Writer: Jared White
Earlier this week Kobe Bryant had his number 8 and 24 jerseys retired by the Los Angeles Lakers. This was amazing to watch as Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players the NBA has
ever seen, and he helped not only further improve the legacy of the Los Angeles Lakers, but change the NBA all together. This inspired the NBA, as well as NBA analysts to reminisce about the greatest moments in “The Black Mamba’s” career.
But Kobe Bryant having his jerseys retired also brought out the biggest Kobe fans who believe that Kobe is a top 5 player, or even the greatest player in NBA history. Again Kobe Bryant is great, and I personally have him ranked as the 12th best player in NBA history. I don’t have a problem with people ranking him in the top 10, or even top 5 because he was almost a hero for any fan of his, but I do have a problem when people rank him in the top 3 or better all-time.
The reason I have a problem with people ranking Kobe so high on the all-time list is there are several people who I believe were better players or had better careers than Kobe.
There are two main players that always get compared to Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James. We have all heard these comparisons countless times following a soundly debate, but let’s compare them more in depth than most people do.
LeBron James Vs. Kobe Bryant:
In their first 14 seasons (Amount of full seasons LeBron has played), LeBron completely destroys Kobe Bryant when it comes to statistics. LeBron averages more PPG, RPG, APG, SPG, BPG, and does so while having a higher FG%, 3PFG%, PER, and more total win shares.
Most people who are Kobe fans rebuttal this by saying that Kobe Bryant has more rings, All-Star game appearances, All-NBA First Team appearances, etc. But most of this argument holds no actual weight. As Bill Russell, the most winning NBA player in history (11 rings) said, championships are just a team accomplishment. And although this is true I will agree that they do hold some value when comparing all-time greats. But Kobe Bryant was also the “Sidekick” to Shaquille O’Neal while winning his first three championships, as Shaquille won all three Finals MVPs without question. But LeBron has been the clear best player on all three of his championship teams. Also LeBron James has four NBA MVP awards (A single player accomplishment) while Kobe Bryant only has one. But finally, LeBron James is not done with his career. He has around 4-5 years left in the NBA and in that time will undoubtedly extended his accomplishment of Finals appearances and possibly championships as well.
Michael Jordan Vs. Kobe Bryant:
As many people say, and I agree, Kobe Bryant is the closest thing to Michael Jordan the NBA has ever seen. They both had the amazing athleticism at a young age, a passion for the sport, ability to hit clutch shots, and even were both coached by the great Phil Jackson. But being the closest thing to Michael Jordan we have ever seen doesn’t mean you are a top 2 player, or even top 10, it simply means Kobe Bryant reminded us of Jordan more than anyone else did. During their careers Jordan averaged more PPG, RPG, APG, SPG, BPG, and did so while averaging a higher FG%, PER, and more total win shares (Sound familiar?).
But, unlike LeBron James, when Kobe Bryant is compared to Michael Jordan’s career success and accomplishments Kobe loses there as well. Michael has more Championships, MVPs, and Finals MVPs.
Kobe Bryant, although great, is weak when compared to LeBron James and/or Michael Jordan. Kobe is a great player, and true basketball fans will miss watching him play, but he is not a top 3, 5, or even top 10 all-time NBA player.
All players I have ranked above Kobe Bryant on the all-time greatest list:
LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson, Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Jerry West.