Most people consider Michael Jordan to be the greatest basketball player of all-time. Saying that anyone else is better, especially someone as divisive as Kobe Bryant, is nearly sacrilegious.
Jordan has come to prominence lately with his promotion of the NBA 2K11 game and his claims that he could score 100 points in a game if he were playing today. He also threw some derision at Kobe, saying that Bryant was one of the top 10 guards of all-time.
There have been many assessments of Kobe and Michael over the years. Many of the arguments resort to a comparison of stats. However, each player had different career paths and played in different eras.
The NBA in the 1980s was played at a faster pace, and some years teams averaged 20 percent more possessions than teams over the past decade.
Jordan played 3 years in college whereas Kobe played sparingly his first couple years out of high school in the NBA (which in part led to the firing of his first NBA head coach Del Harris).
Taking out the first 3 years from Kobe’s NBA career would give him averages of 28.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, and 5.2 apg—very similar to Jordan’s career averages of 30.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, and 5.3 apg. Further adjusting for the inflated statistics during the high scoring era in the 1980s would bring Jordan’s averages even closer to Kobe’s.
And finally, awards are not always the best way to measure NBA players. There have been issues with the way the Defensive Player of the Year and MVP awards have been handed out. For instance, does any one really think Steve Nash deserved two MVP awards?
Clearly, the MVP award does not go to the best player in the league, but rather the best player on one of the teams with the best record—with the caveat that the media has to like that player (note to Miami Heat fans: forget about Lebron’s chances this year of being the league’s MVP).
It may be hard for some to consider both players with an open mind. Kobe Bryant has been one of the most hated players in the NBA, whereas Jordan’s Nike marketing machine helped elevate his image to a deity-like position.
Double standards have run rampant, despite Jordan having worse antics both on and off the court.
Everyone has their biases and I surely have mine. But as a fan of both Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, I will attempt to compare aspects of each player’s game—which may be the fairest way to analyze the two legends.