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An Open Letter to Kobe Nation

Dear Kobe Nation:

Let me start by saying – I feel your pain. I’m not sure I can recollect a lower moment in our history with Kobe Bryant (for one game, perhaps Game 4 against the 2008 Celtics when the Lakers’ fate in the series was all but sealed). So much so, that today was the first time I turned on the radio during my hour long commute since the Lakers were swept. Even then, I had to avoid all sports talk. I read the LA Times for the first time today as well. As usual, the slew of writers ranging from Plaschke to Simers to Heisler  jumped all over the team, like vultures over their prey at any sign of weakness. It’s no surprise considering they’ve spent a majority of the last 10 years berating Bryant: from Heisler’s conspiracy theories around how Kobe caused Shaq’s exit, to Plaschke’s rehashing of ‘Kobe as ballhog’ articles, and to Simers’ wannabe “Allan Malamud on depressants” columns.

I saw Kobe play for the first time 15 years ago. I was 21 at the time. For those who you who remember his 1996-7 rookie season, it only took the first handful of games to realize the same thing Jerry West did when he called Kobe’s draft practice the “best he’d ever seen.”  Within his first 20 games, I remember thinking “this guy can be the greatest to ever play the game”. My friends would poke fun at me for idolizing an 18 year old kid who didn’t even start for the original Lake Show. But it didn’t matter. This was not about my friends. This was always about Kobe and his quest. And that is a quest I believe many of you, in Kobe Nation, have been following avidly for the last 15 years – calculating each turn of events and how they will impact KB24’s ultimate goal.

To be the greatest.

Not top 10. Not top 5. But number 1. Better than Michael, Wilt, Kareem, Magic, and Bird. It was almost like he was pre-destined to be the NBA’s heir apparent.  He came from respected basketball lineage, had unbelievable athletic ability, off the charts charisma, was a historian of the game, and an unparalleled will to be the best. To top it all off, we loved him because we could brag that he did all this while scoring high on his SAT, writing poetry, and watching old film in his spare time during Laker road games. He was made for Hollywood and the Lake Show. A truly renaissance basketball player cut from the finest Italian cloth – how could he not be the greatest?

And that’s why the loss to the Dallas Mavericks hurts so much.

This wasn’t about whether Kobe would pass Magic as the greatest Laker of all time. It had nothing to do with Shaq. And other greats like Wilt, Bill Russell, and Larry Bird seemed like just stops along his highway to ultimate greatness. The real prize, as any Kobe historian will tell you, was this quest to pass MJ. As the playoffs began, I still believed deep down that Kobe would fulfill this destiny. And as they’ve ended, I am equally sure that he won’t. I entered this year thinking: if he wins 2 more championships with this Laker team, he would have 4-5 rings as the alpha dog, 7 rings total, 9 finals appearances, and a slew of All-NBA, All-star, and All-Defensive Team selections. Add this to a resume that probably will see him finish 1st or 2nd in scoring as well as near in top in numerous other regular season and playoff categories, and the GOAT title would have been in reach.

In this process, I was also able to justify away many of his supposed flaws.

The 2004 debacle against the Pistons was primarily due to a lack of effort on Shaq’s part (how do you not pull down more than 8 rebounds in 3 of the 5 games?) combined with one of the best NBA Finals’ defenses we’ve ever seen. The 2003 loss to the Spurs was against a tough rival who had the only other post-MJ dynasty. The 2008 series against the Celtics was caused by a more experienced Celtics team, a tentative Odom/Gasol combo (do some things ever change?), and a lack of homecourt advantage.

The blowouts that have signified some of his elimination games during his career. The Spurs. The Pistons. The Suns. The Celtics. The Mavericks. I can point out in each of these games how it was clear that Kobe brought his A game in the beginning stretches before his teammates (always his teammates!) let him down.

A FG percentage that allowed his critics to put him in the demeaning category of being a volume shooter , I interpreted as a supreme confidence in his ability and willingness to take shots without concern for his overall shooting stats.

His locker room persona that caused so many of his teammates to be critical of him was of course driven by his MJ-like quality to not just be “one of the guys”. (though I think deep down I knew MJ had a respect in the fear he created that Kobe was not quite ever able to replicate)

The Colorado incident – was their ever any doubt that the girl was complicit? And plus, it allowed him to make those heroic same day trial and game performances. Some things do have a happy ending right? (no pun, intended)

But all of these flaws, as a Kobe fan, made him human somehow. And I, as well as many others, enjoyed watching this human fight through these flaws like the gladiator on the quest he was on – rising to heights the NBA has rarely seen, falling from grace, only to rise up once again.

Still – I cannot overlook the flaw that is getting swept by this Mavericks team. In my mind, it has cost Kobe the chance to be the GOAT. And that, my friends, is a hard, bitter pill to swallow.There are several reasons for this: (1) I think it puts a severe dent in my “plan” that Kobe could pass Michael and win 7 rings, (2) even if he does, he will somehow have to overcompensate for several questionable losses during his career (losses that MJ never had). Ultimately, I think these factors will be too steep of a climb for even Kobe the Gladiator to overcome.

So where to from here? For once, I’m not quite sure. On one hand, I think some retooling could scrape the Lake Show another championship (when does Dwight Howard get here already?). I believe this, plus a few more good statistical years and relatively deep playoff runs would be good enough to put Kobe as a definitive no. 2 of all time. On the other hand, my deepest fears are that the rest of Kobe’s years will continue downward and expose the worst of his qualities. As his skills deteriorate, will he ever accept being a complementary player as opposed to the alpha dog. Will he continue to rely heavily on his jump shot, causing his FG% to go further down? Will he refuse to accept his limitations and not end his career gracefully, going out like the champion that he is? Most sinister of all, will the Scheme Team put together a few championships allowing LeBron to move above Kobe in the NBA’s greatest rankings?

For the last ten years, I’ve had a habit of calling my good Laker fan friends while driving, pumping up Randy Newman’s “I Love LA”, and leaving them a voicemail message of the entire song after particularly meaningful playoff wins. No voicemails were left this year. Make no mistake, I am a lifelong Lakers fan. I grew up with Magic, but feel like I know Kobe. I recall being asked, when it was a distinct possibility that Kobe might leave for the Clippers, who would I root for? Sure, I would still love the Lakers, but it was still Kobe’s quest that would demand the majority of my attention, I replied.

That’s why for me, not being able to root for Kobe’s quest to be the greatest will tarnish my Lakers’ watching for years to come.

Sadly, my friends, that quest is over.

Yours truly,

Brown Mamba


67 Responses to “An Open Letter to Kobe Nation”

  1. Come on… you can’t seriously think he was in the same league as the BEST players do you…
    Please don’t pass off him making the all NBA Defensive team all these years as him being a good defender, because he is not (he once was, but if you objectively watched the Lakers these past years you would see how that acknowledgment is an embarrassment to those who actually focus on that end of basketball), and don’t make excuses for his low shooting percentage (which is only .003% lower than his career fg%).

    OSTERTAG 4 LIFE!!!!!!!!!

    It is obviously what it always has been, hes a scorer on the best TEAM in basketball. The elite players though are dominant in more than just one area (Kobe is a scorer, not a consistent threat to beat you other areas on the court). The ways in which he scores is extremely versatile, but he is still only going to be out there looking to score. Yet hes not even as effective as the elite scorers (you do realize Lebron scores more than Kobe with less FG attempts these past years). Id love to see the averages a Pierce or Stoudemire or even the transgender Gasol if they put up as many shots/game over their careers as Kobe did. Kobe would take more attempts a game with his supporting cast than Lebron attempted with Cleveland’s supporting cast, which is just all sorts of messed up.

    OSTERTAG 4 LIFE!!!!!!!!!

    The real basketball players don’t subscribe to the my-shot-Kobe/Iverson brand of ball (although to AI’s credit he dominated at the FT line, and noone left the defenses broken down more, allowing for his teammates to get proper position on the offensive boards). To even mention him to MJ is foolish (offensively, defensively, or even as a teammate). You could compare him to Pierce. I mean marketing wise the NBA knows the best thing for them is to make MJ still an active player (enter David Stern making Kobe to be the second coming), but logically the comparison is hilariously one-sided.

    OSTERTAG 4 LIFE!!!!!!!!!

    You do realize how basketball is played right? Almost every possession is influenced by the 4 teammates your playing with. There’s only so much a single player can do. The way Kobe plays in the Finals are routinely disappointing (even though the commentators would never say it), yet he still comes away with the ring (Kobe plays bad, LA still wins…) Once every single player in the NBA has the exact same supporting cast you can make fair comparisons based on who wins more games. Your comparing Kobe Bryant, Not Kobe-Shaq-Rice-Horry-Fish…. Did Kobe, arguably in his prime years, not want to win the seasons between Shaq and Gasol or was his teammates not good enough?

    OSTERTAG 4 LIFE!!!!!!!!!

    Kobes one of the most entertaining players to watch, especially when he attempts more fadeaways than layups. His greatest achievement may be how hes still going at his high level, and how hes managed to outlast the Iversons and the McGradys. But when people compare him to MJ they are only helping make him the most overrated player in the game.

    Unemplyoment FTW!!!

    Posted by Craigy | May 11, 2011, 10:05 am
    • people please! Stop all the MJ sucking. To say MJ was a better teammate than Kobe, is well, stupid. Did you know MJ fought with Kerr, BJ, And others all the time? Did you know Pippen actually had a better year, the best of his career when MJ retired? Did you know when MJ retired the Bulls only lost 2 less games? Did you know he got Collins fired? Did you know so many NBA players hated his arrogance so much they did not want to pass him the ball in the all star game? Did you know he had many arguments with Tex Winter? So basically you don’t know sh$t. His HOF speech spoke volumes of who he was as a player, selfish.

      Kobe has repeatedly give those who came before him credit for who he is a player, but you MJ minions, want to use that as Kobe copying MJ only. Get a life and get your nose out of MJ butt.

      Did MJ ever score 81 points in a game? No, and he tried, but he did not. Did he ever shoot a left handed 3 from the corner, draped with 2 players and make a left handed shot? No. Who has more game winners? Kobe.

      You call Kobe a ball hog, yet MJ has 1100 more FT and more FGA’s. You use stats like MJ led the NBA in points more years than Kobe, no shit Sherlock he shot more.

      I am not saying Kobe is better, but am not saying MJ walked on water. Kareem has better stats. Wilt holds more NBA records. Russell won more. Yet, you sycophants want to vilify Kobe and hold MJ is such regard as if he never lost a ball game and he was the best at everything, while over looking what others have done, that were just as good or better.

      Players in today’s era jump higher; run faster; more skilled than yesteryear players that goes with the evolution of sports, but all you guys can speak about is what MJ did in the 90’s. WOW!

      After 15 years you are still comparing Kobe to MJ. Do you know, that no one else has been compared to any other superstar that long? That either says something about Kobe or something about the people who do it. Either way Kobe is the topic, even when he isn’t the topic. Kobe, Kobe, Kobe. When he scored 50 points consecutively over a period of time, you moron said, MJ could have done it more, news flash he did not. When he outscored the Mavs by himself, you suck heads said, MJ could have done that, news flash, he did not. Kobe is never good enough that’s why after all these years, he is still being compared to the MJ legend, because this guy is that good. Admit it, then go find something else to do.

      Posted by Sportswriter | May 12, 2011, 6:56 pm
      • Dumb…
        firstly the only people making the Kobe to MJ comparison are the kobe homers (look at this article, if you notice I wrote one line about MJ in my response to an entire article on it). This is a comparison that should never even be made, since it isn’t close.

        There’s nothing you pointed out in that article about MJ that doesn’t also apply to Kobe, and nothing knew to me. My point was never that MJ was a posterboy teammate, it was more that Kobe Bryant is what is very obvious if you’ve followed his career without the rose glasses on, which is one of the most selfish players in the league. Dude’s an ass, and if your not a homer you dont block all the stories of how terrible a teammate he’s been.

        Your Pippen/Jordan argument is similar to lebron Wade, if you take one out the others obviously gonna pick up more points, assists. Their wing players so of course Pippens gonna have better averages, he’s getting the feature role. Kobe on a poor shooting day will still sometimes put up more shots than Gasol, Bynum and Odom some nights… you don’t think anyone of them wouldn’t have way better numbers is Kobe was out.

        As for screwing up the gameplan and breaking up the play, we still are hearing criticisms of Kobe for doing this even still. So MJ got Collins fired, well Kobe got Shaq shipped out of LA… whats harder on a franchise?

        Phil Jackson coach of both demanded one of these two players got traded or he would retire… which speaks loudly about what kinda person Kobe is.

        I can’t believe Im responding still but go look into how effective kobe is at gamewinners, it aint nothing to be bragging about (guy loves himself too much to make the right basketball play at the end of games).

        As for assuming the reason responsible for Jordan scoring more was because he shot more is again dumb. The numbers are all there for you to go look into, its blatantly obvious if you look at any efficiency stat (you do know what fg% means I assume) that MJ was way more efficient in his scoring.

        What’s also dumb is you picking out kobe’s single games where he had his most success, its just as dumb as me picking out his worst games and pointing it out. Also a few of his 50 point games were the least efficient 50 pointers of all time. If you get 50 points you shouldn’t be missing more than half your attempts.

        As for truly comparing them offensively and defensively, that is a damn waste of time. You are a fool.

        Posted by Craigy | May 14, 2011, 8:57 am
  2. Kobe will always be the best player in NBA History to me !

    Posted by Tremaine Edwards Jr. | May 11, 2011, 12:00 pm
  3. “There’s only so much a single player can do.”

    Funny, because Kobe fan idiots weren’t saying this in the 2010 season about LeBron..

    Posted by Bill | May 11, 2011, 12:14 pm
    • Because the Cavs won 60 plus in the regular season and were heavy favorites to win the title.

      Posted by Gil Meriken | May 14, 2011, 11:05 am
    • The Lakers were the favorites to win the title this year (before the play offs started) despite their (pretty decent) regular season.
      The Spurs were a 60+ team in the regular season this year and got taken out by a talented 8th seed. The bulls are a 60+ win team this year and I wouldn’t be surprised if they lose this upcoming round to the Heat.
      If the bulls lose though Rose won’t be subject to the scrutiny and ridicule LeBron endures. The reason he has to endure it is b/c people know deep down he is on the same level Kobe is on. It’s threatening to see someone who is as talented or more so than your idol.
      Regular season doesn’t determine that a player will get a ring and Lebron has never had teammates as good as Kobe’s teammates until this year. In his Cav days his best teammate was a number 47 pick out of the NBA draft and is now a back up on the Clippers (Mo Williams) A hard core unreasonable kobe fan would never admit that though.

      Posted by izwel | May 14, 2011, 10:53 pm
  4. C’mon you guys KNOW deep inside your hearts Kobe is not and never will be better than MJ I will give possibly 2nd best of all time….but MJ never had Shaq in the paint for 3 rings….soo ummm….yeah…Besides Kobe has NEVER been able to defend the way Jordan did, and his heart is no where near that of Michael Jordan

    Posted by Peaceshine23 | May 11, 2011, 2:38 pm
    • Peaceshine — thanks for the read. Yes, as I stated, I think that is what Kobe will have to settle for at this point.

      That said, MJ never had Shaq, but he did have 2 Hall of Famers, something Kobe hasn’t had any of in the last 4 years that he has been contending.

      And I don’t totally agree with the defense comment, I would venture to say Kobe was a better on-ball defender than MJ.

      Posted by Brown Mamba | May 11, 2011, 3:36 pm
      • I would venture to say that you’re wrong…i mean just look at All defensive team selections compared to Kobe…you can’t be serious right? MJ would lock guys DOWN sometimes…i don’t think Kobe has ever been a lock down defender…ever.

        Posted by Peaceshine23 | May 12, 2011, 10:06 am
  5. Wow, more completely delusional Kobe worship.
    2004 was Shaq’s fault? – guess it had nothing to do with Kobe averaging 34% FG% in their losses.
    The only years Kobe was clearly the best Laker (best season and postseason win shares per minute, which Jordan had every single full season of his career, mostly by a mile) were 2005-2007. In those 3 years the Lakers did not win a single playoff series.
    The guy is a guard who never managed to shoot 47% or average twice as many assists as turnovers. How is he even top 20 all time?

    This article sounds so ridiculous I wonder if it’s supposed to be ironic. But with so many delusional Kobe worshippers on the net it’s hard to tell.

    Posted by bla | May 11, 2011, 3:05 pm
    • BLA — Kobe is also the reason the Lakers won their only game against the Pistons. And it’s hard to deny that Shaq came into that series fat and out of shape (and the Wallaces handed it to him).

      As for bias, nice one. “How is he even top 20 of all time?”. Here’s how:

      5 rings
      7 NBA finals
      10 All-NBA
      9 All-Defensive
      Probably will finish 1st or 2nd in all-time scoring

      Give me your top 20 who would finish above — please.

      A strong argument can be made that Kobe is in the top 5, and I still believe he can finish as #2 of all time.

      Posted by Brown Mamba | May 11, 2011, 3:34 pm
    • I agree that you cannot compare him to Jordan: but not top 20 of all time? Come on. I know you are probably one of those people who research every stat to justify your argument, but please tell me you are kidding. Do you think Jerry West or Magic belongs in that group? If so, why do they throw Kobe into the top 20 of all time? I guess that you know more than the Logo and Magic when it comes to talent scouting. Maybe you should take it up as a profession. I know that a lot of people do not like Kobe, but come on.

      Posted by Isaiah | May 11, 2011, 7:50 pm
  6. “A strong argument can be made that Kobe is in the top 5, and I still believe he can finish as #2 of all time.”

    Nope. Any contextual analysis of his production doesn’t make him top 5 worthy, much less top 2.

    Top 10? Perhaps.

    Posted by Bill | May 11, 2011, 5:02 pm
    • I’m not going to dispute he’s in the top 5 right now, I’m not sure of this myself. That being said, I definitely think he’s top 10. Premise of my statement is that he plays another 4 years or so (until he’s 36-37) at a level somewhere around where he played this last year (e.g., think 22-5-5 average) If he does this, I think the entire body of work in his 18-20 year career will probably merit a place in the top 2.

      Posted by Brown Mamba | May 11, 2011, 5:16 pm
  7. Brown Mamba, I’m probably the biggest Kobe fan out there. And all these Jordan lovers/Kobe Haters don’t understand one fine statistic: JORDAN PLAYED IN AN ERA OF HIS OWN – HE WAS LUCKY!!! I mean who was his competition??? He had the league to himself practically. Name another significant threat to Jordan in the 90s? What other guard was there? Clyde? Reggie? Are you serious? Shit he had to retire for a team to have a chance to win. What kind of competition is that? I’m sure a team like the 2003 Spurs would have gave him fits. I’m sure an athletic Heat or a BIG 3 Celtics team would have kept him down. This is why Jordan didn’t win his first 7 or so years in the league – BECAUSE OF THE COMPETITION! Given all that, this only justifies the ring count for Jordan having an era of his own. Trust me, you switch the eras of Kobe/Lebron with Jordan – guarandamntee same outcome. As for the stats, the stats don’t lie. In a greatest of all time draft, I would still pick Jordan 1st all day everyday. You would have to be on crack not to. Kobe’s a better shooter maybe, but Jordan goes to the paint more which justifies his better shooting percentage. Jordan was a better defender and better leader. And even after all that, Kobe still had more years in the NBA to surpass the accomplishments of MJ coming out of high school. We just can’t really compare. After one more championship and overtaking the most points title from Kareem, Kobe will go down as the best Laker of all time and that has to say something. Only 3 teams with six championships or more: Bulls, Lakers, and Celtics. Kobe will be top 5 at the very least when it’s all said and done. Top 10 in 2016: Jordan-Kobe-Kareem-Wilt-Magic-Russell-Baylor-Oscar-Shaq-Bird (Yes, 6 Lakers make the top 10 list)

    Posted by LAKERFAN4LIFE | May 11, 2011, 6:57 pm
    • I agree with mostly everything that you say, however, you are leaving out one important point. Kobe was drafted and went to a playoff team. Michael went to a team where he was the main man from day one. The first two years of Kobe’s stats severely suffered because he wasn’t a starter for all of the games. I wonder what Kobe’s career would have looked like if he would have went to, let’s say, the Clippers. Nevertheless, I am also a big time Kobe fan, always have and will be. But, you are right, Jordan was better and I don’t see anyone challenging his throne.

      Posted by Isaiah | May 11, 2011, 7:44 pm
    • Lakerfan4life — thanks for the read. Yeah, looks like we’ll just have to settle for #2. Re: the top 10, it’s a good list, I might put Russell a little higher and Wilt a little lower (and might put in Hakeem instead of Baylor in the top 10).

      Posted by Brown Mamba | May 13, 2011, 9:48 pm
  8. All of you dumb asses referring to Jordan like he didn’t have great players on his championship teams are fucking ignorant, or you never actually watched Jordan’s championship runs. Scottie Pippen has six rings, is hall of famer, and was named as one of the 50 greatest players ever. If you don’t mention him with Jordan your credibility goes out the window. Pippen is easily one of the most underrated players in league history, which says much given the fact that he has all of the credentials. Dennis Rodman is arguably one of the top five defenders/rebounders in league history, and a hall of famer as well. Once again, you also need to give him credit; i.e., when he hemmed up Karl in the finals. Steve Kerr was a clutch ass 3 point shooter, so was Paxson during the first runs. Toni Kukoc and Luc Longley were excellent role players. Horace Grant was a good player. BJ Armstrong was also another important piece. Not to mention they also had one of the greatest coaches ever. I am not trying to take away from MJs greatness, because I considered him to be the best ever—and I am a Laker/Kobe fan. But, for all of you out there who think he won every single ring with scrubs by his side, that is simply not the case. Let’s recap, Jordan played on a team with 3 future hall of famers (himself included) for 3 of his six rings. How many hall of famers did Kobe play with for his first three rings? Probably only one: Shaquille O’Neal. How many did he have for his next two? I don’t know… Once again, I am not attempting to compare MJ and Kobe, but please don’t comment on the past unless you witnessed it, or at least watched some reruns.

    Posted by Isaiah | May 11, 2011, 7:34 pm
  9. Er… a strangely maudlin letter for a basketball blog, but obviously heartfelt. Still, that doesn’t excuse the collapse of logic that equates an accusation of sexual assault with “making [Kobe] human”. All that, and a cheap sex joke thrown in to boot.

    Write your Kobe fan mail if you have to but keep the adolescent mysogyny out of it.

    Posted by flacito | May 11, 2011, 10:40 pm
    • Flacito — funny comment. My reference to Kobe being human was really a reference to the fact that pre-Colorado and some of his other flaws, he was a manufactured media darling designed to get the top endorsements the land. We only started to get to know the real Kobe some years after. You might say the same of Lebron a few years from now post-The Decision.

      Posted by Brown Mamba | May 13, 2011, 9:51 pm
  10. My biggest criticism of Kobe Bryant has always been his fg%. In every position of his career, from his rookie days and low minutes, to his sidekick days and large minutes, to his alpha dog days he always shot about 45%. That’s the biggest reason why he isn’t as good as MJ.

    But that in no way means he isn’t one of the best of all time. 2nd best shooting guard ever surpassing Jerry West, John Havlicek (I consider him more a guard than a SF), Clyde Drexler, and Mitch Richmond.

    Not putting Kobe #1 doesn’t mean you hate him. I wish people would stop conflating hate with criticism, it’s rather annoying.

    Posted by Adam | May 11, 2011, 11:47 pm
    • It’s hate though, when people say he’s not even top 5 of all time. That’s not criticism, that’s hate. To deny Kobe is top 5 of all time is like saying gravity doesn’t exist.

      Posted by Gil Meriken | May 14, 2011, 11:07 am
  11. Thank you Brown Mamba for the provocative insight into your once deluded mind, and Cheers to your awakening!

    Posted by William | May 12, 2011, 2:03 am
  12. Bean’s bark is bigger than his bite. He’s a top 13 player all time, nothing more.

    Posted by Black Panda | May 12, 2011, 6:52 am
  13. Again with this nonsense?
    Can anyone honestly say that if you swapped Shaq for Pippen that Kobe would be six and oh?
    Jordan’s comp was full of HOF’er’s. But like Jack Nicklaus in the 60’s and 70’s, he just made them irrelevant.
    The problem with these discussions is that MJ fans (me included) end up disparaging Bryant and it comes off mean-sprited. The issue with Kobe is he looked at Mike the same way Tiger looked at Jack – the one to shoot for. The problem is golf is an individual endeavor while basketball is a team sport. So Kobe’s considerable talent was too often ill-applied. Example: his fan’s use the fact that he “hits tougher shots” than Mike. Why is he taking tougher shots? Take enough and you will hit some. Also that Kobe is at times triple-teamed (as if MJ wasn’t). Do you know what one coach said about that defense on Bryant? That they know he will still take the shot!
    No way his shooting % should be as low as it is. But, again, ill-applied basketball skills…

    Posted by bringbackmalcolm | May 12, 2011, 11:53 am
  14. I appreciate the concession speech Mamba. That must have been difficult considering that I never actually thought you would acknowledge that Kobe will never surpass MJ and would remain in denial until the day we died. However, I, like many are somewhat baffled by your criteria. So I will try and represent our readers as best as possible by trying to highlight why you are receiving some harsh criticism for your Kobe vs. MJ comparisons:

    1.) Ring Counting – For those who truly understand basketball history, your system of ring counting to label Kobe as the greatest of all time is extremely flawed for many reasons, the biggest being that Jordan was the victim of horrible teams for 50% of his career. Had he had a championship caliber team for any of those 7 years, he may not have won all 7, but certainly would have more championships than 6. Rings are the bi-product of management, not the greatness of players. Also, if you look at any of the Top 10 players of all time, everyone of them proved that they could win multiple rings when given a talented supporting cast. Kobe simply had more opportunities and more chances than anyone else. Winning 7 rings would have never legitimized his claim. Kobe won his championships because he had no excuse not to win them. He held “par” just like every other legend on the top 10 and failed 4 times just like a few of the legends not named Hakeem or MJ. He also never once overachieved which raises questions in the eyes of many as to whether he was simply a great player who was fortunate enough to be part of a great system.

    2.) Winnability – The metric that you should be using is Winnability since this IS the correct measure to guage greatness– the ability to win with the talent around you. And as you acknowledge, Kobe’s 4 playoff failures (5 when you count the fact that the 2005 team did not make the playoffs despite remaining in playoff contention during his injury, and then went 9-24 once he returned) and no overchievements serve as a very big thorn in his side.

    3.) All-Defense/All-NBA – This is a longevity stat more than anything, should not be overlooked, but does not serve as distinct differentiator in the Kobe legacy, expecially when compared to the other legends. Every single legend made the All-NBA team once they established themselves, some even doing so when they hardly had a pulse and were well beyong their years, and earned merit on reputation alone (See Kareem 1988 or Jordan 2003). This is a near meaningless honor with little distinction in the grand scheme of things. In other words, no one is claiming that Kareem is better than Moses because he has more All-NBA honors. It is a differentiator when comparing to the average basketball player. Not when comparing amongst legends.

    The bigger testament is to Kobe’s longevity – he has played 11 years of HOF caliber basketball.

    4.) 2004 Pistons – The readers’ issue with Kobe in this series has less to do with the fact that the Lakers lost. Teams lose and unless you are Jordan or Hakeem, everyone loses to teams that they are not supposed to lose to at least once. Moreover, the Pistons defense and Shaq’s effort are irrelevant. It has everything to do with Kobe and Kobe alone. If Shaq doesn’t bring it, fine. It does not mean you yourself roll over and shoot 38%- 22.6pts, 2.8reb, 4.4 assists – all far below season averages while going 4/13 will 11pts, 3reb in a pivotal game 3. Instead, the great ones fight until the end and go down swinging.This is the primary issue with Kobe during elimination games. At some point, in the 2Q, when things don’t go his way, he has a pattern of throwing in the towel. Also, Legends do not show up and “win one game”. They try to win every game.

    5.) FG% – The readers continue to harp on this, but the biggest contention is around shooting percentages and serves as one of the primary differentiators between Kobe and MJ. Whether you look at FG%, EFG%, TS%, there is very little contest, especially when looking at their peak years. Even if we were to normalize these numbers for current day and pace, there remains a sizable gap. And one of the readers makes a great point. Kobe has he ability to make tough shots, but why are you taking those tough shots to begin with? Jordan didn’t have to. Neither did Wade or Lebron – all of whom have higher shooting percentages than Kobe.

    I can go on and on, but will refrain from beating a dead horse. Sleep easy Mamba, next season is a new year.

    Posted by The NBA Realist | May 12, 2011, 12:29 pm
    • Realist — it’s must be a perfect storm of happiness for you these days: seeing the one threat to His Airness go down this playoffs while actually seeing the Bulls return to relevance after 13 miserable years (kudos on that). Let me respond to your somewhat biased points:

      1. Ring Counting — not sure I understand how you can discount ring counting as being just right place, right time. To believe this argument would require some circular logic. Had Pau Gasol ever won a playoff game without Kobe? Had Lamar Odom ever shown a speck of consistency? Was Andrew Bynum even relevant in any of the Finals they played? Kobe, and other greats, make lesser players around them better. So, in retrospect, Kobe did play with some pretty good players, BUT, he was part of the reason we view them as so. It is incredibly difficult in the NBA to win 1 ring much less 5 — it takes incredible will, determination, and motivation. I wouldn’t dismiss as purely based on “opportunities given”.

      2. Winnability — first of all, I don’t necessarily consider the Spurs, Pistons, and Celtics to be failures (the Mavericks, I do). The Celtics were the better team and had homecourt the year Kobe lost. Against the Spurs, the Lakers were coming off a 3-peat and had a let down (what team besides the dynastic Celtics won more than 3 in a row). The Pistons were a very underrated team — look at the lineup in restropect: Billups, Hamilton, Prince, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace. It was one of the all-time best defensive NBA finals teams. Don’t forget, the Lakers were banged up that series as well.Not all of us get to punt on going for 4 in a row by becoming a mediocre minor league baseball player of just flat out retiring (kind of). For those players that have played 8 consecutive years, and have not chosen to opt out to rest mentally, it is incredibly difficult to keep the same motivation and intensity up year after year.

      3. All Defensive/All NBA — not sure again what the logic is to dismiss these. Under your logic, all players still get the same allowances, so the fact the Kobe will finish with more than anyone is a testament to his greatness.

      4. 2004 Pistons — The Lakers won 1 game that series. May want to check out the game film as to why they won that one.

      5. FG% — I don’t think the gap is nearly as big as you’re painting it to be (another article for another day). Again, nice stat, but all it means to me is that Kobe didn’t defer responsibility.

      Posted by Brown Mamba | May 13, 2011, 11:20 pm
  15. Articles like this, to me, help point out how Kobe can be such a polarizing figure, which I find fascinating given that the guy’s not only been a great player for a long time but has also never been convicted of a crime or any outrageous behavior (as if all NBA players don’t cheat on their wives). I think a lot of Lakers fans felt the same as you, Mamba, in that they were hungry for Kobe to prove his greatness and have been championing him since early in his career. The Lakers, after all, are more accustomed to greatness than any other franchise. They have an absurd 61% winning percentage and have been to the playoffs 57 of a possible 64 times, with fully a quarter of the available possible championships. Not only that, but their laundry list of Hall of Famers reads like a who’s who of NBA history, and fans of many franchises are angry at the Lakers for stealing their superstar players. They certainly are easy to love and easy to hate. Both Magic and Kareem could make an argument that they were the GOAT before Jordan showed up and stole the mantle. Additionally, they’re within spitting distance of Boston for most titles. Kobe shows up at 18 and has all the tools Jordan does-Lakers fans think, maybe this guy could do what had evaded Magic and Kareem’s grasp, be the best player of all time, and get us back to the promised land enough times to beat Boston. Further, Kobe has such staggering self-confidence that it’s easy to look at him and see a younger, fresher Jordan. The new look Lakers start winning, a lot. In his first game vs the Bulls he dunks on Jordan. Very quickly Lakers fans are arguing that Kobe could be better, and very quickly those folks who can’t stand the Lakers or were huge Jordan fans reviled at the mere suggestion. Terrible officiating turned much of the league against the Lakers during the 2000 Portland and 2002 Sacramento series. Of course, the rape accusations (with very good evidence of sex and almost no evidence of rape) proved only to make Kobe an even more polarizing figure. I admit to being on the anti-Kobe side, being inclined to dislike him almost immediately after becoming enamoured with the NBA while watching Jordan beat the Lakers in the finals as my first NBA experience and later growing up in Indiana and in Phoenix, watching Kobe’s Lakers crush my local sports heroes. Despite that, it’s interesting to watch his career evolve and how people react to him and the way he carries himself.

    I look at Kobe’s career, and his actions seem to scream “look at me, I am the best,” while whipping his supporters and detractors into a frenzy. Kobe developed a tendency to break down the triangle offense and force his will on games that drove Phil Jackson ballistic and even caused him to retire briefly. Yet in the end, the Lakers won and lost a lot of games that way. Kobe has a pattern of always taking the final shot-fans say it’s fearlessness, detractors say it’s selfishness and glory-hogging. Both may be true. He developed a ridiculous, Sportscenter-worthy arsenal of moves that you can’t help but ooh and aah at every time he makes a jumper with 3 defenders draped over him. Fans say nobody else could make those shots, and critics point out that he doesn’t shoot particularly well. Jordan came back and Kobe made a point to abuse him one on one, emphasizing the comparisons between them. Kobe forced Shaq out of town-he probably knew he needed to be the alpha male to secure his legacy. In 2006 Kobe went off for a ridiculous 81 points-fans call it the greatest performance of all time and critics call it a pointless drubbing of a pitiful opponent. They are both probably right. During the playoffs, his undermanned Lakers grabbed a 3-1 lead on the Suns before watching it fizzle to 3-3, and in the second half of game 7, Kobe refuses to shoot. This act seems to say “Look how important I am! My team is nothing without me!” Of course, he was right. Kobe’s teammates did truly suck and he got desperate, so he tried to trade himself to Chicago. LA asks for Deng in the deal and Kobe turns the deal down, since he knows he wouldn’t be any closer to the title with a gutted Chicago team. Kobe’s supporters say he’s right to try to shake up a terrible Lakers team, whereas Kobe’s detractors pick up on these as fodder for their disdain for him and call him the most selfish player in the NBA. Both may be true. Then, the Lakers get Gasol in a completely legal, but completely ridiculous, trade that has Jerry West’s fingerprints all over it. The fact that it may have accidentally worked out for Memphis years down the road is beside the point. The Lakers get back to winning, this time with Kobe as their alpha male. Laker detractors are very upset and say Kobe can’t win without tons of help from teammates and NBA front offices. Kobe fans, on the other hand, continue to revel in his success and start noticing how close Kobe is to Jordan’s ring total. Then, the tides turn once again against Kobe in game 7 of last year’s playoffs, when he almost shoots his team out of a championship and somehow wins the Finals MVP anyway. He then flames out against Dallas this year. Many Lakers fans defend him and say he’s still got a chance to be the GOAT, others say he’s still top 2 or top 5, and his detractors say he’s a volume shooter and an overrated defender who’s not even top 10. His fans may argue that he could still make it over the top if he becomes the NBA’s leading scorer, whereas his detractors will say he’s failed ingloriously so many times he’s too far away to even be in the discussion. Regardless of your stance in this, it’s just amazing to watch both sides go at it with such passion.

    Posted by Lochpster | May 12, 2011, 9:22 pm
    • Lochpster — great comment, it is a fascinating debate to watch and even better to participate in. I agree with most of what you say, the one exception I would take is I still think people give Kobe way too hard of a time about the Game 7 against the Celtics. The facts remains that he scored 10 points and 4 rebounds in the 4th quarter of that game AND had his greatest Finals rebounding game ever. Bottom line — he did what it took to win even if he shot wasn’t there, and at the end of the day, isn’t that all that matters?

      Posted by Brown Mamba | May 13, 2011, 11:04 pm
  16. The pursuit is what is admirable.

    It was always a long shot that Kobe would overtake MJ. But the point is that since Jordan retired, no other player has even approached the comparison. The fact that it is even argued is a testament to Kobe’s drive and the sustained excellence of his career.

    I’m a huge Kobe fan but I’m not one of those blind to statistics. But I also, in the end, don’t care if Kobe is #1. I feel lucky to be watching him in the now.

    One thing I wanted to say to bolster your spirits, Brown Mamba, is that it’s become a common chorus this year that Kobe’s skills are declining.

    Amazingly, I hear a lot of ESPN folks like Abbott and Simmons parroting this belief, even though Kobe’s PER rebounded this year. You know, Player Efficiency Rating, the stat that the same folks used last year to bludgeon Kobe’s reputation. Well, this year he finished 5th in the league, but for some reason those ESPN folks don’t bring it up any more.

    All of his stats and production bounced back from last year and his position on the All-NBA 1st Team is well-deserved. (If anything, Wade should have been on it instead of Derrick Rose).

    In his exit interview Kobe expressed that he’ll have the summer to rest and strengthen his body which he hasn’t had for three years. I expect continued high performance from him for at least 3-4 more years.

    Posted by NYChris248 | May 13, 2011, 12:37 pm
    • NYCChris — thanks for the comment and positive words. I’d also add that is you factor in the decline in minutes player per game (Kobe played at least 10% less minutes than other similar superstars) — his contribution was even more impressive.

      I agree with you, barring injury, I would expect to see about 3 more all-nba caliber seasons out of Kobe..

      Posted by Brown Mamba | May 13, 2011, 10:57 pm
  17. I also want to add…

    … the biggest compliment of all is that Kobe’s detractors often have nothing more to say except, “No way he’s in the top 5… he’s a top 20 player at best!”

    Can you imagine being in a position where people criticize you by saying you are merely in the top 20 human beings to ever do what you are trying to do? That the bottom endpoint of his legacy is still so far above the HOF threshold that the best people can say is “Oscar Robertson is a little better than him”?

    Posted by NYChris248 | May 13, 2011, 12:43 pm
  18. This is not over. Kobe post Shaq is doing things that has never been done before, especially not by a perimeter player.

    Jordan won in the 90s, an era that had inferiorly athletic and shorter players guarding him every night. Kobe is going up against his physical equals and superiors.

    Jordan had 2 other bonafide Hall Of Famers with him on the Bulls, the rest of the league during the 90s did not. The bulls won 55 games without Jordan and had to be cheated on a blown call otherwise they would have went to the finals without Jordan. Why? Because they had 2 other legitimate Hall of Famers besides Jordan. They had 3 of the best defenders of all time and one of them was also one of the best rebounders of all time. Go down your lists of the legends and you’ll see they played on teams with 2 and 3 legitimate Hall of Famers who averaged 20+ppg. Jordan’s second option was a hall of famer, Kobe’s second option is Pau Gasol (12pts,7rbs,40%FG this post season). Kobe is the only 20ppg scorer on the Lakers. How many wing players can you name that won rings as the only 20ppg scorer or only legitimate Hall of Famer? Kobe is chasing history and doing it with minimal help in comparison and doing it in a tougher more stacked era. I could go on and on.

    My point is this is not over. and if Kobe gets his first Hall of Famer(dwight) since Shaq, this goal becomes even more reachable.

    Posted by Ckent | May 13, 2011, 8:55 pm
    • Point well taken Ckent — Kobe has not had anyone you can classify as a true HOF thus far in the 2nd half of his career (though Pau will inch closer if he can win one more).

      I wouldn’t rule it out in terms of reaching the MJ level — just feel like with this loss he has made it incredibly tough on himself to do so (but never count him out!)

      Posted by Brown Mamba | May 13, 2011, 11:00 pm
      • I hear what you are saying, I feel that this years playoff loss to the Mavs was most disappointing, because I felt sure the Lakers would win going in (as opposed to 04 Finals – Malone injury, 08 Finals without HCA). Winners win when they are supposed to. Shaq is a great counter-example to that, go back and look at how many times a team he was on lost with HCA.

        Posted by Gil Meriken | May 14, 2011, 11:13 am
    • “The bulls won 55 games without Jordan and had to be cheated on a blown call otherwise they would have went to the finals without Jordan. Why?”

      Why is it people forget that Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, and BJ Armstrong all were All-stars that year and put up career numbers across the board? Add in Kukoc who had a good rookie year and you have a quality team.

      Also the 93 Bulls fought injuries all year. MJ had a sprained (nearly broken) wrist the entire year, Pippen was battling injuries (both played pretty much the entire 1991-92 season + summer with the Olympics and dove right into the 1992-93 season)

      Posted by Adam | May 15, 2011, 1:22 am
  19. Great article, and these comments raise some good points. I’ve got love for both Kobe and MJ, but for me, I think MJ will always be the greatest no matter what, if only for that one game he played, the “Flu Game”. That game still resonates with me all these years later, and what an insane thing it was for him to be able to play that game and to play it at such a high level. It’s just unbelievable, at least to me.


    Posted by Jay | May 14, 2011, 9:27 pm
  20. bad news for you, this isn’t why kobe won’t be the goat. it was an epic fail though

    Posted by jks85 | May 15, 2011, 1:02 am
  21. In reference to Kobe’s All Defensive team selections:

    Great article bud. I like Kobe, don’t love him, but like him. However this dude has been getting praised to the heavens unjustly by the media unjustly over the years. One way that this manifests itself is through ALL-DEFENSIVE selections. I wish one of the high-profile columnists would tackle this subject. It’s a complete fukin joke.

    As you all know, once again homeboy has been selected in the NBA first all-defensive team, equalling a record number of selections.


    Kobe? The same guy that has been resting on defense for the past couple years? The same guy who doesn’t even guard opposing teams’ best wing players? When he does ”step up” and tell coach he wants to guard said opposing player, he makes sure the media knows about it first. News flash mamba, you SHOULD have been guarding him from the start. Also, how did guarding CP3 work out for you? Took you to 6 games with WNBA talent on this team.

    I agree with your statement that MJ was a better defender. He was more consistent, played defense THE WHOLE GAME, and didn’t pick and choose his spots to show up like Kobe does(nationally televised games)

    Kobe’s selections the past several years are based PURELY on name recognition. He hasn’t been nowhere near good enough just going by the numbers. The thing with all-defense teams: once you get over the hump of being recognized as a defensive player, i.e. you’re “in,” you can coast for several years after because it’s much harder to lose that image. You just have to show up a couple times, make some highlight reel blocks and call it a day. And especially Kobe, being the media darling, can coast longer than most. It took Artest years to get first-team recognized, just like it’s going to take Iguodala years to crack the first team. Dwyana Wade has been FAR superior defensively than Kobe. Jesus, the guy practically kills himself on the defensive end. I can’t make it clear enough how Kobe coasts on defense and picks and chooses his spots on national TV to remind the world that he is a great defender if he chooses to. Most of the time, he just chooses not to.

    I’m not ragging on him for coasting on defense. The guy is getting older, and you could argue that it is the smart thing to do to save yourself for the offensive end.

    What GRINDS MY GEARS is the fact he keeps rolling in these first-team selections to add to his list of accomplishments. Like ballhogging the All-star game to get MVP.

    I can just foresee a time down the road when we will be having GOAT discussions and someone will throw out that Kobe has X-number of all-defense first team. And no one will blink, because they won’t remember he actually didn’t do shit on defense for several years. They will just have to assume he actually was one of the best 5 defenders in the league those years which is complete rubbish.

    So yeah, my rant is at the SELECTION PROCESS. Who picks these teams anyways?

    Again, if you think the selection isn’t flawed just remind yourself that Kobe was picked over Dwyane Wade, who didn’t even make 2nd team.

    Posted by KoolAidMan | May 17, 2011, 7:51 am
    • WOW! What a great comment by an obviously HIGHLY INTELLIGENT NBA fan.

      I’ve been waiting YEARS for someone to expose Kobe as a DEFENSIVE FRAUD.

      You’re obviously very enlightened.


      Posted by KoolAidMan | May 17, 2011, 7:55 am
    • Well said. And…

      “I can just foresee a time down the road when we will be having GOAT discussions and someone will throw out that Kobe has X-number of all-defense first team. And no one will blink, because they won’t remember he actually didn’t do shit on defense for several years.”

      is an EXCELLENT point! And that’s exactly it. Kobe is and always has cared more about his legacy (i.e. career accomplishments) because that’s all people will remember in 20 years. His “career” may be top ten, but his “per game impact” is not.

      Posted by TJ | May 17, 2011, 10:35 am
      • What you guys are failing to realize is that in comparing apples-to-apples, the rules you describe of Kobe apply to EVERYONE. So there are numerous examples of aging superstars you can point to who have still been voted on the All-NBA Defense team. So fine, throw the last 2-3 years out of All-Defense selections for every superstar then. Kobe will still wind up on top.

        Is he just some anomaly that has managed to trick everyone into thinking he is a great defensive player whereas everyone other superstar who has played before him is legit?

        Posted by Brown Mamba | May 17, 2011, 11:22 am
        • Fair point.

          Let me counter by saying that while he might not be the only person who will be grandfathered out of all-defensive team,(hello Tim Duncan!) But the process definitely started several years later with him compared to others. He should be on the all-defensive SECOND team BUBBLE right now if anything. I believe he now has the same nr of all-defensive 1st team selections as Jordan, which is a farce.

          Kobe was a very good defender in the first half of his career when he was definitely a legit shutdown guy. The effort was definitely there as well. But this hasn’t been the case for several years.

          Jordan…brought it every single game for 80+ games and the playoffs. He was sick in the head. He wanted to destroy other teams. He never thought “oh let me save myself for the playoffs” or “I’m just going to focus on the offensive end this game” or “this game is on national TV, I need to bring it.”
          When he lost that fire, he retired. He didn’t coast his last few years in the league on defense.

          Jordan guarded opposing teams’ premier guy, except when he faced an obvious height mismatch.

          Again, if I’m Dwyane Wade then I am 1) a lot richer than I am right now, 2) nailing chicks left and right, and 3) pissed off that 20 years from now people will think Kobe was a better defender than I was during the 2010-11 season.

          Wade brings it every single game like Jordan did. If have watched tons of Miami and Laker games this season. There is no comparison between the effort levels of Wade and Kobe. A good example of Wade’s defense is getting posterized by Taj Gibson the other day.

          An odd example? Perhaps. But it shows that Wade is never unwilling to get scored or dunked on, he’ll take the challenge nonetheless. Bryant has been playing it too cool the past several years and hasn’t stepped up to the defensive challenges that present themselves every day.

          Now once again, I am NOT faulting Kobe for taking this route. With the miles he’s put on it is definitely in the Lakers best interest to chill out on defense and gear up for the playoffs. (even though he always seems to find more defensive energy when nationally televised games roll around. Weird…)

          My rant is mainly towards the selection process for either playing favorites, being too dumb to realize who the top 10 really are, or just not watching enough smaller market teams, or maybe also not watching enough non-TNT/ABC Laker games to see the way Kobe usually plays defense.

          This wouldn’t be an issue if all-defensive wasn’t such a highly respected and coveted achievement. It’s the first thing out of people’s mouths, right after x-number of rings. And right now, it’s being tainted by Kobe once again being grandfathered into 1st-team. (though he is not the first or last)

          Posted by KoolAidMan | May 17, 2011, 12:43 pm
          • Kobe is not the first to win reputation awards. Jordan won those as well, including defensive awards. and Jordan had Pippen possibly the greatest perimeter defender ever to guard the other teams best player for the entire game while Jordan would guard them for a few plays.

            Posted by Ckent | May 28, 2011, 11:46 pm
  22. here we go with Brown stain mamba, garnett is tied with kobe for most all nba defensive selections, surely you are not imply he stopped playing defense the same time kobe has, I live in L.A and since gasol got there in 2008 kobe has stopped playing D for 3 seasons, and when he was playing defense, were there any other players out there ,who played defense better than him. Kobe is a volume scorer, who happened to play with the most successful franchise in NBA history, he happened to play with the new york yankees of basketball , the Lakers and their 95 million dollar payroll highest in the league,he was a sidekick for shaq in the first 3 rings, and has not overachieved since shaq left, missed the playoffs next year, lost in the first round with an embarrasing close out , lost to boston and again dominated in the close out game,won 2 finals, with kobe outperformed in last years finals, and he had an awful game 7, and let his team down against dallas and was swept this year, with his stacked roster, kobe has NEVER OVERACHIEVED, he has DONE WHAT HE WAS EXPECTED TO DO, and in fact he has UNDERACHIEVED ,unless you thought detroit was going to beat La back then or you expected DALLAS TO SWEEP LA, hes not top 2 not top 5 top 10 or top 20, he might be in the top 25, hes no different than allen iverson , both guys shoot alot to score, however AI overachieved the year he won the MVP and went to the finals.

    Posted by samtotheg | May 17, 2011, 4:06 pm
    • EVEN kobes intangibles are ovverated, his D overrated, its hype , how come the announcers know when kobe is gonna so called guard the best player on the other team, and if he is so great why was artest on pierce last year, artest on durant, artest on lebron etc, he coasts on d , ive been watching the game, since 94 and the lakers since then since I live an hour away, his killer instint overrated, he gets punked in close out games, didnt do shit this year in the playoffs in the 4th quarter look up the numbers, and hes a little below average in game winning shots, his leadership sucks,he drove shaq out of LA, bitched about getting rid of bynum, and throws his guys under the bus, phil has called him uncoachable in the past, bynum has issues with him, he has a pretty jumper but is ineffective with it, and makes dumb decisions on the court, he is the product of being ona successful team, and being marketed by the espns of the world,frankly he is ovverated and has no business being discussed in the top 20 all time.

      Posted by samtotheg | May 17, 2011, 4:11 pm
    • lmao @ “stacked roster”. Kobe is the ONLY 20ppg on the Lakers. The ONLY Hall Of Famer. and his second option “all star” averaged 12points on 40% shooting. How is that anywhere near stacked? Kobe hasn’t had a stacked team since Shaq left. Look at the numbers.

      Posted by Ckent | May 28, 2011, 11:55 pm
  23. Sorry for my late response. As a Lakers fan from childhood who grew up on the Showtime era, there’s been something about the Kobe era that seemed not quite right, butI couldn’t put it into words until the Dallas debacle. Here are my 2 issues with the Kobe era:

    1. It’s been too much of a roller-coaster ride. The highs (his incredible scoring nights, the 5 titles) have been amazing and wondrous to behold, but the lows (the number of no-shows in elimination games) are among the most disgraceful moments in franchise history, moments that simply should not have happened, period.
    2. Far too often, Kobe still encourages the perception that he cares more about “winning his way” than “winning, period.” The ’04 Finals are a good example of this; yes, he was the reason they won Game 2, but he was also the biggest reason they lost Games 1 and 4 because he insisted on shooting the Lakers out of both games even though (i) the Pistons couldn’t stop Shaq (34 points in Game 1, 36 points and 20 boards in Game 4) and (ii) Tayshaun Prince was bothering him like no defender before or since. Not to mention that I’ve long since lost track of the number of times that Lakers’ post-game commentary has bemoaned their failure to get the ball to Gasol and Bynum more. Well, who’s primarily responsible for that? (Hint: it isn’t Derek Fisher.)

    Posted by E-Dog | May 19, 2011, 4:29 pm
  24. First let me say this is a great site that I just recently discovered. For the life of me I don’t see how anyone can actually believe Kobe is anywhere close to Jordan. This topic truly amazes me. It doesn’t matter what you compare stats,awards,intangibles, they all go to Jordan. Someone please tell me what Kobe did better than Jordan besides 3pt% because thats the only stat he has over Jordan. Take any superstar from the past 20 years and compare the stats to Kobes. There are numerous guys with stats as good as or better than Kobe. If you think Kobe is better than you didn’t watch Jordan his whole career or you were 10 years old when you watched and didn’t have a clue. Please someone show me numbers show me something because I cannot wrap my brain around why anyone would compare MJ and Kobe. Kobe is a great player one of the best but as good as MJ please.

    Posted by 7CY1MVP | May 24, 2011, 8:52 pm
    • MVP — first of all, thanks for the kind words regarding the site. I think you actually bring up an important point (though you may not have actually realized it). The argument here is not “who is the most talented” or “who had the best statistics at their peaks”, the argument is greatest of all time.

      The reason this argument, in my mind, would have been potentially close, IF Kobe had won this year, is that you now have to start comparing resumes over a career. Jordan’s best years may have been better than Kobe, but if Kobe had ended up playing 6-7 more years, won more rings, been to more finals, had more all-everything selections, been the all-time scoring leader, been relatively close in terms of averages, etc., etc. – then I think you have a conversation. Just my opinion.

      Again, with this loss this year, I think that conversation has effectively ended.

      Posted by Brown Mamba | May 24, 2011, 11:51 pm
      • So you’d rather drive a Honda for 10 years than a Porshe for 7. Fair enough. But there is still no debate as to which is the better “car”.

        Posted by TJ | May 25, 2011, 1:48 pm
      • Mamba – Not trying to pour salt on your wounds, but I think that the criteria that you created for “Greatest of All Time” were really your own, and really independent of what the rest of the Sports World thought.

        1.) I am confused as to how you actually thought that lifetime stats or cumulative honors would ever overcome dominance/performance at a player’s peak? Think about each of the players who are considered to be the greatest of all time in their respective sports. Each are considered so because they were simply the best players to set foot on the court/field/ice etc… at their peak – not because they accumulated the most career stats or All-Star appearances.

        For example, Wayne Gretzky was considered to be the greatest hockey player only 8 years into his career around 1988, and before he broke any of his career records. The reason was because his level of play was so dominant and simply better than anyone else who had played the game – and he validated this by stats (averages not totals) and winning. Same with Jerry Rice who was considered to be the greatest around 1989 or Jim Brown (in fact, Jim Brown only played 10 years in the NFL), or even Babe Ruth. In fact, even MJ himself earned GOAT distinction by 1993 (9 years in the league) when most observers agreed he was simply the best who had ever set foot on the court. All earned their recognition because when they stepped on the court during their peak years, they were simply the greatest players we had ever seen play and had the stats to validated that.

        This is why the MJ/Kobe argument was never close. When Jordan stepped on the court in his prime, at his peak, or even during his high level years, he was more talented/skilled/gifted than Kobe. This was substantiated by their stats when both players were playing to their potential and at a high level (Jordan’s Bulls years and Kobe from 2000 to present) in which Jordan stats are still substantially higher.

        Jordan (85-98):
        31.7pts – 6.3 reb – 5.4 assists- 2.5 stls – 0.9blks – 2.8 TO – 58.2% TS – 52.1%EFG – 50.8% FG

        Kobe (2000-2011)
        27.8 – 5.7 reb – 5.2 assists – 1.6 stls – 0.5 blocks – 3.1TO – 55.7%TS – 48.9%EFG- 45.6% FG

        Sure, if you include Jordan’s stats killing Washington years, they become closer, but Kobe has yet to hit the last 2-3 years of his career where his stats as well will decline – which is why we need to guage them when both are playing at a high level.

        Put another way, no player has ever been considered to be the “Greatest” based on the criteria you mentioned above. Even Kareem, who was a testament to longevity and is considered by some to be the greatest center of all time can only be considered as such because of his incredible dominance during the Milwaukee years, and early Laker years. Not because he played 20 years and was dragging his 40-year old body up and down the court his last 2 years averaging 10 points and 5 rebounds per game while racking up total career stats.

        Same with MJ. Sticking around and playing in the league for a long time at a level 7-8 will never compare to a guy who played a shorter number of years at a level 10. I’m not saying that you can earn GOAT by simply playing 1 or 2 years, but each of aforementioned put in their time playing 10 years plus, therefore paying their dues.

        2.) Ring Counting:

        Jim Brown never won a superbowl, yet he is considered the greatest running back to ever play, and arguably the greatest player. Tony Gonzalez has never won a Superbowl, and is considered the greatest tight end to play. In fact, Lynn Swan has more Superbowl Rings than Jerry Rice, but is not considered to be a greater wide reciever. The reason is because when Rice, Brown, and Gonzalez took the field at their peak, they were simply the best.

        8 championship rings by Kobe wouldn’t have changed anything. The “Greatest players” in each sport earned their merit because of their performance/dominance when they were at their best, not because of the rings, All-star appearances, or All-NBA honors they accumulate.

        I applaud you for finally conceding what was pretty much obvious to everyone outside of Los Angeles, but I think that your criteria was flawed to begin with.

        Posted by The NBA Realist | May 25, 2011, 3:54 pm
  25. For as much of a Lakers fan and Kobe fan I am, overall there is no comparison to Jordan in my opinion. If comparisons are going to be made, they have to be done objectively because this isn’t a one-for-one comparison:

    1) Their career paths are TOTALLY different. Jordan was the man on his team from Day 1. Kobe YEAR 9. Why? Jordan’s team sucked and they required his output just to compete. When he had some reasonable talent around him, his output went down and the wins piled up. Kobe went to a very talented team and had to wait his turn to lead the team and it took a long while. When it finally happened, his team greatly resembled Jordan’s early teams and he had to carry the team scoring-wise. When he got talent, then they started to win as well.

    2) Numbers don’t tell the COMPLETE story. Yes Jordan’s career numbers look glaringly better than Kobe’s on a per game basis, yet this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison either. At this point, having played the same number of seasons, Jordan still has an edge on Kobe in Minutes played and over 3000 more shot attempts. The reason for this discrepancy is directly attributed to their career paths, yet when comparing the two on their per/36 min averages, they look very similar (http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=1&p1=jordami01&y1=2003&p2=bryanko01&y2=2011).

    3) Like Jalen says, Kobe is the “Remix, Baaaby”. Jordan is the Master. Kobe is the apprentice. Kobe was asking Jordan advice during a game as a rook, Jordan gave some willingly. Kobe probably looked like another Jorday wanna-be in an era of Jordan wanna-bes (e.g. Harold Minor), surprisingly enough Kobe had enough talent and determination to at least get himself into the argument, which is a feat in and of itself. There’s nothing like the original.

    4) Physicality and talent. You can correct me if I’m wrong, but Jordan was simply a stronger guy in his prime. Physically Jordan could dominate other guards with a gracefulness that seemed to put everyone in awe of him. Kobe is more flashy than physical. He never had as high of a vertical as MJ, isn’t as strong as he’d like to be in the post like MJ, but I think that’s where the differences end. Both in their prime possessed a killer first step, deadly jumpers and fadeaways, and could make remarkable finishes at the rim. I like both, but MJ was a much stronger finisher physically.

    5) Clutch moments and failures. I’ve spewed a lot of words regarding this subject and there’s also an article on this. If Kobe is good, Jordan is simply the best. Both guys had their failures. Questions about Jordan’s success in the NBA were plentiful in his first half of his career. Jordan couldn’t beat Boston, then Detroit (like 3 straight years?), but he eventually conquered them.
    Kobe had a mammoth of a man and talent on his early teams and they frankly had no excuse not to win at least 5 rings together, but that’s a different story. Kobe has avenged playoff losses to Phoenix and Boston, both last season. Now let’s see if he can get Dallas back.

    I’ll say this and this should say it all. Kobe has his moments where he can put the team on his back and carry them, but when he didn’t have it, the team would sink like a bag of rocks. It’s happened 4 times, Detroit, Phoenix, Boston, and now Dallas. Maybe it’s karma for having gone completely nuts on these teams at times embarrassing them, but whatever the case these moments seemed too big for the man. Jordan on the other hand would will his team a great percentage of the time and it never really seemed to unravel like that for the Bulls. Minus early big-time losses to the Celts and Pistons, Jordan’s playoff teams rarely were beaten soundly.

    6) Electricity. HERE is where I believe Kobe is a valid comparison to MJ. When these guys were at their BEST, it’s hard to place anyone in their category. I honestly believe Kobe at his absolute best rivals anyone’s game and it is for that reason and that reason alone that he draws comparisons to MJ. Most guys get into the “zone” for a game or two. Both of these guys seemed to string “zone” games together like one big continuous hot streak. Kobe’s 81, MJ’s 69, Kobe outscoring the Mavs BY HIMSELF in 3 quarters and sitting out the 4th, Jordan’s masterpiece against the dynasty Celtics, Kobe’s 42 in a half against Jordan’s Wiz, Jordan’s 35 in a half in the Finals, and the list goes on and on. I can go all day on the seemingly unbelievable games both have had, and while Kobe isn’t quite the gamer Jordan was he appears to be the closest since Jordan and that’s what always intrigued people.

    The question was always there, for some at least. Could Kobe ever be better? At this point no one believes that could ever be true, even me. It sure has hell has been fun to watch though.

    Posted by J.T. | May 25, 2011, 2:57 pm
    • JT, I don’t agree. Kobe at his best is certainly not on Mt Rushmore. You named a couple of nice games by Kobe in the regular season, but reputations are built in the playoffs. If you combine all the great playoff series by Jordan and Kobe then list the top 12, Jordan would probably own 11 of them. I’m not just talking about scoring, but all around dominance. The question is…is Kobe even in the top ten list of playoff performers? I don’t think so… Jordan, Magic, Bird, Olajuwon, Shaq, Duncan, Kareem are all ahead of Kobe. Wilt, Russell, West, Barkley, Lebron, Dwyane Wade, Isiah Thomas, Moses Malone are all in that conversation and maybe even better playoff performers. There are probably a few more I forgot about.

      Kobe has never distinguished himself from his peers like the elite level greats did (Bird for instance won MVP 3 straight times in a league with Magic, Kareem and Moses Malone playing at high levels) and never had a stretch of dominance that will be pointed to as proof that he was a transcendent player except a few nice regular season games his fans keep pointing to. Kobe’s career achievements is greater than his impact on the court.

      Posted by TJ | May 25, 2011, 4:10 pm
      • He hasn’t distinguished himself from his peers? He hasn’t had a stretch of dominance?

        In 2000, Kobe was in the All-Star game. The other guards in that game were Vince Carter, Eddie Jones, Allen Iverson, Allan Houston, Ray Allen, Jerry Stackhouse, Reggie Miller, Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, and John Stockton.

        He has been in every All-Star game since. In 2011, the other guards were Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, Joe Johnson, Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, Manu Ginobili, Russell Westbrook, and Deron Williams. (During that stretch, Allen missed the game in 2003 and 2010.)

        That is eleven years of sustained excellence while the entire cast of characters changed around him.

        He is the preeminent perimeter player of the era.

        Posted by NYChris248 | May 25, 2011, 5:00 pm
        • But not the BEST player. Duncan >> Kobe. Shaq >> Kobe. Lebron >> Kobe. Wade is in the conversation and is already a better playoff performer.

          Never had that stretch where everyone considered him the absolute, no-question about it BEST player of his era for more than a year (2006), and even then it wasn’t absolute.

          Posted by TJ | May 25, 2011, 5:19 pm
          • Both of these points should be acknowledged by both sides here. MJ was A1 top dawg in the L for most of his career. There have always been players better than Kobe throughout his career. Shaq, VC, TMac, AI, TD, DWade, Lebron, etc. Even during his lone regular season MVP, many felt CP3 had the better year. Though Kobe’s sustained excellence is to be admired, this proves he doesn’t quite approach MJ’s level of dominance.

            Posted by William | May 25, 2011, 8:19 pm
      • You don’t agree that Jordan is better than Kobe? O_o That what my post was about.

        “You named a couple of nice games by Kobe in the regular season, but reputations are built in the playoffs.” vs. MVP Awards. Which is it? The MVP award isn’t what it used to be. We all know that. When was the last time an MVP won Finals MVP? Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

        “Jordan, Magic, Bird, Olajuwon, Shaq, Duncan, Kareem are all ahead of Kobe.” I’ll give you the first 4 and Kareem. Shaq and Duncan can be argued. Lebron at least won some playoff series since ’06. Wade though? none since they won in ’06 until Lebron and Bosh joined him.

        I can’t really comment on how good Wilt, West, Russell, et. all were back in that era since I never personally watched them play outside of that they’ve shown on ESPN Classic. I do know West and Chamberlain got it done 1 time. Russell has…11?

        From my point of view, Kobe’s on that list and the 2nd greatest shooting guard of all-time. If this was nowhere near the truth, we wouldn’t be debating it.

        Posted by J.T. | May 26, 2011, 10:56 am
  26. Its easy to be dominate when your team is stacked compared to the rest of the league during your era. and you have no competition at your position. Name the 1st ballot Hall Of Famers Jordan played against at the SG spot. The list is long of great SGs and SFs that Kobe guards and is guarded by. There were some all time great players during Jordan’s era but he didn’t play them, his teammates did.

    Posted by Ckent | May 28, 2011, 11:52 pm

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