Kobe Bryant: Why He's Already Better Than Michael Jordan
Kobe Bryant is often a huge topic of debate among NBA fans.
If you love the Los Angeles Lakers, you typically love Kobe Bryant.
If you hate the Lakers, chances are that you despise Bryant to the depths of your soul.
And even if you can't stand the guy, there's no way you can say Bryant isn't one of the greatest players of all-time.
But better than Michael Jordan?
Forget the Kobe-LeBron James debate. That went down the toilet when James signed with the Miami Heat.
The only real discussion you can have is about who's better: Kobe or MJ?
Well, here are the top 10 reasons why Bryant is already better than Air Jordan.
10. No Career Breaks
Michael Jordan, for some reason I'll never know, briefly stepped away from the game to pursue a professional baseball career.
He also retired in 1998, not because his Chicago Bulls had just won their sixth NBA Championship, but because he knew his team was falling apart.
Dennis Rodman was on his way out, and so was Scottie Pippen.
Kobe Bryant, on the other hand, has stuck with the Lakers throughout his entire career and will finish it where he started it.
Bryant has been on his grind in Los Angeles since 1996 and is still going strong 15 consecutive seasons later.
9. Free Throws and Three-Pointers
Alright, so I may be pulling at a minuscule thread here, but Kobe Bryant is slightly better than Michael Jordan in both categories.
Jordan has 83.5 percent from the line for his career, just behind Kobe's 83.8 percent.
Bryant also has the slight edge in three-point shooting, at 34.1 percent to Jordan's 32.7 percent.
A huge difference? Obviously not.
But when two guys are so close in terms of talent and accomplishments, you'll take any advantage you can find to support your claims.
8. Derek Fisher Is No Scottie Pippen
During his time with the Lakers, Kobe Bryant has had several players come and go.
But the one guy who has been there (aside from a few years) for the long haul is Derek Fisher.
And with all due respect to Fisher, he's no Scottie Pippen.
Fisher's career averages: 9 points, 3.2 assists, 2.2 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game.
Pippen's career averages: 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2 steals per game, including four seasons in Chicago in which he averaged more than 20 points.
Pippen is one of the greatest sidekicks in NBA history. Fisher? Good, but not Pippen good.
7. More Key Personnel Changes
Every NBA superstar has to deal with personnel changes around them. It's just something that's part of the game.
And even though both Jordan and Bryant have seen their fair share of teammates, Bryant has seen more personnel changes than Jordan ever did.
Bryant's played with so many different players, from Smush Parker to Kwame Brown to Shaquille O'Neal to Gary Payton and Karl Malone to Ron Artest to Adam Morrison.
But Bryant has managed to win despite fighting through some key inconsistencies in his supporting cast.
6. Tougher Overall Competition
If you're from Michael Jordan's era, you probably think Jordan played tougher competition.
If you're from Kobe Bryant's era, you probably think Bryant played tougher competition.
This is a debate that could only be solved with the invention of a time machine, so any argument is always going to be debated or bombarded with criticism.
But Bryant had to deal with the San Antonio Spurs—a mini-dynasty themselves—as well as teams like the Detroit Pistons.
I'll give Bryant the edge here even though it's hard to definitively argue against Jordan.
5. MVP Awards Are Misleading
Michael Jordan has five career regular season MVP awards while Kobe Bryant has just one.
Does that really mean that Bryant was only the best player in the league for one full season?
No, of course it doesn't.
The MVP award is overrated and misleading, unless you really think the careers of Dirk Nowitzki and Allen Iverson have been as good as Bryant's.
4. Kobe Is The Bigger Star, Not Shaq
The age-old argument against Kobe Bryant used to be that "he only won three titles because of Shaq."
Well, fast forward to 2010, and Bryant has more titles (five) than Shaq (four) and was the star of those two teams while Shaq played second fiddle to Dwyane Wade.
I'm not saying Bryant would have won all three titles without Shaq, but it's certainly not the only reason that he did.
Bryant averaged at least 25 points, five assists and five rebounds every season during the Lakers three-peat from 2000-02.
3. Playing Through Injuries
I know what you're thinking: Michael Jordan doesn't play through injuries? What?
Well, after the 1986 season when he broke his foot and missed 64 games, Jordan never really suffered through debilitating injuries like Kobe Bryant has.
Of course, he dominated throughout his career despite smaller injuries, and there was the famous "flu game" in the 1997 NBA Finals.
But let's look at the bigger picture.
Bryant has had three knee surgeries—including one this summer—and he played through pinkie and index finger injuries that required Bryant to shoot with a heavily bandaged hand.
Bryant has a slight advantage in this category.
2. Kobe Is Arguably the Greatest Laker Ever
In recent years, this debate generally comes down to Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson.
Who's the best Laker ever? Well, even if you think that Magic is better, the fact that Bryant is even part of the conversation is a testament to all of his accomplishments.
The Lakers are the greatest organization (sorry, Celtics) in the history of the sport, and Bryant is arguably the greatest player ever to wear the purple and gold.
That's saying something.
1. Neither Player Is a One-Man Show, But Jordan's Supporting Cast Was Better
Alright, they've both played alongside some very good and even great players.
Kobe Bryant has had guys like Shaq, Pau Gasol, Fisher, Lamar Odom, etc.
But Jordan played with three All-Stars (Pippen, Rodman and Horace Grant), two of the NBA's best defenders (Rodman and Pippen), one of the league's 50 greatest players of all-time (Pippen) and two good three-point shooters (Toni Kukoc and Steve Kerr).
Jordan actually had more help than Bryant.