Was Allen Iverson a Better Individual Player Than Kobe Bryant?

Antwan BrownCorrespondent IMay 18, 2010

As me and a couple of friends were watching the Lakers-Suns game in a local pub on Monday the argument of Kobe and LeBron James came up. The conversation started in the third quarter when Kobe Bryant erupted for 21 points. Bryant finished the game with 40 points and the entire 4th quarter people were arguing about who is better Kobe or LeBron and people stated many reasons for why Kobe still may be better but one statement that really got my attention was when one of my friends said "Kobe is the best individual player since Michael" and another guy responded by saying "No! you're wrong, Allen Iverson is the best individual player since Michael." Then all of a sudden you had people arguing over who was the better individual player throughout their careers, Kobe Bryant or Allen Iverson? Which leads me to write on this topic. 

If his career ends today Kobe Bryant is one of the 10 greatest players to ever play the game of basketball, he is going to go down as a legend, the man is the ultimate winner and is about to make the Kobe-Jordan argument much stronger in about a month when he gets his 5th championship. Kobe Bryant is the definition of greatness. Allen Iverson is also a legend himself and is going to go down as one of the 20-25 greatest players of all-time, he is probably the best scorer the league has since Wilt and Michael, Iverson is the best little man ever and pound for pound is the best basketball player ever. 

Today the two are on opposite ends of the basketball world, Kobe is competing for his 5th championship and Allen Iverson is out of the league with drinking and gambling problems and sadly probably will not play another game in the NBA. After the disastrous season in Detroit some ignorant fans may have forgot about how great Allen Iverson really was. Many people forget that other than winning a ring Allen Iverson did it all and if you take a look at his statistics and resume one can argue that he had a better individual career than Kobe Bryant. Again the key word is individual, Bryant is a better team player than Iverson ever was and his 4 championship rings prove that.

The two came into the league in 1996 in arguably the best draft class ever. Iverson was selected 1st overall by the Philadelphia 76ers and Kobe was selected 13th by the Hornets and then traded to the Lakers. Iverson would go on to outplay Bryant in his rookie year and have one of the best rookie seasons in NBA history averaging 24 ppg and 8 apg, Iverson was the 1997 NBA Rookie Of The Year. Bryant who came straight out of high school averaged 7.6 ppg and played only 15 mpg for the Lakers. Allen Iverson didn't play as well in his second season as he did in his rookie year but he still outplayed Bryant, he averaged 22 ppg and 6 apg and Bryant averaged 15.4 ppg and 2.5 apg. In 1998 Michael Jordan announced his retirement and the careers of Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant were ready to take off. 

As years went by Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson were the two best guards in the league. After winning the 97 Rookie of the year award Iverson won 4 scoring titles, 3 steals titles, was selected to 11 All-Star games, became a 2 time All-Star game MVP, 2001 NBA MVP. Iverson had amazing career averages of 27 ppg and 6.2 apg along with 2.2 spg. He scored 24,368 points and had 5624 career assists in just 914 career games. 

Kobe Bryant went onto win 4 NBA Championships, the 2009 Finals MVP, 2008 NBA MVP, 2 scoring titles, he was selected to 12 All-Star games and was a 3 time All-Star game MVP. In 1021 career games Bryant scored 25,790 points.

If you compare Bryant's resume with Iverson's the two are close but Kobe is the winner because of his 4 Championship rings. Iverson would probably have won Championships if he had as much help as Bryant had in his prime and a Iverson and Shaq combo in the early 2000's could have been the most dominant 1-2 punch in the history of sports. Many people say that Kobe would never be able to do for the Sixers what Iverson did for them and there is no way that he would be able to lead the Sixers to the Finals in 2001. So yes Kobe Bryant had has a better career then Allen Iverson but one can argue if you take away team success Iverson was probably the better player individually then Bryant. 

Iverson's career stats of 27 ppg, 6.2 apg, 2.2 spg and 3.7 rpg are better then Bryant's 25.3 ppg, 4.7 apg and 5.3 rpg. In the playoffs Iverson averaged 30 ppg(2nd all-time) and 6.0 apg which beat out Bryant's 25 ppg and 4.7 apg, but the playoffs are all about winning championships and Bryant did that better than most players the league has seen, clearly Bryant had much more playoff success. Bryant and Iverson both have played 14 seasons in the league and the year by year breakdown comparing their statistics and individual accomplishments may give you a better idea of who was a better individual player:


Iverson: 23.5 ppg, 7.5 apg, 2.1 spg and 4.1 rpg. 96-97 Rookie of the year.

Bryant:   7.6 ppg, 1.3 apg,  0.7 spg and 1.9 rpg. 

Winner: Iverson



Iverson: 22.0 ppg, 6.0 apg, 3.7 rpg, 2.2 spg.

Bryant:  15.4 ppg, 2.5 apg, 3.1 rpg, 0.9 spg.

Winner: Iverson



Iverson: 26.8 ppg, 2.3 spg, 4.6 apg, 5.0 rpg. Wins 1999 scoring title.

Bryant:   19.9 ppg, 1.4 spg, 5.3 rpg, 3.8 spg. 

Winner: Iverson



Iverson: 28.4 ppg, 4.7 apg, 3.8 apg, 2.1 spg.

Bryant:  22.5 ppg, 1.6 spg, 4.9 apg, 6.3 rpg.

Winner: Iverson



Iverson: 31.1 ppg, 2.5 spg, 4.6 apg, 3.8 rpg. 2001 NBA MVP, Scoring title, Steals title, All-Star Game MVP, Lead scrubs to the 2001 Finals. One of the best individual seasons in NBA History.

Bryant: 28.5 ppg, 1.7 spg, 5.0 apg, 5.9 rpg. 

Winner: Iverson



Iverson: 31.4 ppg, 5.6 apg, 2.8 spg, 4.5 rpg. Wins 3rd scoring title, 2nd steals title.

Bryant:  25.2 ppg, 5.5 apg, 5.5 rpg, 1.5 spg. Bryant 2002 All-Star Game MVP

Winner: Iverson



Iverson: 27.6 ppg, 5.5 apg, 4.2 rpg, 2.7 spg. Iverson wins 3rd steals title. 

Bryant:  30.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 5.9 apg, 2.2 spg. 

Winner: Bryant



Iverson: 26.4 ppg, 6.8 apg, 3.7 rpg, 2.4 apg.

Bryant: 24.0 ppg, 1.7 spg, 5.1 apg, 5.4 rpg. 

Winner: Iverson



Iverson: 30.7 ppg, 8.0 apg, 2.4 spg, 4.0 rpg. Iverson wins 4th scoring title, becomes only 5th player in history to average 30 ppg and 8 apg in one season. Wins All-Star game MVP

Bryant: 27.6 ppg, 6.0 apg, 5.9 rpg, 1.3 spg. 

Winner: Iverson



Iverson: 33.0 ppg, 7.4 apg, 1.9 spg, 3.2 rpg. 

Bryant:  35.4 ppg. Enough said. Bryant wins 1st scoring title. Should have won MVP this year.

Winner: Bryant


Iverson: 26.3 ppg, 7.2 apg, 1.9 spg, 3.2 rpg. 

Bryant:  31.7 ppg, 5.4 apg, 5.7 rpg, 1.4 spg. Bryant wins scoring title. Probably should have won MVP.

Winner: Bryant




Iverson: 26.4 ppg, 7.2 apg, 2.0 spg, 3.0 rpg. 

Bryant:  28.3 ppg, 5.4 apg, 6.3 rpg, 1.8 spg. Bryant wins his first NBA MVP award.

Winner: Bryant




Iverson: 17.5 ppg, 5.0 apg, 1.5 spg, 3.0 rpg. 

Bryant: 26.8 ppg, 4.9 apg, 5.2 rpg, 1.5 spg. Bryant wins 2009 NBA Finals MVP

Winner: Bryant



Iverson: 13.8 ppg, 4.0 apg, 0.7 spg, 3.0 rpg.

Bryant:  27.0 ppg, 5.0 apg, 5.4 rpg, 1.5 spg. 

Winner: Bryant


So there you have it out of their 14 seasons Iverson beat out Bryant individually 8 times. You got to remember that this just about individual Bryant is a better overall player then Allen Iverson but since Michael left the league Allen Iverson is statistically the best player and many forget that he actually had more better individual seasons then the great Kobe Bryant. Bryant will probably keep playing and eventually pass Iverson as an individual and with his 5th ring possibly on the way the argument should be who's better Michael or Bryant? There is going to be a lot to write about come June. But for those of you that are witnessing Bryant's greatness right now you have to remember that at one point the guy who is being thrown around by the league and disrespected by the media was better than Bryant and it was for a pretty long time.