things:

  • Jordan was more competitive than anyone.
  • He changed the game.
  • He was our hero.

But honestly, if it was possible to put Kobe in a time machine and transport him into a much less athletic league onto a team with the greatest coach of all time and the greatest #2 option of all time…do you really think he WOULDN’T have won 6?

I’m sure there are many of you that think he wouldn’t have. But I bet your reasons are mainly made up of “facts” like, “you just don’t like Kobe” and “you think Jordan was the GOAT.”

If you want to debate the idea that the ’90s were weak, let’s do it. If you want to make the statement that “Jordan never ever would have missed the playoffs twice like Kobe did after Shaq left,” I might listen to you. Those are legitimate arguments. (BTW. Kobe’s second best player on that team was either Smush Parker or Kwame Brown…Jordan always had one of the top 5 other players in the LEAGUE on his own team…)

But it’s time to take off the Jordan-colored-binoculars. Let’s stop sipping the “Air” kool-aid. From where I’m sitting, for the first time in my life, someone finally deserves to be in the conversation with “His Airness.”

kobe-mj

That player is Kobe Bryant.

And no matter what my pre-conceived feelings towards him may have been, the truth can’t be ignored. We finally have a worthy challenger. And I for one am willing to throw Kobe into the ring with him.

Now, he may not win. He may come out bloodied, bruised, and beaten down. He may even get knocked out…Jordan was that fierce. But even so, the mere fact that someone is worthy of the conversation is a victory.

And you know what else? I’m willing to bet that even if he had a broken finger, Kobe would give the GOAT a run for his money.

**********

* – MJ holding trophy photo source: AllFamousPeople.com

* – Kobe grabbing jersey photo source: PE.com

* – Kobe and MJ picture: Orlando Sentinel Blogs



About Jon Washburn

Jon Washburn grew up in Indianapolis, IN and as such, is a diehard Pacers, Colts, and Cubs fans. When it comes to college, he cheers for Notre Dame football fan and Purdue basketball. Yes, this sounds shady, but since he grew up without cable, he learned to love Notre Dame - the only team on TV. Glenn "The Big Dog" Robinson was at Purdue when Jon was in his formative years, so he latched onto them as well. Did that make him a fair-weather fan at the time? Sure. Give him a break...he was 8...and he has stayed with those teams ever since. Currently, he lives in Charleston, SC with his wife who grew up in Cleveland. Although he is no longer physically in the Midwest, his heart will always be there. Jon goes by the name "Twitch" because he has Tourette's Syndrome. Hit him up on his twitter @jwtwitch.

Comments

  1. Brandon Onda says:

    Loved It, and your 100% right about Jordon he was a dick too. He just did a better job hiding it because he had a ton of endorsements. There a book about him called the Jordan Rules which talks a lot about that

  2. keith r says:

    great article twitch…you obviously know how i feel about the topic at hand…but none the less…one of the better articles I have ever read about the subject…as those fools said in the Bible…you nearly persuadest me…!! — KR

  3. K-Prain says:

    There was another dynamic duo you forget to enter into the equation…. Twitch and K-Money of the mighty, mighty Spartans! Great article! I read the entire thing, not knowing it was you that wrote it! Wow! Forget Rick Reilly.

  4. Twitch, I hate you. All the 30 somethings out there who hung Jordan posters in their room hate you. All those who pushed off the defender at the free throw line to hit the game winner and then throw three fist pumps in the air as you jump up the down in the driveway hate you. And we hate Kobe too.
    Sincerely, A Kobe Hater

  5. Tony the Stat Master says:

    The Stats are just too overwhelming: http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/j/jorhttp://www.basketball-reference.com/players/b/bry
    Excel is helpful using paste special (unicode text) to compare instead of killing your eyes switching back and forth.

  6. "Would Jordan have lit it up against that defense? Would Magic? Would Bird? Would anybody?"

    Kareem lit up all defenses. Greatest player ever, right here. The man who wore the goggles. It's ridiculous that people always forget The Cap.

  7. Jon-
    First off, Kobe gets in the conversation with MJ. He's there. It's done. LeBron's there too, like it or not. No other player comes close. No one else has the same edge, physically and mentally, pound for pound. Kobe and LeBron being in the conversation is where it ends. Jordan brought 5 unique things to the game of basketball: Athleticism, excitement, skill, focus and winning. No one in the history of the NBA so far has all 5. One of these things missing causes a player to drop off. LeBron currently has all but the last two, but the winning part will unfortunately be coming shortly. LeBron will never have Jordan's focus. That characteristic isn't taught; it's born. Kobe has never and will never have MJ's excitement. No one will deny Kobe athletic ability, focus, skill or winning (especially if he can come through next year). But the gym doesn't get quiet (on both sides) every SINGLE time he touches the ball, necks don't strain to see what the phenom is going to do next, kids don't hold their breath to see what miracle their hero will perform… MJ had that. And all the rest. If you could put a percentage on the importance of intangibles in basketball, it would probably be close to 50%. Don't limit basketball to exclude the excitement that makes a game into a sport. Don't limit the intangible that makes Jordan into the best.

    • Jon Washburn says:

      bOp-
      Great comments. I agree with a lot of what you said. I like your "5 things" that Jordan brought to the game. This is my only argument.
      Without debating whether or not Kobe brings excitement to the game (I think he does, but I understand it's not AS exciting as Jordan against white guys or LeBron today), I think part of the Jordan excitement stemmed from the fact that he was just so COOL. This is something that Kobe can never match. Jordan walked into a room, or a gym like you said, and commanded everyone's attention. You were in AWE of him. I get the feeling if Kobe walked in, you would think, "Wow, there's Kobe. He's famous." But you wouldn't hold your breath to see if he took a drink of water from the drinking fountain like Jordan.

      • Jon Washburn says:

        But here is the catch…I WANTED to take those arguments out of the equation. I agree that as an overall icon/celebrity, Kobe will never be close. But on the basketball court? Can we really hold that against him? I would argue that excitement is FUN, but not necessary for greatness.
        What was inherently exciting about Bill russell, or Kareem, or even Larry Bird (my hero)? On the flip-side, I think that Allen Iverson, Vince Carter, and Dominique Wilkins are all MUCH more exciting than Kobe. Do they deserve to be in the conversation?
        I know this wasn't your point, and I agree that intangibles are important, but I think that Jordan was the greatest because of his athleticism, skill, focus (or drive), and winning. The fact that he was exciting was just icing on the cake.

  8. Next article – why the Browns will win the AFC North within 3 years……

  9. Agor711 says:

    Tony the stat master just letting you know if you're going to write stuff make sure you have all the facts. In 1991 the Bulls did beat the Lakers but there was no Kareem, he retired a year before and James Worthy was injured all series so again if you're going to say something so emphatically make sure you have some facts

  10. Factual errors:

    -Kobe shot the infamous airballs in the series clinching loss to Utah, not in the all star game. The controversy in the all star game was when he waved off a Karl Malone screen to go 1 on 1 against MJ.

    -The Lakers made the playoffs in 2006 when he scored 81 and averaged 35 ppg with Smush parker and Kwame Brown.

    -He missed the playoffs in 2005 when Caron Butler was his teammate and he and Odom both missed significant time with injuries.

    • Jon Washburn says:

      I believe I said that just 5 years ago, Kobe was scoring 81 points and missing the playoffs. I never meant to imply that they were in the same year, just that his reputation was "Great scorer, not a winner without Shaq."

      Also, you are right about the airballs. Either way, my whole point there was this:
      Young Kobe was instantly hated as soon as he came into the League. He was a "punk kid" that had the audacity to call off a Karl Malone screen and shoot at the end of playoff games. Why are we surprised that he was so cocky? And why do we think that Jordan WOULDN'T have been that way had he lived the same way.
      Again, this is the Jordan that stood up in his Hall of Fame speech and told his son that he felt bad for him because he could never be as good as his father.
      Jordan had all of the "arrogant" issues that Bryant had, he just never received flack for them.the end of playoff games. Jordan was still around, and we didn't want to see his replacement.

      • Jon Washburn says:

        I think if you look at it objectively, would Jordan have been that different as an 18-year-old? Jordan had the advantage of playing his rookie year as a 21-year-old man that had learned from Dean Smith. Kobe had lived in Europe where his dad was a huge basketball star and then basically played in All-Star Games all across America as a senior. Why are we surprised that he was so cocky? And why do we think that Jordan WOULDN'T have been that way had he lived the same way.
        Again, this is the Jordan that stood up in his Hall of Fame speech and told his son that he felt bad for him because he could never be as good as his father.
        Jordan had all of the "arrogant" issues that Bryant had, he just never received flack for them.

  11. Jon Washburn says:

    I will respond to these points one by one.
    1) This was the entire point of my second argument…who did they have to beat to get to the top?
    You're right. Jordan never played with a great big man. But answer me this, what team did he ever beat that had a great big man? The 90s were fun to watch, but the entire era was weak. Lost in this point is that besides Hakeem (whom Jordan never played in a series) and The Admiral (ditto), the best center in the league was…Patrick Ewing?
    Ewing…a guy who loved to settle for 15-foot fall aways and finger rolls around the rim. A finesse player on an otherwise tough team. Shaq was around too, but really only played against Jordan once on a good team. Sure, Jordan didn't have a big-man, but did he even need one in that era? It's not like he had to beat C-Webb in the first round, KG in the second, and TD in the third like Kobe did.

    • Jon Washburn says:

      2) Stats are not meaningless, just very misleading.
      On the same pages you sent me, I want you to notice one stat in particular. Usage Rate.
      For their careers, Michael Jordan has a usage rate of over 33% ten times. Kobe has done that twice.
      Now what does this mean? Just think about LeBron and the Cavs these past few years. No one could ever argue that he hasn't been unbelievable. But his stats are a little inflated because he literally gets to go one-on-five every possession and either score, or hit wide open guys in the corner.
      That is the exact type of team that Jordan played on until Phil Jackson came. Kobe, however, played on a team with the best low-post threat in the game since Wilt. Stats can help, but only when you are comparing similar players. Young Kobe and Young Jordan are apples and oranges.

      • Jon Washburn says:

        2) (continued)
        The other point here is this. Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double. Why? It's not because he was so amazing…it's because he played in an era where only 2 black guys were allowed on each team and nobody could shoot the ball. I would argue that if he DIDN'T average a triple double, it would have been a disgrace. http://www.basketball-reference.com/leagues/NBA_1
        Jordan was BY FAR the most athletic player in the league when he came in. Watching him play was like watching LeBron now…it just wasn't fair. John Stockton made FIVE All-NBA-Defensive-Teams. FIVE!!! Would he even be a below-average defender in today's league? Because of him, the league became more athletic and fun to watch.
        When Kobe came in, he was a freak, but there were countless guys just like him. Do you really think that Kobe wouldn't have lit up Kerry Kittles, David Wesley, Reggie Miller, and Jeff Hornacek? Because those are the 4 SGs that Jordan matched up against in 98…when the league was getting MORE athletic. I'm not saying that those guys weren't good. But competent one-on-one defenders? Hardly.

  12. Jon Washburn says:

    All in all, you make some decent points, but my main point is clear. Jordan did not have to beat the same caliber as teams as Kobe did.
    Also, to your point about "Kobe wins again with a game high 45!"…I distinctly remember on the night he scored 81 when the SC announcers were making fun of the fact that he had 2 assists. I think Stu Scott said something like, Kobe scored 81…AND HAD 2 ASSISTS (sarcastically).
    We revere Jordan's 63 in the Garden and 69 in Cleveland. Kobe gets buckets? We say he's a ball-hog.
    All I'm saying is if you look past all the hot "Air" and just look at their on-the-court work against WHO they played…Kobe is right there with His Airness.

  13. No no no no no. Michael Jordan is the best player of all time. There is no debate. Jordan NEVER would have missed the playoffs in his prime like Kobe did. Kobe never would have survived the hard fouls, hand checks, and abuse that Jordan did. Jordan never would have run a dominant big man (Shaq) out of town or quit on his team in the 4th quarter of a playoff game like Kobe did a couple years back. Kobe deserves to be mentioned as one of the best players of all time, but he clearly doesn't surpass MJ.

    • No one said that he "surpasses" MJ. He is just comparing the two and stating that Kobe should be mentioned in the argument, thats all. You say Kobe would not be able to survive the hard fouls, hand checks, and abuse that Jordan did!?? You clearly have never seen kobe play. The guy takes a beating. He is THE TOUGHEST player in the NBA hands down. Takes a beating every night. Plays with injuries better than ANYONE. I mean come on the guy had a BROKEN finger on his SHOOTING hand and still dominated. Learned a new way to shoot and grip the ball and still dominated. How many other players in the NBA wouldve been able to pull that off…..? Thats right no one.

  14. Good article. My issue with your early argument is this: When you compare their first 6 seasons, Michael had a higher scoring season ('87) and a more rounded MVP season ('88) then at any point in Kobe's entire career. The difference between the two of them during that 6 year span is clearly on the defensive end, as well as shooting accuracy. Michael was the only guard EVER to get 200 steals and 100 blocks in a season, and took DPOY in the ('88) year. Kobe has never even been in contention for that award. Michael also had several seasons when he shot 50% or greater. Kobe has NEVER shot 50% in a season. Ever.

  15. In addition to my previous comment, in the '88 MVP year Mike averaged 8 assists, 8 rebounds, and 2.89 steals a game as well. Kobe has never been close in any of those categories for a season.

  16. Jordan received plenty of flack for his all-star speech… Maybe you missed the several sports talk shows that debated over how arrogant his speech was and how it greatly saddened them to hear something like that from the GOAT. It's hard to compare Jordan's era with Kobe's era in the first place. I completely understand your argument that the teams from the 90's were weaker. It's true to some extent as well. I don't know that we can compare the two accurately till the end of Kobe's era. It's just a pointless argument to make as of now. For one, few if any would agree with you. Maybe, down the road, when we see just how good as a whole this NBA is we will be able to up Kobe's status, but for now there shouldn't be a comparison. I say this because right now you are calling Chris Webber, KG, Tim Duncan superstars, and don't get me wrong, they are. But at the time in the 90's, weren't Ewing, Miller, Barkley, Stockton, Malone, Hakeem all revered in the same light as any of the above players you mentioned? What we see now is what we have a fresh image of. So, when all the dust settles, those oh so great players today will look just as meager as the great players of the 90's. That's just it, they were great. Not the greatest. Kobe is the greatest of this generation. Only time will tell just how great he really is though.

  17. These guys just does not get it.. hey Steven.. cant u understand that u cant base on stats? it's the level of competition that we'r talking about here.. If u will put MJ in this era, he'll be facing stiffer competition.. it's not that he wont be Great, it's just that he will not be able to accumulate those stats like what he did in his era.. plus if u'll think about MJ's DPOY award, think about his stats, didnt Dwade did that a year ago? but did he win the DPOY award? see the point? the league is tougher and much talented now.

    • J.Jones says:

      Dwayne Wade will never equal Michael Jordan's defensive stats. Even if he did, for one season, he couldn't put that up consistently, throughout his career. Michael nabbed over 200 steals while swatting over 100 blocks in multiple seasons. Wade ever do that?

  18. Mikey P says:

    this was just a MONSTROUS article. I'm thoroughly impressed. There are 2 distinct sentences that really stood out to me (for various reasons of course)

    1. "Let’s stop sipping the “Air” kool-aid"
    2. “But if Jordan and Scottie played 2-on-2 against them 100 times, don’t they win them all?”

    You're an incredibly good writer Twitch. Send some shout outs next time :)

  19. i love it when no name losers write articles just to try and drum up some interest in their writing…regardless of how credible that writing really is.

    • Even better is when no name commenters rip an author/article without offering anything of value themselves. Thanks Joe.

      • Didn't realize it was my job to "offer value" to an article which I felt was such a waste of my time that I stopped reading after the first few minutes. BTW – thanks for ripping a no name commenter without offering anything of value either – that's leading by example baby!

  20. Regardless where you stand on this argument, this was a well-written piece. Your angles were definitely unique and refreshing. I think time machine arguments are futile. However, I will point out that when MJ was asked who was better between Kobe and Lebron. He emphatically said Kobe. The debate makes for a good read but the opinion I'd deem most credible would be Phil Jackson, Tex Winter and the rest of their mutual coaching staff…

    JLV

  21. Great article! MY GOD!..FInally someone who doesnt ride Jordans nuts every 5mins. Im not saying MJ wasnt great but as far as im concerned KB>MJ SLIGHTLY, and oif nothing else should be equals among all REAL BASKETBALL fans and followers. I dont agree with you on his "drive" not being the same as MJ's though…its not easy getting beat in the finals and then reeling off two str8 titles. Usually teams DONT go back let alone win. BUT great article, lots of truth that mj homers need to open their eyes too. And for whoever said LBJ is in the convo is a liar. He doesnt even have apost game, or man to man lock down Defense or a great jumper or rings so he's excluded lol sorry buddy

  22. Are we completely ignoring the dynamic of the respective eras that they played in? Are we ignoring the fact that Kobe has played in an era wherein league rules favor perimeter scoring whereas Mike played in an era wherein league rules favor perimeter defense? Ask yourself if Kobe could've withstood the physical pounding that Mike took from virtually every team that he faced. What the '90s lacked in athleticism, it made up for in sheer defensive ferocity. Swap the two stars. Put Mike in Kobe's era and Kobe in Mike's era and watch your article become nothing short of laughable.

    My point: I'll never deny that Kobe deserves to garner split second consideration as the G.O.A.T… but that's ALL he deserves. In the end, it's not half as close as you attempted to convey in this article. Nice try, though. Very nice try.

  23. the source says:

    Friend of mine dropped some knowledge on the matter…
    and i quote:

    That has got to be one of the worst articles i have ever read! He reaches soo far and takes so much out of context to make an excuse for the fact that Kobe is overrated.

    He writes "In the playoffs alone, LeBron’s shooting percentage dropped from 58% to 45% against them. The great Pau Gasol’s shooting fell from 57% to 48%. And Kobe went from 49% to 41%. This was the Celtics. This is what they DID. Kobe actually had the smallest drop-off of any of the superstars."

    What the hell? That is a stupid argument.
    1. 41%- Kobe is much less than 48% -Gasol's 'worst' 45%-Lebron's 'worst'
    2. Kobe had more shot attempts than both of them which makes his shooting percentage worse in regards to his effect on the game
    3. Kobe averages 45% FG for his career! plus his other stats are much less than Jordan and Lebron.
    4. It's harder to 'drop-off' any further when you're best is at the bottom of the list.

    I hate the argument that when it comes to Kobe, stats don't do him justice and instead people say that he is 'the most clutch', or , 'he's a better scorer', 'most complete basketball player'… all these statements aren't just exaggerated, they are completely wrong.

    Can you argue against this?
    1. Most Clutch? People get carried away at seeing buzzer beaters on highlight clips but when you look at who is actually winning games, its a lot different.

  24. The Source says:

    So…how can he be in that same argument as the GOAT?…

    was pretty much what (he) my friend was getting it…
    the dude likes to read lol ;)

    enjoy contemplating ya'll!

  25. kobe has had an 81 point game. Jordans best is 69. Kobe had a year with 40.2 points per game.Kobe without shaq=2 rings
    Joran without Pippen=0rings. MICHAEL JORDAN IS A ''6 FOOT 9 INCHES'' NONTALENTED BALLHOG.Jordan without armlength has 3 inches on Kobe. with the arms 4 1/2 inches on Kobe. When the bulls best lakers during the season in 96 that was Kobes first year in the nba and shaq couldnt help and beat jordan. If Jordan was so much better tan Kobe, why did he have to go to North Carolina instead of skipping college and going to the nba straight out of chigh school. even Lebron did something jordan wasnt good enough to do. jordans a little better than LeBron but kobes a lot better and better than mj. Kobe scored 55 points on jordan when they played wizards in 2000. jordan only had a 20 point game against kobe.If jordan was so amazing why couldnt he get any rings with wizards? Cause he cant win anything without Pippen.Kobe is better than jordan at shooting and defense. He even has a better dunk. jordan jumps from the free throw line and slamsms it down amazing. Kobe jumped from the free throw line spun in the air 2 times and dunked over his head. Top that MJ

    • Jordan is 6-6, same hight as Kobe. I think this whole debate is silly. Yes, Kobe modelled a lot of his game after Jordan. So have practically 80% of all the guards/small forwards since 1995. How many "next-Michaels" have there been? Kobe has had a different career path than MJ. Why can't we just seem to agree that they are both two of the best players/compettitors to ever grace the hardwood?

    • J.Jones says:

      This article is full of specious reasoning and flawed arguments. Some of the " strongest" evidence actually backfires on the guy writing this. Firstly, Jordan played in the 80s. He was a hall of famer before the 90s rolled around. Secondly, he beat Magic and the Lakers, who had taken the Bulls' home court advantage away in the Finals. Jordan's 69 pt. game against a quality Cleveland Cavaliers team was waaayyyy better than the 81 pt. outing against the lowly Toronto Raptors. The argument that the players are more athletic is not compelling. Jordan and Bryant played in the same league against each other and played with and against many of the same players. So, the notion that somehow Jordan was from another time, is just absurd. Another thing is that, Kobe played a lot of his career in a no hand check NBA. The NBA would not have made this rule if it didn't have benefit. It was to free up high scoring players and give them more advantages to score. Larry Brown noted that Michael Jordan would have scored a lot more, if he had played most of his career under these friendlier rules.
      Finally, Kobe had more meltdowns than Jordan, who never lost a finals.

    • J.Jones says:

      The biggest flaws in this article, ( and there were many), were completely overlooking Kobe's propensity for melting down or shooting his team right out of a game, or a series. Remember '04 Detroit Finals, '06 Phoenix playoffs, and '08 Boston Finals? Phil Jackson said that Michael has a better sense of which shots to take. Duh. He took way more shots, in a more defensive-minded NBA, yet still hit more of those shots than Kobe, giving him a higher field goal percentage. This means he was way more accurate. Secondly, every Kobe loving article tends to down play the
      fact that Michael owns him statistically. Now, it wouldn't mean much if Michael was ahead in slightly a few more categories. But he leads in ALMOST EVERY category. 3pt shooting is Kobe's only clear advantage. This is huge!!!! It shows a consistent superiority. Even though stats don't prove everything, if you completely dominate statistically, it does give some telling clues.

  26. Great article! Sick of all the Jordan Jocking! One of MJ's major strengths was getting past his man and to the basket, he wouldn't be able to do that as well against the zone D today. But Kobe would "kill" against all the under-sized 2 guards in MJ's era! Even MJ said 6'3"/195 Joe Dumars defended him best. Hand-checking is a lame excuse used by Jordan Jockers, it's overstated. MJ wasn't playing in a league of Detroit and New York only, there were bad defensive teams too! Look at this then tell me about hand-checking! http://www.nicekicks.com/2010/10/century-mark-mjs… MJ is barely touched in his mbest offensive games! The only hand checking is what MJ himself was doing!

  27. Jordan is still at the top – athletic-wise, competitiveness, work ethic-wise… He is by far ahead of anybody else, even Kobe in that regards. Kobe is great but he is nowhere near Michael Jordan.

    It is a correct statement for someone to say that the only comparable to Jordan is Kobe. It is because he is the most polished one of all the candidates, but this doesn’t mean he is near at Jordan’s level.

    Michael Jordan is the only one in His Level – The King of all Great players or The undisputed G.O.A.T.

  28. MOVIELIGHTNING says:

    YOUR ARTICLE HAS WRONG STATS LIKE JORDAN AVG 25 A GAME HIS ROOKIE SEASON, IT WAS 28.   AND YOU CONVENIENTLY LEFT OUT THAT NOT ONLY DID KOBE SHOOT 6-24 (25% TO MJ’S 15-35 43% ALMOST DOUBLE KOBE)  HE ALSO SHOT 7-18 VS THE MAVS N WAS EMBARRASSINGLY ELIMINATED WHEN TRYING TO 3PEAT W OUT SHAQ, HE SHOT 9-19 AND WAS DECIMATED BY THE SPURS, BY 28, AT HOME, IN THE ELIMINATION GAME, AND FINALLY MY FAVORITE: KOBE “BLACK MAMBA” BRYANT SHOT A HUMILIATING 38% FOR THE SERIES VS THE DETROIT PISTONS AS HIS TEAM WAS KILLED IN A “5 GAME SWEEP”  KOBE, YOU SMELL LIKE CRAP!  THIS NEVER HAPPENED TO MICHAEL JORDAN, CAUSE POINT BLANK, EVEN IF HIS TEAM FAULTERED, NO ONE STOPPED OR BEAT HIM ONCE HE WON IT ALL.  KOBE DONT GOT THAT POWER.  JUST BETTER 3 PT SHT %!   WHOO HOOO, GET A BUSINESS CARD!!!  

  29. Mikeyds999 says:

    Look, the truth is JORDAN is the best period. Sure Kobe is great in his own right, but he really is a copycat Jordan wannabe, without shaq no first three rings. Say what you want about Kobe’s performances those lakers teams don’t win shit without the fact that shaq got away with everything. Elbows to faces of opposing players, shoving players out of the way, you couldn’t stop shaq and that allowed Kobe to do as he pleased. If it wasn’t for the performances of Lamar odom , in the first finals w/out shaq and Gasols perfance in the second series w/out shaq Kobe wouldn’t have those other two rings. Who did Jordan have to lean on? No one, pippen was a product of Jordan’s greatness, helping his teammates achieve more. Kobe could never touch Jordan NEVER. There has never been a bigger sports icon or celebrity. Jordan changed sports, not only basketball but sports forever. Kobe only bloodied some poor girls panties.

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