Kobe Bryant Trumped: 12 NBA Legends Who Were Better Than the Black Mamba
America is full of die-hard Kobe Bryant fans. They feel the Los Angeles Lakers star can do no wrong. He's invincible.
The other day, TNT commentator and NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley claimed that Bryant was one of the top five greatest players in NBA history.
Barkley was a great player and is an outstanding analyst, but that statement is simply disturbing.
Bryant isn't in the top five. No way. Not even close.
Is he in the top 10? Definitely not.
Top 15? Oh, that sounds about right.
Here are 12 players, either retired or still playing, who have had much better careers than No. 24 of the Lakers, a.k.a. the Black Mamba.
12. Bob Pettit
Who in the world is Bob Pettit and what is he doing on this list? He's someone who would have manhandled Kobe. That's who he is.
Pettit is one of the most underrated players in NBA history. The two-time MVP was a superstar in the 1950s and 1960s as he continuously put up 25 points and 15 boards per game.
Petitt led the St. Louis Hawks to a title in 1958 over the legendary Bill Russell-led Boston Celtics.
11. Karl Malone
Robert Laberge/Getty Images
Malone is the only player on this list who never managed to win a ring. So what. He was quite a player from the late '80s up until the early 2000s.
Championships are a bit overrated. Robert Horry won seven and Steve Kerr won five. Are those two better players than Malone? Don't even answer that question.
Malone is the greatest power forward who ever lived. Sorry all you Tim Duncan fanatics out there. The former Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers star is the second-leading scorer in NBA history and was named league MVP twice.
And if he didn't get injured in the 2004 Finals, he probably would have helped Kobe and the Lakers win their fourth title in five years.
10. Jerry West
Kobe has surpassed West to become the Lakers' all-time leading scorer. So that means Kobe is by far the better player.
West played back when the three-point line didn't exist, meaning he would have scored a lot more points and his Lakers' scoring record would be almost unbreakable.
Kobe wouldn't have an answer for West if the two were to play against each other. "The Logo" would prove who was the better of the two.
West once earned Finals MVP, even though his Lakers lost. That's how good he was.
9. Hakeem Olajuwon
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Olajuwon could do pretty much any thing on the court.
He had a plethora of moves. The 7'0" Houston Rockets legend could take opponents out of the game with his trademark "Dream Shake", he could stick the jumper, or use his quickness to take the ball the length of the floor for a thunderous slam.
Last year, Kobe took post move lessons from Olajuwon. Kobe knows Hakeem is the superior player. Everybody should know that.
Olajuwon won two titles, three fewer than Kobe, but he played in the 1990s, a much tougher decade than the watered-down 2000s.
8. Shaquille O'Neal
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
If Kobe were to read this, he'd hate to see O'Neal make an appearance on the list since he despised him when the two were Laker teammates.
But Kobe should be thankful for Shaq. There's no secret that if it wasn't for the dominant big man, Mr. Bryant would only have two rings instead of five. Shaq was "The Man" on those early 2000s Laker squads and Kobe was the sidekick. A great sidekick, nonetheless.
Several fans think Kobe has had a better career than Shaq. Boy, are they dreaming. They should have their heads examined immediately.
7. Larry Bird
Getty Images/Getty Images
Kobe vs Prime Bird would be a 'must see' matchup. Kobe would destroy the Celtics legend.
That may be true, but Bird was still the better player.
Bird had better leaderships skills and was more unselfish than Kobe ever was or ever will be.
Larry, though, would have have destroyed Kobe as well. Sure, he was super, super slow and definitely not one of the most athletic players the league has ever seen, but he could shoot the lights out and would have been extremity difficult for Kobe to handle.
Bird teamed with Magic Johnson in the '80s to prevent the struggling NBA from falling through the cracks. He had a much bigger impact on the game that Kobe.
He was the first Larry Bird. He was original. Kobe is just a Michael Jordan copycat.
6. Oscar Robertson
Robertson is the only player in league history to average a triple-double for a season. He put up roughly 30 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists per game in 1961-62, just his second season as a pro.
Sure, he won only one championship during his career, teaming up with Abdul-Jabbar and the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971, however he was still a better player than Kobe. And not many people would argue with that. Not ever the biggest Kobe fans.
5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Abdul-Jabbar accomplished more than Kobe could ever dream of.
The master of the "sky hook" earned 19 All-Star selections, six MVP awards, and is the NBA's all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points.
Kobe, however, has an excellent chance of surpassing his six titles.
Kareem is one of the greatest players to ever play the game. Some consider him to be the greatest, edging out Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, and Bill Russell.
Kobe has won all of his five rings teaming with an All-Star big man, whether it was Shaq or Pau Gasol. Just imagine if he had played alongside Kareem. What a dynamic duo that would've been.
4. Bill Russell
Kobe is miles ahead of Russell in the scoring department. Kobe's career scoring average is 25.3 points per game, while Russell averaged a not-so-mind-blowing 15.1 ppg.
But it's Russell's outrageous defense and crazy rebounding that lifts him above Kobe as the better player. The 6'9" Russell erased shots as perfect as LeBron James dunks on a fastbreak and he averaged 22.5 rebounds for his career.
Russell was the main piece of the Celtics dynasty that won 11 titles in 13 years, including a record-eight straight.
He won five MVP awards during his career, which is four more than Kobe.
Kobe vs. the '50s and '60 Celtics would have been enjoyable to watch. After burning Bill Sharman or Sam Jones, Kobe would drive to the basket only to get his shot swatted to the cheap seats by the defensive-minded Russell.
3. Wilt Chamberlain
Kobe is a greater Laker than Chamberlain. But that's only because he's played for the team a lot longer. When it comes down to who's the greater NBA player, Chamberlain wins. No doubt about it.
Wilt is arguably the most dominant basketball player ever. A great deal of his records will never be broken, including his 100-point game.
It's been said before that Kobe's 81 is more memorable than Chamberlain's 100, which is a pretty stupid thought. 100 points is 100 points.
Young NBA fans consider Chamberlain to be overrated since he supposedly played against a bunch of 6'5" guys. But if he were playing today, he would be the league's top player, much better than Kobe.
2. Magic Johnson
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
It's ridiculous that some people believe Kobe is the greatest Laker of all time, meaning he's better than the great Earvin "Magic" Johnson.
No, Magic never scored 81 points like Kobe did. He probably couldn't have scored that many even if he wanted to.
However, Magic is the better player. The topic shouldn't even be up for debate.
As a rookie in Game Six of the 1980 NBA Finals, Magic recorded 42 points, 15 rebounds, and seven assists to lead the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-less Lakers to a championship. That alone makes him better than Kobe.
Magic led L.A. to five titles in the 1980s, which is arguably the greatest era in NBA history. Could Kobe have done that? Yeah, right.
1. Michael Jordan
Getty Images/Getty Images
You knew it was coming. Michael Jordan has to top a list like this. It just wouldn't be right if he didn't.
M.J., His Airness, Air Jordan, Superman, whatever you want to call him, isn't just better than Kobe, he's better than anybody whose ever played the game of basketball.
We got to see prime Jordan vs. a young Kobe and we got to see prime Kobe vs. an old Washington Wizards' Jordan. But unfortunately, we never got to see them go head to head, while both were in their primes.
Everybody knows who would win that matchup, though. Jordan by a landslide. Jordan even admitted that it wouldn't be a contest.
It's clear that Kobe has studied a ton of Jordan tape throughout his career. His fadeaway is similar and so is the way he talks and celebrates after he does something special.
But he will never be on Jordan's level, no matter how many rings he collects before he decides to call it quits. Kobe fans know that deep down inside. They just would admit it.