MJ was and remains the greatest player to lace up a pair of sneakers. But in many respects of the game of basketball, Kobe has equalled or, dare I say, surpassed Michael Jordan. However, there is still remains one way in which Kobe is not like Mike; the love.
Kobe has arguably developed a better overall offensive game than Jordan. Statistically, MJ's field goal percentage (49.7%) is higher than Kobe's 45.5% (up to this point in his career), but Kobe has more in his offensive repertoire, enabling him to score in more ways than perhaps any player in history. He can jab-step, fade-away, turn-around fade-away, pump-fake, face-up, cross-over, dribble-drive, double-clutch, or just about any other way you can think up to score, and he does it all with a relatively high rate of efficiency.
Like Jordan, Kobe also makes his teammates better. If you don't believe that, then look at the dramatic increases in FG% of both Odom and Gasol after they joined the Lakers. And does anybody really believe Trevor Ariza will be as effective in Houston without Kobe commanding double and triple teams?
And lets not forget to mention the cold blooded ability to drain an impossible shot over multiple defenders with the game on the line thing.
Defensively, Kobe can lock down a player just like Jordan could, and is a better weak side help defender. He also has a higher steals per game average than Jordan.
So with all of these comparisons of obvious greatness, why does Kobe not get as much love as Mike used to get? To add insult to injury, Kobe was ranked 5th in a recent poll conducted by Forbes Magazine of the most disliked athletes.
Sure, his charisma isn't as captivating, his presence isn't as commanding, his smile isn't as bright. But these aren't reasons to put him among the most disliked athletes. If these aren't the reasons, then just what are?
Maybe its the arrogance he showed early in his career by jacking up late game airball three pointers in crucial playoff games versus the Utah Jazz during his rookie year. But hasn't he grown up since then? Kobe has just won his first championship without Shaq, and he did it as a true leader, averaging nearly 7 assists, and 7 rebounds a game in the final two rounds.
Maybe its was the constant feuding with Shaq, which may or may not have played a big part in the Shaq trade, causing the break up of the best one-two punch in NBA history. But shouldn't Shaq (as lovable as he is), Phil Jackson, and Dr. Buss, take part of the blame for that? Shaq always demanded the ball, even though he didn't put in the work during the off season. Phil was suppose to be the great mediator, yet he constantly took cheap shots at both players in the press. Dr. Buss traded Shaq, probably for no other reason than he didn't think Shaq was worth the money he was demanding from the Lakers, and he stood silent while the media criticized and demonized Kobe for the trade.
Maybe its the whole Colorado incident. But the charges were dismissed and there was ample evidence to suggest that his accuser had serious psychological problems (not that this is evidence she was lying). Without a trial and a verdict, can we continue to vilify a person, for something they may or may not have done?
Let's not forget that MJ had his problems and was far from the perfect player or person. He was criticized for being a ball-hog, for shooting too much. He was also reported to be a bad gambler and allegedly also had extra-marital affairs. But the media and public alike, seemed to give Jordan the benefit of the doubt and selectively chose to over look his pitfalls and shortcomings. Such a luxury is not afforded to Kobe. It is clear that Kobe doesn't get the same benefit. It is also clear that Kobe has a big hurdle to overcome if he is to get the love. What is not so clear is how he will be able to do just that.