Saturday, December 19, 2009

Kobe Bryant: Great Player... Or The Greatest Player Ever?

Given Kobe Bryant is one of the few polarizing players in the NBA, many of you will respond to my title the way democrats  did when they were asked by Steven Colbert a similar question about former President George Bush. (Watch Below.)

Nevertheless, since he lives next door to UC Irvine, works out at our facilites on occasion and hosts Beat Kobe nights at our gym it is hard to attend UC Irvine and not be a Kobe/Lakers fan.

Now lets put some numbers behind this question by comparing him to the current greatest basketball player of all time: Michael Jordan.

Michael Jordan
  1. 6 NBA Championships.
  2. 5 MVP Awards.
  3. 3 All Star MVP Awards.
  4. 10 Scoring Titles.
  5. 2 Olympic Gold Medals.
  6. Played Until Age 40. (With breaks in between.)
Kobe Bryant
  1. 4 out of 5 NBA Championships.
  2. 1 MVP Awards.
  3. 3 All Star MVP Awards.
  4. 2 Scoring Titles.
  5. 1 Olympic Gold Medal.
  6. Is Currently 31 years old.
I think it is safe to say that Kobe deserves to be considered a great player, but will the day come when he is considered the greatest?

Personally I think it will be close either way.  The odds are he will similarly last until age 40.  Given this:
  1. How the Lakers are playing right now, 9 years is plenty of time for him to rack up 6+ NBA championships.
  2. 5 MVPs will be hard to match.  However, given he won 2 years ago, was the runner up last year and is in the MVP lead this year it could still be possible.
  3. Kobe will beat Jordan here. (9 years to win one more All Star MVP?)
  4. Jordan will probably still reign king with 10 scoring titles.  (Although Kobe is close every year and has the second highest points in a game with 81 points.)
  5. Kobe will get another gold withen 4 years and perhaps another in 8.
If Kobe can close the doors on the MVPs and pull ahead in total NBA Championships, which could feasibly happen, I think Kobe will have a case to be made for being the best basketball player ever.

LeBron James?
LeBron fans can email me once he so much as takes his team to an NBA finals, much less wins one. Until then, sorry. Truly great players find ways to win.

Ultimately, I believe the most important thing a player can do is make sure their team wins.  Kobe has done that, and may do that in the end better than any other player has.

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  1. I think somebody has sipped the Laker's Cool-Aid after living down in the LA area for several years...

    The question I want asked: Colorado - great state or the greatest state?

  2. Truly great players find ways to win.

    I agreed with your analysis until this point. It's just wrong. Basketball is a team sport. Kobe only has one ring sans Shaq and Jordan didn't win any without Pippen. Kobe is one of the greatest to ever play the game but that would be true regardless of the number of championships he has under his belt.

  3. Nick,

    But the Kool-Aid tails so good. :)


    I agree it's a team sport which really is why I say what I said. Players who are only individually good don't constatly win championships. In addition you have to be a team player.

    People sometimes say Kobe isn't a great team player yet even without Shaq he's taken the Lakers to 2 NBA finals winning the one last year with a lot of promise of doing the same this year.

    To be a winner you have to both be good, and recognise it is a team sport while preforming well with your team.

    But, that's part of the Kool-Aid as well. :)

  4. No, that's not what I meant. Sure, it helps if a player utilizes his teammates but only if the teammates are any good to begin with. To use your example, I believe Kobe's last two trips to the Finals and current success has more to do with the acquisition of a certain 7' tall Spanish All-Star spreading the floor than Kobe's unselfish play.

    Seriously. Kobe is a team player? I think you must be rolling the Koolaid mix into joints and smoking them.

  5. "I think you must be rolling the Koolaid mix into joints and smoking them."

    I have to day that is pretty funny. I'll have to use that line myself one day. :)

    I don't know, we'll see. To me Kobe started out as a cocky ball hog but has matured into a team player.

  6. Personally, I doubt Kobe will ever be considered "the greatest basketball player of all time," and this is why. Raw numbers really don't mean anything here. It's not about how many MVPs or gold medals that any person has, it's about how the player inspires and entertains the masses. By the peak of Jordan's career, there was essentially no vocallized doubt as to his preeminence as the greatest basketball player then playing, and little to his status as the greatest of all time. Even his biggest rivals and those of us who could never be found cheering for the Bulls were consistently forced to concede that he was the greatest player then playing the game. Jordan's bacame a household name. 90-year-old grandmas who had never seen a basketball game in their lives knew the name of Michael Jordan. Jordan inspired people and demonstrated leadership. Kobe can't even demonstrate the leadership and persona to garner an uncontested claim as the greatest currently playing, let alone the greatest ever. There are just too many other great players out there these days. Non-basketball fans could realistically not even have heard of Kobe, let alone know that he is even considered by some as the greatest player, now or ever.

    Being considered "the greatest ever" really isn't about the titles. It's about public opinion. Kobe doesn't inspire his enemies nor the masses. Jordan did. As far as I see it, that's really all there is to it.


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