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NBA: Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan? There Can Only Be One...

Steven BaldassariContributor IIIApril 22, 2011

NBA: Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan? There Can Only Be One...

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    Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan? There can only be one, but which one? We must choose, but choose wisely. 

    Comparisons have been made between Jordan and Kobe since Kobe Bryant was drafted out of Lower Merion High School into the NBA in 1996. Both players are indisputably among the best to ever play in the National Basketball Association.

    Many think of Michael Jordan as the mentor and Kobe Bryant as the apprentice. Even though they never played on the same team, Kobe's game unmistakeably mimics Jordan's, and everyone who knows basketball is aware that Jordan would give Kobe tips on the court to help his up and coming star shine brighter.

    If you were Kobe Bryant and grew up watching Jordan's amazing performances year after year, then wouldn't you try to mimic Jordan? After all, who doesn't want to be like Mike? I think we all tried, but only Kobe did it with any level of success—though how successful was he? Did the apprentice grow stronger and better than the master himself?

    Read on...

Michael Jordan: UNC Days

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    Jordan played basketball at Laney High School in Wilmington, North Carolina. He was cut from the varsity team as a sophomore. Some players would be defeated by this, as I was my sophomore year when I was cut from my varsity squad, but not Michael Jordan.

    He used this failure as motivation and made sure that he would never be cut again. "Whenever I was working out and got tired and figured I ought to stop, I'd close my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it," Jordan said, "and that usually got me going again."

    When Michael Jordan made the team the following year, he led the team to the championship. MJ went on to play basketball under scholarship at the University of North Carolina. Jordan established himself in the national championship game of 1982 as a freshman, when he scored the game-winning basket against the Georgetown Hoyas.

    Jordan was selected college player of the year in the 1983-84 season, and he led the United States of America's Men's Basketball Team to an Olympic Gold Medal in the 1984 Summer Olympics under coach Bobby Knight.

    In 1984 Michael Jordan entered the NBA draft where he was selected third in the draft. Yes, you read that correctly—third. The first pick of the draft that year was by the Houston Rockets. They selected Hakeem Olajuwon, who is now in the Hall of Fame beside Jordan. The second pick was by Portland who took Sam Bowie. You have to seriously question Portland's scouts' ability to recognize pure talent.

    The Chicago Bulls who selected Jordan third overall that year had won only 28 games the previous season and were in desperate need of a star player to save them from themselves. Jordan became just that. He made an immediate impact in the NBA and for the Bulls franchise. In his rookie season, Jordan finished as one of the top scorers in the league, averaging 28.2 ppg, was named to the All-Star team and was crowned Rookie of the Year.

    Not bad for a guy who was cut his sophomore year in High School.

    Michael Jordan immediately turned around the Bulls franchise and took them to the playoffs ever year but came up short every year. In 1991, Jordan finally led his team to the NBA Finals where they proceeded to win the first of three consecutive NBA Championships (1991, 1992 and 1993).

    All of this was done before Kobe was even a twinkle or a thought in the basketball world.

23 Reasons Why Someone Would Want to "Be Like Mike"

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    Why would anyone want to be like Mike? Well, here is a list of twenty-three reasons why.

    All career accomplishments listed below are according to NBA.com.

    1. Five-time NBA Most Valuable Player (1987-88, 1990-91, 1991-92, 1995-96, 1997-98)
    2. Ten-time All-NBA First Team selection (1986-87 to 1992-93, 1995-96 to 1997-98)
    3. A member of six Chicago Bulls NBA championship teams (1990-91, 1991-92, 1992-93, 1995-96, 1996-97 and 1997-98) and was a Six-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player
    4. The 1987-88 NBA Defensive Player of the Year and record nine-time NBA All-Defensive First Team selection (1987-88 to 1992-93, 1995-96 to 1997-98)
    5. Entering 2002-03, ranked first in NBA history in scoring average (31.0 ppg), second in steals (2,391), fourth in points (30,652) and in field-goals made (11,513), fifth in free-throws made (7,061), sixth in field-goals attempted (23,010) and eighth in free-throws attempted (8,448)
    6. Closed the 1997-98 season as the Bulls' all-time franchise leader in points, rebounds (5,836), assists (5,012), steals, games (930), field-goals made and attempted and free-throws made and attempted (8,115)
    7. Holds the NBA record for most seasons leading the league in scoring (10)
    8. Shares the NBA record with Wilt Chamberlain for most consecutive seasons leading the league in scoring (seven, 1986-87 to 1992-93)
    9. Holds the NBA record for most consecutive games scoring in double-digits (842)
    10. Holds the NBA record for most seasons leading the league in field-goals made (10) and attempted (10)
    11. Led the NBA in steals in 1987-88 (3.16 spg), 1989-90 (2.77 spg) and 1992-93 (2.83 spg)
    12. Holds the NBA single-game records for most free-throws made in one half (20 against the Miami Heat on 12/30/92) and most most free-throws attempted in one half (23 in the same game)
    13. Shares the NBA single-game records for most free-throws made in one quarter (14 against the Utah Jazz on 11/15/89 and against the Miami Heat on 12/30/92) and most free-throws attempted in one quarter (23 against the Miami Heat on 12/30/92)
    14. Holds the NBA Finals record for highest single-series scoring average (41.0 ppg in 1993)
    15. Entering the 2002-03 season, ranks as the all-time NBA Finals leader in three-pointers made (42), second in three-point attempts (114), third in points (1,176), fourth in steals (62), fifth in field-goals made (438), sixth in assists (209) and free-throws made (258), seventh in field-goals attempted (911) and eighth in free-throws attempted (320)
    16. Holds the NBA Playoffs record for highest career scoring average (33.4 ppg)
    17. Established an NBA Playoffs record with 63 points against the Boston Celtics on 5/20/86
    18. Entering the 2002-03 season ranks as the all-time NBA Playoffs leader in field-goals attempted (4,497), free-throws made (1,463) and attempted (1,766), second in steals (376) and field-goals made (2,188), fifth in assists (1,022), seventh in three-point attempts (446) and ninth in three-pointers made (148)
    19. Participated in 13 NBA All-Star Games (1985, 1987-1993, 1996-98, 2002-03), starting 13 times, and missed another due to injury...Named the MVP of the 1988, 1996 and 1998 NBA All-Star Games
    20. All-time NBA All-Star Game leader in steals (35) and ranks second in field-goal attempts (206), third in points (242), fourth in scoring average (20.2 ppg), and eighth in assists (52)
    21. Notched the first triple-double in All-Star Game history, with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists, in the 1997 NBA All-Star Game in Cleveland
    22. Won the Slam Dunk Contest in 1987 and 1988, also participating in 1985
    23. Notched his 28th career triple-double, with 30 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, against the Toronto Raptors on 4/14/97

Kobe Bryant: Lower Merion High School Straight to the Pros

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    Unlike, Jordan, Kobe Bryant did not play college ball. He made the leap directly from Lower Merion High School of Ardmore, PA to the NBA in 1996. According to NBA.com, Bryant was the "all-time leading scorer in Southeastern Pennsylvania history with 2,883 points, breaking the marks of NBA legend and Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain (2,359 points) and former St. Joseph's player Carlin Warley (2,441 points)."

    "Bryant led his high school team to a 77-13 record in last three seasons and was a four-year starter. His father, Joe, played eight NBA seasons for the 76ers">Philadelphia 76ers, San Diego Clippers and Houston Rockets, and is a former assistant coach at La Salle. As a senior at Lower Merion High School, Bryant was selected by USA Today and Parade Magazine as the National High School Player of the Year. He was also named Naismith Player of the Year, Gatorade Circle of Champions High School Player of the Year and to the McDonald's All-America Team."

    "Bryant averaged 30.8 ppg, 12 rpg, 6.5 apg, four spg and 3.8 bpg. He led Lower Merion to Class AAAA state title with a 31-3 record. Bryant scored a career-high 50 points vs. Marple Newtow and scored 34 points to go along with 15 rebounds, six assists and nine blocks to lead Lower Merion to District I Class AAA title over Chester. He scored 117 points and was named Most Outstanding Player in Prestigious Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C."

    Having put up statistics like he had in High School, it's no wonder people started to compare "Kobe" to the great Michael Jordan. The Lakers wanted Bryant even though he hadn't played a game of college basketball. Their chances of landing Kobe looked slim as they were drafting late in the first round, so they made a deal with the Charlotte Hornets whereby Charlotte selected him with the 13th overall pick in the first round of the 1996 NBA Draft and then traded him to Los Angeles in exchange for center Vlade Divac.

    Although Vlade Divac was no slouch and did great things for the game of basketball, trading Kobe Bryant for him in the middle of Divac's storied career doesn't seem like a great move in hindsight. Divac was good but was not a superstar. Kobe has now become one of the greatest players to ever play the game.

24 Reasons to Love Kobe the Great

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    Like Jordan, Kobe soared above the rim seeking which basket he could devour. Here are 24 Reasons to love Kobe.

    All career accomplishments listed below are according to NBA.com.

    1. 5-time NBA Champion (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010)
    2. 2007-08 NBA Most Valuable Player
    3. 2009 NBA Finals MVP
    4. 2010 NBA Finals MVP
    5. Helped lead the United States to a gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics
    6. Has earned All-NBA honors in each of the last 12 seasons (First Team in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010; Second Team in 2000 and 2001; Third Team in 1999 and 2005)
    7. Has been named to the NBA’s All Defensive Team 10 times (First Team in 2000, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010; Second Team in 2001 and 2002)
    8. Named a starter for the Western Conference All-Star Team in each of the last 12 games (2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000 and 1998 - no game in 1999)
    9. Led all NBA players in voting for the 2003 All-Star Game
    10. Earned MVP honors at the 2002 All-Star Game in his hometown of Philadelphia, in the 2007 All-Star Game in Las Vegas and co-MVP honors at the 2009 All-Star Game in Phoenix
    11. Became the youngest player ever to score 15,000 - 20,000 career points & 23,000 - 25,000 career points, to be named to the NBA’s All Defensive Team (1999-2000), to start an All-Star Game (1998) and to earn All-Rookie honors (1996-97)
    12. Won the 1997 Gatorade Slam Dunk Championship during All-Star Weekend
    13. Is the second youngest player in Los Angeles franchise history (behind Andrew Bynum) to appear in a regular season game in his NBA debut 11/3/96 vs. Minnesota (18 years, two months and 11 days) and is the third youngest player to ever appear in an NBA game (only Andrew Bynum and Boston’s Jermaine O’Neal were younger)
    14. Has been selected Western Conference Player of the Month 12 times (November 2001, January 2003, March 2004, January, April 2006, December 2006, March 2007, February 2008, April 2008, December 2008, January 2009, December 2009) and has earned Western Conference Player of the Week honors 25 times (11/4/01, 1/20/02, 11/3/02, 12/8/02, 1/12/03, 2/2/03, 2/23/03, 2/17/04, 3/22/04, 11/13/05, 12/18/05, 12/25/05, 1/22/06, 4/16/06, 3/18/07, 3/25/07, 1/13/08, 3/2/08, 4/6/08, 12/29/08, 1/12/09, 3/16/09, 11/22/09, 12/20/09 and 12/27/09)
    15. Prior to that was named NBA Player of the Month once (December 2000) and NBA Player of the Week twice (April 16, 2000 and December 24, 2000)
    16. Captured the 2005-06 and 2006-07 scoring titles
    17. In 2005-06, averaged 35.4 points per game (8th highest scoring average of all-time), passing Bob McAdoo for the 7th best scoring season of all-time (2,832 points)
    18. Scored a career-high 81 points (55 in the second half) 1/22/06 vs. TOR, the 2nd highest game (81) and half (55) point totals in NBA history
    19. Ranks third in NBA history behind Wilt Chamberlain (118) and Michael Jordan (31) with 24 career 50-plus point games
    20. Has 104 career 40-plus point games, 140 career double-doubles and 16 career triple-doubles
    21. Is the Lakers all-time leading scorer and ranks 12th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
    22. Father Joe "Jelly Bean" Bryant played eight seasons in the NBA (Philadelphia, San Diego and Houston) before retiring in 1983
    23. In the summer of 2006, created the VIVO Foundation, a charitable initiative dedicated to enhancing the lives of young people and making dreams come true through educational and cultural enrichment opportunities and financial support
    24. Involved in several community programs in the past, including the Pediatric AIDS Foundation and the Center for Abused Children

Young Jordan vs. Older Jordan

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    Here is a classic Gatorade commercial that I enjoy, and you probably did and will again, too.

Who's Better?

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    Just as players and fans once looked up to Michael Jordan, they now look up to Kobe Bryant. This video, presented by ESPN, is a great watch and really analyzes who is greater, Kobe or Jordan.

Like Mike but Not Mike: Kobe's Great but Not the Greatest

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    It's a pretty safe bet to say that there will never be another player who both changes the game and contributed to it like Mike did. Many have tried and continue to, but all have failed.

    Michael Jordan for his career averaged more points, rebounds, assists, steals, won more titles, more finals MVPs, had more regular season MVPs, and beats Kobe in virtually every significant category. Therefore, is there really a question who is better? If there was, there shouldn't be anymore.

    If there still is a debate in your mind, then I recommend that you read on.

Even Kobe Knows Jordan Was Better

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    Kobe Bryant is great, but he's no Michael Jordan. Just watch this video if you doubt that. Kobe admits it himself.

    Here's to you MJ. You were a leader, a legend...a champion and the best basketball player ever to play the game. 

    Prediction: Jordan will unretire at age fifty and join the Chicago Bulls once again for his last hurrah. The Derrick Rose to Michael Jordan combination would be unstoppable and the Bulls in turn would win the title that year, giving MJ his his seventh and final championship ring! In that finals series Derrick Rose would be the Finals MVP, and this would create a perfect transition from the great Bull of the past to the great Bull of the future.

    Think my prediction is crazy and far fetched? Well, Jordan doesn't. In fact, the very night that Michael Jordan was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, he finished his initiation speech leaving us fans with these words:

    "One day you might look up and see me playing the game at 50. Don't laugh. Never say never, because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion." 

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