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Kobe Bryant: Why He Will Never Eclipse Michael Jordan

ATLANTA - FEBRUARY 9:  Michael Jordan (Washington Wizards) #23 of the Eastern Conference All-Stars talks with Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers) #8 of the Western Conference All-Stars at the 2003 NBA All-Star Game on February 9, 2003 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images license agreement. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Stephen LardnerContributor IOctober 15, 2016

Don’t get me wrong. I’m as much of a Kobe Bryant fan as the next dude. I was happy for the guy when he finally managed to tell Shaq “how his a** tastes” after winning his fourth and fifth championship rings these past two years. As a basketball fan, it was something that I’d been waiting for; to watch him come to the realization that he wasn't going to capture that elusive fourth title all by himself.

Even after Pau Gasol was gift-wrapped for him in February 2008, he was still stuck in his “the only way for us to win ball games in the fourth quarter is for me to make one ridiculous jumper after the other, so that’s what I’m gonna do” mindset.

Eventually, he understood that he could exploit the defense by dishing the ball off to Gasol when he received a double team, rather than taking a turn-around fadeaway from the corner. He learned how to make his teammates better while also picking his spots in which it was a benefit to the team for him to dominate offensively.

However, all of this change happened only to a certain extent; there are still many occasions when he reverts to his old habits and shoots the Lakers out of games (9-of-26 shooting in Game 1 of the '08 Finals for example). It’s been well-documented that the more shots Kobe takes, the less likely the Lakers are to actually win the game.

Of course, Michael Jordan shared some of these flaws with No. 24, having had a few forgettable Finals performances himself, such as the time he went 9-of-25 in a Game 7.

Regardless, these occasional no-shows were, as most of you know, an aberration. When the calendar flipped to June, Jordan consistently brought his A-game. Unfortunately though, the same cannot be said for the Black Mamba, as Michael gets the better of him in almost every statistical category.

As you can see, there’s a reason Michael Jordan never lost an NBA finals. He raised his scoring average from the regular season by 3.5 ppg in the Finals while still managing to shoot an incredibly efficient 48.1 percent from the field.

On the other hand, Kobe’s scoring average doesn’t shift from the regular season, but his field goal percentage come June drops by a staggering 4.3 percent from his regular season average of 45.4 percent. If Kobe Bryant is clutch, then Michael Jordan is CLUTCH.

Even in his own era, it’s been proved by the statisticians over at 82games.com that contrary to the general consensus, Kobe is not the most clutch player in the league.

If you want someone to make a shot at the buzzer for you, take Bryant; but if you want someone to win you the game in the last five minutes, take LeBron James. The more glamorous option is the former, although the latter is the scenario that presents itself far more often throughout the season, and more importantly, the playoffs.

If Kobe leads the Lakers to a three-peat next summer, the comparison between him and Jordan will undoubtedly be brought to the forefront. He will have won the same amount of championships as Michael (six) in an almost identical fashion. For the two three-peats that Jordan won, the only other starter who played on both teams was Scottie Pippen.

For Kobe’s two (potential) three-peats, the only consistent starter besides himself would be Derek Fisher. The ability to lead two separate teams to the pinnacle of the sport three times is a remarkable feat that Kobe does deserve much credit for.  

However, the part that separates the two shooting guards is the aforementioned fact that Jordan never lost a Finals series, whereas Kobe has done so twice, when he was definitely the leader of the team (Kobe had taken the alpha dog reins from Shaq before the 04’ Finals against the Pistons, whether Shaq liked it or not).

Also, Kobe has yet to shoot 47 percent from the field for a season in his career to date; Jordan averaged 50 percent for his career and only shot worse than 47 percent in his last year with the Bulls and the two years in Washington. In addition to shooting numbers, Jordan’s rebounding and assists figures were consistently ahead of Bryant’s.

There are those that say that Kobe still has a few good years to enhance his resume, but his stats have been declining for the last few years, in addition to his athletic ability; not to mention the Celtics, Heat, Mavs, Magic, Spurs, Bulls, and Thunder all looking like title contenders for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately for Lakers fans, the odds of Kobe winning multiple championships in his twilight years seem to be diminishing with each Kevin Durant or Derrick Rose that enters the league.

Michael Jordan was an original prototype: a guard who could post you up, dominate you with his mid-range game, explode to the basket, and shoot the three occasionally if necessary (or a blind free throw). Even Kobe himself has admitted many times that he has modeled much of his offensive arsenal after Jordan.

So for those fans getting caught up in Kobe’s pursuit of his sixth ring, I recommend they watch this video a few times before they proclaim him “the next Jordan.”

 

You can follow Stephen on twitter at www.twitter.com/slardner92

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