Michael Jordan, simply put, is the greatest basketball player of all time. Every ballyhooed player that comes along mentioned as the next MJ only turn out to be busts whose accomplishments cannot stand up to Jordan’s merits.
Harold Miner, Jason Richardson, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Grant Hill, we consider them tribute bands in a sense. Each player has had a good career, with the exception of Minor, but they never lived up to the lofty expectations of being the next MJ.
Not to be outdone, there have been a couple of players who have at least come close enough to earn some praise and worthy comparisons to the greatest of all time. The most recent player mentioned in Jordan’s stratosphere has been LeBron James.
LeBron has all the tools and the individual accolades to back his claim as the next MJ, but his trophy case has only one NBA Championship ring inside. LeBron still has a ways to go.
While we have been quick to anoint LeBron as the heir-apparent, Kobe Bryant is a band that requires mention on a first-name basis.
Can we have a microphone check please!
Jordan's Chicago Bulls teams have won six NBA titles, one of which came in the 1995-96 season when the Bulls broke the single-season record for wins with 72.
Jordan averaged 30.4 points a game that season and went on to win the NBA MVP award that year. The championship season was the beginning of the Bulls’ second string of three consecutive NBA titles.
In the season that followed, Kobe’s illustrious career began.
Michael Jordan’s Career Statistics:
Season G FG% 3P% FT% RB AST STL BLK PTS
Career NBA 1072 .497 .327 .835 6.2 5.3 2.3 0.8 30.1
Kobe Bryant’s Career Statistics:
Season G FG% 3P% FT% RB AST STL BLK PTS
Career NBA 1161 .453 .337 .838 5.3 4.7 1.5 0.5 25.4
Kobe was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers after the Charlotte Hornets originally drafted him.
After becoming the younger player to appear in an NBA game at the time, Kobe flashed promise in his first few seasons. That was when writers began evoking the comparisons to Jordan and former Lakers great, Magic Johnson, yet there was one huge difference in their beginnings.The Bulls and Lakers, looking for players to be their respective saviors, drafted Jordan and Magic. Jordan's rookie season saw averages of 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.4 steals.
Magic began his career averaging 18 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 2.4 steals.
It is obvious the Lakers were taking things methodically in Kobe’s rookie season as he averaged 7.6 points and less than two rebounds and two assists per contest. After his inaugural season, Kobe has not looked back.
His 14 NBA All-Star selections match that of Jordan.
That is not the only achievement where Kobe has matched Jordan. They both also have 10 All-NBA First-Team selections, nine All-Defensive First-Team selections and two Olympic Gold Medals. Jordan won Gold as a collegiate player in 1984 and as a member of the first “Dream Team” in 1992. Kobe has won the Gold in 2008, and just recently, this past summer.
Jordan tops Kobe in the total of MVP awards (five to one) and NBA titles (six versus five). After getting past those distinctions, the players are similar.
What separated Jordan from other players from his era, those prior and those that followed, was his killer instinct on a basketball court.
No player in the history of the NBA forced the will to win as often as Jordan.
There may be a few exceptions. All-time greats such as Bill Russell, Larry Bird and the aforementioned Magic Johnson come to mind as players that would unleash their will on their opponents.
Great players have huge impacts leading to the success of their teams, but only a few great players can hold a candle to Jordan.
What separates Jordan from the rest of the pack is exactly what places Kobe in the discussion as the most dominating player of his era.
Make no mistakes about it, Kobe Bryant is not Michael Jordan. Like Jordan, Kobe stands alone as the best among his peers.
Kobe is the only player of his era that has been able to force his will on opposing teams. Some people consider LeBron James as the best of his generation, but Kobe has five NBA championships versus one for LeBron. Before LeBron surpasses Jordan as the best, he must surpass Kobe.
There are few players as cunning as Kobe. When hitting the shot that took the lead for good, Kobe gives his opponents a scowl. That scowl is reminiscent of Jordan’s wagging tongue, just shortly after he dunked on his defender. Neither player had a fear to them; instead, they placed fear in the hearts of the players they faced.
Nothing is more demoralizing than trying your best to stop Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant only to come up on the short end of the stick. Both players have terrorized in their respective careers, enough to warrant their place as all-time greats.
Jordan sits alone as the greatest player on that list with several players in his shadow that tried to hold the torch. Kobe has had his share of greatness and has earned his position to stand alone as this era’s standard-bearer. New players coming out of college should be compared to Kobe instead of Jordan.
Kobe has earned his place as his own band.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.