Kobe Bryant vs. Michael Jordan: "Numbers Don't Lie"

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Kobe Bryant vs. Michael Jordan:
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

People love to compare Kobe Bryant to Michael Jordan. Others will say Kobe Bryant is nowhere near Michael Jordan's statistics. MJ's career field-goal percentage is an astounding 49.7 percent while Kobe's is 45.4 percent. So before we start, let's address certain issues:

 

1. Kobe played his first three years on the bench, whereas Jordan started his first season hoisting up 19.8 shots a game.

2. Kobe played alongside Shaquille O'Neal (at the time, the face of the franchise), meaning Shaq was the primary scorer, and also the preliminary post-scorer, which brings me to my third point.

3. Kobe shot a hell of a lot more threes than Jordan ever did. And hitting threes has an obviously lower efficiency than playing a mid-range game or a post game.

 

So as similar as Kobe is to Jordan, already there are red flags that should be going up in your head. The argument doesn't stand on same grounds.

So in order to compare them on a more level playing field, let's take away Kobe's 3 years of coming off the bench, and take away Jordan's Wizards campaign, because we all know he never should have played for the Wizards.

Also, let's take away the three-point shooting from both players (since they can't be compared) and let's focus on the post/mid-range where both players excelled.

 

Reference:

 

Jordan's career statistics: http://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/CHI/1985.html

Kobe's career statistics: http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/b/bryanko01.html

 

Jordan's career stats (averages added for '85-'98):

FGM (field goals made): 148.9

FGA (field goals attempted): 299.8

3P (3-pointers made): 7.7

3PA (3-pointers attempted): 22.7

 

Now subtract the 3P from FGM, and 3PA from FGA and you get: 141.2 FGM / 277.1 FGA =50.9%

A career 50.9% FG from the mid-range.

 

 

Kobe's career stats (averages added for '99-'11 to match Jordan's 12 years):

 

FGM: 116.2

FGA: 254.8

3P: 16.7

3PA: 49.3

 

Now subtract Kobe's 3's from his overall field goal and you get: 99.5 FGM / 205.5 FGA = 48.4%

 

Between Kobe and Jordan, there is a 2.5% difference in efficiency.

 

Now let's take a look at their total attempts:

 

Jordan's career totals from '85-'98:

FGM: 10962 shots

 

FGA: 21686 shots

3P: 555 shots

3PA: 1670 shots

 

Same mathematics. Eliminate the three-pointer from the overall shots and you get: 10407 (shots made) / 20016 (shots attempted)

 

And now Kobe:

FGM: 8783 shots

FGA: 19256 shots

3P: 1265 shots

3PA: 3728 shots

 

Same math: 7518 (shots made) / 15528 (shots attempted)

 

 

So let's compare their post/mid-range game:

Jordan's field goal: 50.9%

Kobe's field goal: 48.4%

 

Jordan's total shots made and attempted: 10407 / 20016

Kobe's total shots made and attempted: 7518 / 15528

 

Already you can tell how different their games are. Kobe played a lot as a wing shooter and Jordan played closer to the rim than Kobe did. Jordan took 4500 more shots in the mid-range than Kobe.

 

If using the statistics, Kobe emulated Jordan's mid-range game throughout his career, it would look like this:

Kobe's FG (48.4%) x Jordan's total shot attempts (20016) = 9687

 

Jordan's total made (10407) - Kobe's total made (9687) = 720 shots made

Jordan would have made 720 more shots in the post and mid-range than Kobe would have, over the 12-year course.

That would amount to: 720 shots / 12 years = 60 more shots made by Jordan per year

Which would translate to: 60 shots / 82 games a year = 0.73 shots per game. Basically Kobe would have missed less than 1 shot a game than Jordan would have.

 

Numbers don't tell the whole story, but "numbers don't lie" is a misleading statement. The difference in efficiency is heavily influenced by Bryant's perimeter game, as well as Jordan's lack-of. Of course, this is not an article to argue who the G.O.A.T. is. Jordan was a player that can't be matched in history, but there is a huge double standard when it comes to comparing the two. 

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