Kobe Bryant vs. Dwyane Wade: A Comparison Between Two Featured Columnists
One of the biggest NBA games of the season is the Christmas Day matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat.
Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade are respectfully the faces of these two franchises. This article is a collaboration of two NBA featured columnists: Rich Fernandes and Ethan S.
As always, we welcome your comments, opinions, and predictions.
Overall, Who Is the Better Player Today: Wade or Bryant?
At the age of 32, Kobe Bryant has obviously lost a step and has been depending more and more on his perimeter game. Dwyane Wade, on the other hand, is as explosive as ever (at the age of 28) and can blow by opponents faster than a speeding Aston Martin whose driver is attempting to run him over. Wade is also the better defender on a Miami team that takes defense more seriously than Kobe and his Lakers whom seem to care less.
The most important characteristic of both these players is that they are extremely clutch. This year Wade’s assists are down as he has become the second option to LeBron James on Miami as opposed to Kobe who handles the ball as the first option on the Lakers.
Statistically speaking, both superstars have eerily similar stats over exactly 29 games apiece but by analyzing these stats, you will see that Wade does indeed come out ahead this year in efficiency.
In the league, Kobe is ranked third in scoring at 25.7 PPG and Wade is ranked tenth at 23.5, yet Kobe has taken 568 shots compared to Wade's 482. As you can see, Kobe has taken a whopping 86 more shots than Wade. To put it into perspective, Wade would have to play four more games taking almost 22 shots per game to reach Kobe’s field goal attempts.
Ranking FG% among shooting guards has Wade fifth at 49% and Kobe at 29th at 44.9%. What’s more? Among all positions in this category, Lamar Odom is ranked second at 58.4%, Pau Gasol 23rd at 51.5%, Shannon Brown 49th at 47.4% and then Kobe in the 86th slot, yet he is leading the league in shot attempts on an extremely capable team.
And Kobe’s situation is unlike LeBron James’ last year in Cleveland where you could justify all those shot attempts.
Some other important stats for shooting guards include: rebounding, Wade is ranked second and Kobe ninth; Wade comes out ahead of Kobe in steals per game (1.52 to 1.28) and Kobe comes out ahead of Wade in assists per game (4.6 to 4.2)
Overall, Who Is the Better Player Today: Wade or Bryant? (cont'd)
This is a tough question as both players are having decent years. On the one hand, Wade has figured out how to play well with Chris Bosh and Lebron James after some early struggles and injuries. Quite possibly, the Miami Heat might be the best team in the league right now.
Dwyane Wade is averaging a career high in field goal percentage and rebounds. With LeBron James as the primary ball handler and playmaker, Wade’s role has been reduced this year and is averaging a career low in assists per game.
In addition, he is averaging a career low in free throw percentage. Despite the recent success of the team, Wade is still playing about the same minutes per game as last season.
Kobe Bryant, on the other hand, has averaged nearly six minutes less per game than last season, while having very similar averages across the board. Once again, he is leading his team in assists and scoring.
After overcoming offseason knee surgery, Kobe has shaken off a slow start and seems to be nearly recovered. This has led to better shooting nights as well as a renewed intensity on the defensive end.
He may not have as impressive “defensive stats” like steals and blocks compared to Wade. However, stats aren’t everything (just look at Shane Battier and Bruce Bowen as examples), and few players on the perimeter are more effective at slowing down their opponents.
Kobe just injured the pinky on his shooting hand, leaving him with three good fingers on that hand. Still, Kobe has shown a remarkable ability to overcome nagging injuries so he should be able to adjust his game.
It is hard to think of any player in NBA history who has been more dominant in his 15th season. While you can’t go wrong with either player, Kobe is still the best shooting guard in the league because he has a bigger role than Wade this season.
As of Right Now, What Is the Career Highlight for Each Player?
This question is a no brainer for Wade. His career highlight would have to be his Finals MVP performance in 2006 versus the Dallas Mavericks. At the age of 23 and in his first NBA finals Wade literally put his team on his back willing Miami to win its first championship. How did he do it?
First and foremost, the Heat was a team built with NBA legends including Shaq, Alonzo Mourning and Gary Payton. Although the Heat played well in getting to the finals, the Heat’s older players looked tired and spent, especially Shaq.
Already down 0-2 to the Mavs, the Heat came within an eyelash of losing game three as well, but Wade willed his team to victory with an eye popping 43 point and 13 rebound performance. Wade then proceeded to dominate the next three games in a row. Wade had 36, 43 and 36 points in the remaining three games to help the Heat win four in a row and beat the Mavs in six games.
Wade’s Finals scoring average was 34.7 points, which stands as the third highest finals scoring average in NBA finals history. In addition, Wade had an unbelievable Finals PER of 33.8, considered by some as the best finals performance ever.
On paper, Kobe Bryant’s career highlight would be his 81 point performance against the Toronto Raptors, but a closer look at that game would discount it. The Raptors were one of the NBA's worst teams and their best defender in the paint was none other than Chris Bosh.
After that historic game, Bosh said grinning from ear to ear, “We just stood around and watched.” If anybody saw that game, you would know that not only was Bosh correct in his assessment, but none of the Raptors starters fouled out.
What in fact is a more remarkable achievement was Bryant’s 62 points in three quarters versus the Dallas Mavericks. Before the start of the fourth quarter, Bryant had by himself outscored the entire Mavericks team by a score of 62-61 and there was no Chris Bosh to sully that record.
Had Kobe played the fourth quarter of that game, there is little doubt that he would have eclipsed his 81 point performance.
As of Right Now, What Is the Career Highlight for Each Player? (cont'd)
Kobe Bryant has a ton of highlights in his career including outscoring the Dallas Mavericks through three quarters. But the one that defines his game is the 81 point game against Toronto. Many analysts have said that this performance was the most impressive in NBA history, even better than Wilt’s 100 point game.
Kobe showed a more impressive array of shots in a game that the Lakers actually needed his scoring to come back from nearly a 20 point deficit (Wilt’s game featured his Warriors up big the entire time). Phil Jackson has commented how Kobe has had a bigger repertoire of offensive moves than Michael Jordan.
Had Kobe’s career followed in the footsteps of Jordan and he similarly cared to “get his 30 ppg” in order to win scoring titles, it is probable that Kobe could have the NBA’s all-time highest scoring average.
Watching Kobe in recent seasons shows how he is willing to defer to teammates more in the first halves of ballgames, in order to help get his teammates going. This was something that Jordan had difficulty mastering—and a sign of greater maturity on Bryant's part.
Nevertheless, the 81 point game may symbolize possibly the most talented offensive player in NBA history.
Dwyane Wade’s career highlight has to be his Finals MVP performance of the 2006 Finals series against Dallas. With averages of 34.7 ppg and 7.8 rpg, Wade put on a show for the ages.
Even more impressive is how Wade led the Heat back from a gaping hole (within minutes of being down 0-3 in the series) to go on and win the championship.
Although controversial among Mavericks fans, Wade used his athleticism and offensive repertoire to earn over 16 trips on average to the foul line each game. By hitting several clutch shots and free throws, Wade found a way to lead his team when few other teammates were able to score as easily against Dallas’ defense.
Wade will probably have the opportunity to put up similar Finals performances over the next few years. But there is little doubt that his 2006 Finals play was one of the best individual NBA series of all-time.
What Is the Best Part of Each Player’s Game?
Both Wade and Kobe are extremely clutch and have that rare ability to closeout games with a win when the pressure is on and they have shown it time and time again.
Wade and Kobe also share similar well rounded games offensively and defensively. Kobe's prime gets the nod over Wade's prime in scoring but Wade's prime gets the nod over Kobe's prime in overall defense. Both players can score, rebound, and assist with almost equal talent.
Even though Kobe has never had the best field goal percentages in the league, he has the knack for hitting game winners like only Michael Jordan could. When the game is on the line and you need a win, who else but Kobe Bryant should have the ball? Winning under extreme pressure is the best part of Kobe’s game.
Dwyane Wade has that same game closing fearlessness exhibited by Kobe albeit at a somewhat lesser extent, but Wade’s true talent lies is in his driving ability. He has one of the most explosive first steps the game has ever seen and he uses it to finish at the rim like few players can.
Whether Wade is driving the lane and then suddenly pulling up for a jump shot or finishing off at the rim with a thunderous dunk, it’s his driving finesse that is without a doubt, the best part of his game.
What Is the Best Part of Each Player’s Game? (cont'd)
Both players have amazing all-around games. For Wade, I would say his ability to perform well in the clutch outweighs his other abilities. The Heat may have LeBron James and Chris Bosh, but few players are as fearless or successful in pressure-packed situations as Wade.
James may be the reigning two-time MVP, but when it comes to leading the team in close fourth quarters, Wade is by far the Heat's best choice to take the pressure shots.
Regarding Bryant, his will to win is what separates him from other players. This has motivated him to work hard in preparing for each game and playing at MVP levels despite several serious injuries (something few players in NBA history have done).
Speaking of injuries, can you honestly think of any player in NBA history that has dealt with as many serious injuries as Kobe and yet still produced at an MVP level, especially after being in the league for 10 years?
In a One-on-One Match Between Wade and Bryant, Who Wins?
The previous question goes a long way in answering this question because of Wade's superior explosive first step and driving finesse. Both Wade and Kobe are quick but Wade has that extra explosiveness that allows him to blow by anybody in the game.
In a one-on-one matchup with Wade, Kobe will resort to more pull up jumpers and less post up moves, while the opposite is true for Wade. As a result, Kobe’s ability to convert his shots will be less efficient versus Wade converting by driving and finishing at the rim.
In a One-on-One Match Between Wade and Bryant, Who Wins? (cont'd)
A one-on-one matchup between Wade and Bryant would definitely be exciting for fans. If Kobe was four years younger to match Wade’s age, I would say Kobe would win hands-down.
If this game were to be played today, I would still predict Kobe to win in a close match.
Wade may be a bit faster than Kobe and have a better driving ability.
However, Kobe has a better mid-range game, a more accurate outside shot, and a better repertoire of post moves. Also, the fact that Kobe has about 2-3 inches on Dwyane would make it difficult for Wade to stop Bryant.
How Important Was Shaq for Each of Wade and Kobe’s Titles?
Kobe Bryant had “prime” Shaq while Wade had “old” Shaq. Kobe was a very good player and was the second option on Shaq’s team, while Wade was the first option in Miami with declining Shaq who was far from his prime best.
Few could argue that in his prime, the Lakers Shaquille O’Neal was the most dominant in-your-face player in the game. In fact, only two players were able to dominate an even younger Shaq (then with Orlando) in the finals and their names are Michael Jordan and Hakeem.
Recall how the Lakers dominated the Spurs one year as Shaq swatted at seven footers David Robinson and Tim Duncan as if they were flies. The NBA has never seen one big man dominate two ultra talented big men like that in such convincing fashion.
So how important was Shaq to Kobe and the Lakers’ first Three-peat? If Shaq was not on those Lakers teams, it is highly doubtful that the Lakers would have won any of those championships. Even if the Lakers had their pick of any other big man in the game, the team to beat probably would have been whatever team Shaq was on. Luckily for L.A. fans, Shaq was first and foremost a Los Angeles Laker.
How important was Shaq to Wade and the Heat’s only championship? Shaq simply was not the same player in Miami that he was in L.A. While he did play an important role and had some dominating games, he looked old and tired and this showed in the finals where the Heat faced the Dallas Mavericks. If Wade had “prime” Shaq, the Heat probably would have beaten the Mavs in four straight games as well as repeated as NBA champions to boot.
Furthermore, Wade (like Kobe) is an extremely competent guard and superstar. It is therefore also likely that had Wade been in Kobe’s shoes, L.A. would still have won their first three-peat with Shaq and Wade as the one-two punch. It’s also almost certain that L.A. fans would have experienced only half the drama too.
How Important Was Shaq for Each of Wade’s and Kobe’s Titles? (cont'd)
To get the obvious out of the way, Shaq played a bigger role in his three titles with LA than the one with Miami.
Between 2000-2002, few players have ever been as dominant as Shaquille O’Neal was. However, many greatly discount Kobe’s contributions to those title teams.
First, Los Angeles would not have won any of those three championships without Kobe. In 2000, Kobe hit game winners against Phoenix and Indiana.
In 2001 and 2002, Kobe Bryant put up impressive Jordan-like numbers throughout the playoffs. In addition, he was the MVP of the “real NBA Finals” match with the Spurs in 2001.
But no team from the Eastern Conference could stop Shaq, which led to three amazing Finals series in a row for the Big Diesel.
One consideration that is overlooked is that Kobe helped mask Shaq's biggest flaws in his game by taking over in critical fourth quarters.
While Shaq only put up 13.7 ppg and 10.2 rpg in the 2006 Finals with Miami, he averaged 18.4 ppg, 9.8 rpg, and 61 percent shooting throughout the whole playoffs. Obviously, he was instrumental in getting Miami into that finals.
Just like he was able to free up Kobe for open shots while playing for LA, the double teams O’Neal drew shifted much defensive attention away from Wade, which allowed him to dominate the Mavericks.
Shaq also was able to attack the Mavericks at the team’s weakest position: center. Wade may have been the series MVP, but Miami would not have won the championship with either Wade or O’Neal out.
When Their NBA Careers Are Over, Where Will Wade and Bryant Rank All-Time?
Kobe’s career is almost complete where as Wade has a few more years left in him. Kobe has already made a huge statement on his inclusion among the game’s all-time greats and Wade is not yet quite in the same stratosphere.
It’s hard to determine where exactly Wade ranks among the all time greats since his career is not close to being over. I suspect however, had Wade been lucky enough to be with the Lakers and surrounded by the same quality supporting casts that Bryant had been throughout his career, Wade would rank almost as high as Kobe himself.
Kobe’s position on the all time list is a continuous raging debate among basketball fans despite the fact that he has yet to retire. In my opinion, I believe Kobe Bryant is the fourth best Laker ever, behind Magic, Kareem and Shaq.
My top ten list of all time looks like this:
1. Michael Jordan
2. Wilt Chamberlain
3. Magic Johnson
5. Larry Bird
6. Oscar Robinson
7. Bill Russell
8. Hakeem the Dream
10. Tim Duncan
11. Kobe Bryant
Lakers fans would obviously rank Kobe much higher than 11 and some might even wonder how Tim Duncan ranks ahead of Kobe on this list.
My reasoning is simple: how many titles do you think the Lakers would have won if Shaq’s second option was Tim Duncan instead of Kobe Bryant? I’m guessing at least four in a row at the very minimum, simply because their offensive and defensive big man dominance would have been completely unmatched.
The Lakers would have had two seven-foot rebounding and scoring monsters in the paint at a time when Duncan was considered the best player in the game.
When Their Careers Are Over, Where Will Wade and Bryant Rank All-Time (cont'd)
I try to consistently rank players by overall offensive game, overall defensive game, rebounding ability, playmaking ability, clutch ability, winning, and ability to dominate in any NBA era (with all of the rule changes, various kinds of players and different pace of the game).
I have written about Kobe Bryant’s place in history before. I already feel that Kobe is one of the top 5 players of all-time. If Kobe wins one more title and Finals MVP award, then that has to (in my opinion) place him above Magic Johnson as the greatest Lakers player of all-time.
Most consider Magic to be in the top 5 of all-time, so naturally Kobe would have to be in that group by most people’s standards.
If Kobe wins two or three more titles and Finals MVP awards each, then he could be in conversation with Jordan at the top spot. However, in the end I feel that Kobe will probably end up at number two.
Dwyane Wade has accomplished less than Kobe did by age 28, but I still have Wade in my top 50 players of all-time right now. While Kobe has generally been considered the best NBA player of the past decade, Wade has never been considered the best player of any NBA season.
Still, Wade has many more years to dominate the league. With his future looking bright in Miami, Wade could win several more championships and MVP awards.
I believe that Wade will end up with four or five titles and about three Finals MVP awards. If that happens and Wade can keep up his amazing play for another five or six years, then Wade will end up in the top 20 players of all-time, with an outside chance of cracking the top 10.
In order to help out his chances of moving up the ranks, Wade will need to improve his one-on-one defense, post moves, and have more similar offensive outputs that Jordan displayed throughout his career. Wade will also need to adjust his game as Jordan did as his athletic ability fades in his later years.
Regarding the Big Game on Christmas Day, Which Team Will Win?
The Miami Heat vs. Los Angeles Lakers is a heavily hyped up game that means a lot to both cities’ fans but as far as the teams go, this game means much more to the Heat than it does to the Lakers.
The Lakers are the defending champions and as such, are the team to beat this year. The Miami Heat have proven over the last three weeks that they can in fact contend as a top 10 team in the NBA, but until they can beat Boston, Dallas, San Antonio, or L.A. on a consistent basis, they simply cannot be considered a top four team.
The Christmas day matchup remains an important test for the Heat and they certainly have the talent to beat the Lakers in a league where even the top teams fall to bottom feeders. Should the Lakers lose, it means absolutely nothing, but if Miami loses, the critics will be out in a flourish.
Prediction: L.A. Lakers win.
Regarding the Big Game on Christmas Day, Which Team Will Win? (cont'd)
Usually I am a pessimist when it comes to the Lakers playing on Christmas Day. It seems like an annual ritual to have LA play on Christmas.
The last time LA and Miami played on Christmas, Miami won despite the game being played in Los Angeles. The Lakers also lost the game last year against Lebron’s Cavaliers.
It seems that no matter how well Los Angeles has been playing up to the holiday, the team finds a way to lose.
In addition, Miami has been playing like one of the best teams in the league recently while Los Angeles just had an embarrassing loss to a Milwaukee team without some of its best players. So all indications point to another loss for LA, right?
However, I am going to go out on a limb and predict a close Lakers win for this game. Los Angeles often struggles to get motivated against lesser opponents.
But there is little doubt that with all the talk surrounding Miami this season, the Lakers players have used that to motivate themselves and prove to the world that talk of Miami winning the championship is premature.
Truly this is a statement game for both clubs. But in the end, I think that the Lakers’ advantage up front and the home court atmosphere should be enough for LA to squeeze out a win.
Prediction: Lakers win in a close game
About the Authors:
Rich Fernandes – Rich Fernandes is a resident of Toronto, Canada and is currently studying for his MBA. Rich’s favorite sports include in order: NHL Hockey, NFL Football, NBA Basketball and Ultimate Fighting. Rich has found Bleacher Report to be an enjoyable experience as well as the ultimate platform for the serious sports fan.
Ethan S. – Ethan lives near Seattle, WA and enjoys spending free time between work and family obligations by writing and engaging on Bleacher Report. He enjoys the articles of the many talented writers on the site, and appreciates the support he has received from community members.