I suppose it's the reason we feel the need to classify ourselves. Human beings satisfy an essential need in claiming inclusion to groups. It stems from not only the desire to be an individual, but to rate our place amongst other individuals. I'm a Sagittarius. A Cool Ranch Dorito Lover. Sadly, A Seahawk fan.
We create lists to rank ourselves and others. This allows us to feel good, vicariously, through the succeeses of our groups heroes. Mike Tyson or Muhamed Ali? Bonds or Griffey? Is Kobe Bryant the next Michael Jordan?
For the latter of these topics, I have an scoured the globe's vast resources. I have an answer.
My research started with the obvious. No, not Google. Tissue samples. It was a difficult chore, so to protect the innocent I will not divulge my methods. I can tell you, that after fragmenting the DNA and the strands into a vector plasmid, I was able to replicate and sequence 2,857,698,560 original chromosome bases. After comparing, I have concluded...
Wait for it -- Kobe Bryant is not Michael Jordan.
Hungry, and feeling quite satisfied with my findings, I stopped for a bite. While waiting in the Taco Bell drive thru, I had an epiphany that public comparisons of the two might have been more rhetorical in nature. Apparently thinking about ground beef Gorditas, topped with fat free sour cream brings out the best in me. And did it ever.
I needed a method to my madness, and so I created a matrix (not the machine world grid that humans in cryo-stasis plug into, but more of a spreadsheet). It was weighted top to bottom with variables that would allow me to definitively determine whether Kobe Bryant is the next Michael Jordan. It's deductive science, and it's revolutionary.
Michael Jordan won 6 NBA championships. This should be straight line math for most of you, but Kobe is at just 5. Any discussion of the games greatest of all time, must begin with winning. Michael won, and he did it with style. For Kobe to be the next Jordan, he would need 6 rings; however, I also realize there are at least 4 years left in Kobe's "window" of opportunity. Enough time to not only catch the great MJ, but to pass him.
Any conclusions made prior to Bryant finishing his career would be inductive reasoning at best. Given the choice between (A.) Michaels 6 rings trumping Kobe's 5, and (B.) not enough data -- I am choosing to mark box 'B', but I'm doing it in pencil in case I want to change it later.
It wasn't but a few days later that another moment of enlightenment hit me. I was sitting on... well that's not important, but the inspiration was fantastic.
A simple recounting of championship rings was an unsophisticated method for determining something as important as whether Kobe was the next MJ, and which one is the greatest of all time. Pfft. Neither man competed in a vacuum. They each had a supporting cast during their championship runs. Surely, we can find out which guy had the least help in winning his titles.
Jordan was able to win 6 titles (3-peating twice in the process) without a true center of dominance. Bill Wennington? Wil Perdue? Really?
I scrolled a little farther down the depth chart and found a couple players of a bit higher standard. Scotty Pippen, Horace Grant, and Dennis Rodman were also parts of those teams. That's 3 of the greatest 50 players to ever play. Additionally, a quick search of the NBA Finals Wikipedia page (it's fun and it's easy), uncovered that they Bulls were able to beat teams, anchored in the paint, by Greg Ostertag (twice) and Sam "Big Smooth" Perkins. Interesting.
Kobe's SWOT analysis revealed much of the same type of data. Already having 3-peat'ed himself, Bryant is working on a Jordan'esque second. Early in his career he won championships with Shaq, and then later with the likes of Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Ron Artest. Looks familiar.
Coaching? Phil Jackson coached all 11 of both players combined championships. Another dead end.
It quickly became apparent from the outset that scoring isn't an accurate measure of this GOAT debate, or whether Kobe is qualified to carry Jordan's torch. Bryant may never equal Jordan's career average, but will more than likely approach or, with some luck, break Kareem's all time scoring record. A push when I was hoping for a pull.
Why We Can't Compare
A few years back, I was in the market to purchase a home. The Realtor showed up and presented several 2 story models with prices. I asked where the prices came from, and he mentioned that sellers normally have their agent do a study of area 'comparable's.' I thought this strange. What would anyone else's houses have to do with the one's I was interested in? Just because 2 homes both have 4 bedrooms and 3 bath's doesn't make them any more comparable. That's to convenient.
Likewise, when a person walks into their local shopping mall and picks up a shirt, they aren't comparing thread counts. I doubt very much that your average shopper knows the difference between a tubular carded cotton from a side-seam combed version. What's important is the feeling it gives you when you put it on.
I believe the very same thing is true when talking about the greatest NBA basketball player of all time. Individual opinions will come down to how they feel when they "try them on".
We've already seen that in the upper echelons, that player stats cannot tell the whole story. Jordan's 6 rings are no more or less important than the 5, 6 or 7 Kobe may earn. Both will walk away with countless honors. Both are great. Inseparably great.
In the cosmic scheme of things., one cannot try and deliniate stratospheres of true greatness. Red is no more important than Blue. The sun is no more important than the moon. They are compliments -- and counterpoints.
The debate doesn't need to be a mutually exclusive choice. The two can coexist.
I have stopped looking for validation that Kobe Bryant is Michael Jordan.
I am satisfied that Kobe is the first Kobe.