I’ve had this conversation with many people many times but I still don’t think everyone knows all the facts before they give their opinion.
This conversation involves the hated Kobe Bryant and the unanimously loved Michael Jordan.
It’s very easy to start arguing about which player is better and which is not and I also know the majority of you will never, ever, say Kobe Bryant even comes close to MJ because of the love affair everyone has for his Airness along with the hatred you have for the best player in our lifetime, Kobe Bryant.
I don’t know why people hate on Kobe so much, maybe it’s because he’s so damn good or cocky or because he’s killed your team countless times but that’s neither here or there. So let me get back to the topic at hand.
Let’s start off with getting the obvious stats out of the way...
G/F - Michael Jordan
1st Round, 3rd Overall (Chicago Bulls)
1984 - 1993
1994 - 1998
2001 - 2003
6 Championship Rings
6 NBA Finals MVP
5 Time MVP (1988, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1998)
14 Time All-Star
3 Time All-Star MVP
9 Time ALL NBA Defensive First Team
11 Time All NBA Team (10 First, 1 Second)
1984 Rookie of the Year
1988 Defensive Player of the Year
10 Time Scoring Champion
2 Time NBA Slam Dunk Champion
Most Points: 69
Most FG Made: 27
Most 3-PT Made: 7
Most FT Made: 26
Most Rebounds: 18
Most Assists: 17
Most Steals: 10
Most Blocks: 6
Most Minutes Played: 56
Career Stat Line: 30.1ppg, 6.2rpg, 5.3apg, 2.35spg, .83bpg, .497% FG, .835% FT, .327% 3PT
G/F Kobe Bryant
1st Round, 13th Overall (Charlotte Hornets)
1996 - Current
3 Championship Rings
9 Time NBA All-Star Team
2 Time NBA All-Star MVP
9 Time All NBA Selection (5 First, 2 Second, 2 Third)
7 Time All NBA Defensive Team (5 First, 2 Second)
2 Time Scoring Champion
Slam Dunk Champion
Most Points: 81
Most FG Made: 28
Most 3-PT Made: 12
Most FT Made: 23
Most Rebounds: 15
Most Assists: 15
Most Steals: 17
Most Blocks: 5
Most Minutes Played: 54
Career Stat Line: 24.6ppg, 5.2rpg, 4.5apg, 1.5spg, .60bpg, .453% FG, .838% FT, .337% 3PT
Now looking at those numbers, it’s very easy to say that Michael is the better player by far but don’t forget that Kobe’s career is not over yet. Including this year, Bryant has 4 seasons left playing as the best player in the league and after that his decline will start.
KB will never beat MJ in Finals MVP and regular season MVPs no matter how long he plays but he can beat his airness in championships won especially with his new cast of players. Also, Kobe can surpass Michael in All Star appearances, All Star MVPs, All NBA Teams and All NBA Defense teams.
And as for the career stat line, Kobe can catch up in all areas except for FG %. For now, let’s not go into the what can happen and what can’t and instead look into some of the other categories and determine who indeed is better.
1) Making others around him better
The one topic everyone seems to bring up is the fact that Kobe doesn’t make those around him better whereas Jordan always made those around him better. Over and over again, this single fact is brought up but no one ever looks at the players they are talking about.
Without a doubt, Jordan had a superior supporting cast around him than Kobe. Note: I’m referring to the cast Kobe has post Shaq era and pre-Gasol era.
Now, is it Kobe’s fault that those around him can’t make open shots? Is it his fault that after he gets doubled and even sometimes tripled team, Smush Parker couldn’t make an open jumper or Lamar Odom doesn’t know how to shoot?
Now if those players could hit a couple of shots extra per game, Kobe’s assist total would be much higher and the Lakers would win a lot more games. And from that, Kobe would not have been robbed of an MVP award and people actually may think twice when they say he doesn’t make those around him better.
It’s not Kobe’s responsibility to make sure the likes of Odom and Smush or Kwame Brown learn how to make layups or how to dunk the ball.
2) Jordan was a better teammate
Countless times Kobe’s been referred to as a horrible teammate. While that may be true, but if you’re comparing him and Jordan, then you’re way off base.
Kobe’s had his fair share of run-ins with his teammates and coaches, most notably Shaq and now Bynum. Most of Kobe’s altercations with his teammates have been verbal except for the one time Shaq and him got physical.
Jordan on the other hand had countless run ins with teammates. He even slapped Steve Kerr and knocked Will Perdue during practice and verbally abused Bill Cartwright during games.
As I’ve read, Cartwright was giving Jordan a pick and Michael told him to get the [sic] out of his way and later told Cartwright not to get in his way unless Jordan says so. Also, him and Pippen weren’t always the greatest of friends or teammates. They both didn’t like each other that much.
Now obviously this was never blown out of proportion like it was with Shaq and Kobe and obviously Kobe took the worst of that one. It’s been said Kobe ran out Phil Jackson the first time around and while that may or may not be true (It's said Phil Jackson wanted more money and when refused, left) but let’s not forget Jordan ran out Doug Collins.
So to say Jordan was a better teammate than Kobe is an absurd statement.
3) Kobe’s a ball hog
Everyone has this notion that Kobe’s a ball hog without even watching any of his games and since most of us didn’t see Jordan play on a regular basis, you can’t say whether or not he was a ball hog.
The main argument against Kobe is that he takes too many shots and doesn’t pass the ball. Is it his fault that when there are 3 seconds left in the shot clock, his teammates pass him the ball and expect him to be something miraculous?
I’ve watched countless Laker games and whenever the Laker offense is stuck or can’t do anything or the shot clock is winding down, Kobe is given the ball and he has to do something and thus he ends up shooting some ridiculous shots.
Also, Kobe averaged over 30ppg and everyones calling him a hog but what about Jordan? I don’t remember anyone referring to him as a hog even when he was averaging 37.1ppg or 35ppg. Over his entire playing career, Jordan dominated the ball and yet no one refers to him as a hog but the perfect player and now that Kobe is doing the same thing, he’s nothing but a ball hog.
4) The Zone Defense
During Michael's day, teams were not allowed to play the Zone which we see from almost every team nowadays. Now you might think this is not a big deal but think again. This meant that Jordan was covered man-to-man and and once he beat his man, there was pretty much no stopping him.
Jordan took full advantage of this because let’s face it, there was no one that could guard him and thus he scored a lot and got to the rim more often than not. The Zone came into effect in 2001, just as Kobe was getting into his prime. The Zone takes away individual match-ups and makes it harder for players to get to the rim.
Now in the zone, if you got 4 offensive players on one side and one offensive player on the other, it doesn’t mean that you’re gonna have the 4 defensive players on one side as well. The defensive players stay and cover their area. So if you isolate Kobe on the elbow, he still has to go through 3 players to score.
Now Kobe’s got 3 people coming at him and when he passes the ball to a teammate, is it his fault Kwame Brown has girly hands and catch it or can’t make a layup?
Jordan never had the problem of facing a zone. He could beat anyone guarding him and by the time someone came over to help, it was either too late or Jordan would just dunk on that person.
Now you may think this is not a big deal, but when the rest of the league knows that Kobe can’t be stopped and he’s the only one scoring, it’s not rocket science to know that you should switch to a zone to at least slow him down or take him out of his comfort zone.
5) Opposing teams and guards
To this day, I don’t believe Jordan played against the same competition and defenders that Kobe has to deal with on a daily basis. The one person that comes to mind from MJs days that could have given him trouble is “The Glove” Gary Payton.
He was the only perimeter dominant defender from that era that comes to mind but he never played against MJ that much. Other than that, I don’t recall a lot of good defenders guarding Jordan and that’s why he could do what he did with ease. Players that guarded him a lot were the likes of John Starks and Joe Dumars. Now they didn’t suck but they weren’t as big or strong like Wade, Bowen, LeBron, or T-Mac.
Now without a doubt MJ went up against some of the best bigs this league as ever seen such as Hakeen Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson and Karl Malone but they didn’t change the league like Tim Duncan and Shaq have. Also, MJ never had back to back MVP winners in his own conference to deal with like Kobe has with Tim Duncan and Steve Nash. And let’s not forget the fact that when Jordan started winning his championships, the Magic led Lakers were on a downward spiral and the Bad Boy Pistons were too old to keep up.
Like it or not, the competition Bryant has to deal with is not the same competition that Jordan had to deal with it.
6) The Media
The Media has played a big part in whether we like or don’t like Kobe.
Kobe’s been scrutinized by the media ever since he declared that he was coming straight to the NBA whereas Jordan was the media darling. He was protected by the media like no player ever has or will.
The only media outlet that ever looked into Jordan’s personal life was the tabloids and no one never gave those a second look. Whereas anything and everything Kobe does is on the front pages of newspapers.
Also, Jordan wasn’t exactly the perfect husband because if he was, his divorce wouldn’t have cost him $168 million. And what about Jordan’s gambling addiction? No one ever mentioned that back then and hardly anyone mentions it now but MJ is a gambling addict. He once held up his teams flight by 2 hours because he didn’t want to lose a shooting competition to Rip Hamilton in his Washington days.
If MJ’s life was covered like Kobe’s life is being covered, everyone would have a different view of his Airness. Also, the fact that the internet was not as big back in Michael's day makes a big difference. The internet gets information from everywhere and the rumour mill is spread across the globe.
If MJ was in Vegas losing money today, someone, somewhere would write about it.
The majority of people just hate Kobe so much as a person that you won’t even recognize what he can do on the court. At the end of the day, whether you believe it or not, Kobe is as a good defender as Jordan, is a better long range shooter and has the same killer instinct.
Only difference is that MJ played in a different era and was the first to do what he did. If you switch the two, Kobe would have had the love affair, he could have led those teams to championships and Jordan would ALSO have problems playing with Shaq because like it or not, MJ’s ego is as big as Kobe’s.
Like Jemele Hill of ESPN said, “The idea that Kobe is better than Jordan — or even the best player in this league — is as repugnant to some folks as a rectal exam.”
And like Mark Jackson once said, “When it’s all said and done, Kobe will be the best player to ever play the game.”