Saturday, June 30, 2012

Where Does Kobe Bryant Belong Among the NBA Greats?



Kobe Bryant has proven that his career isn't over just yet.

Nearly grabbing a scoring title against now three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant was an impressive feat for the 33 year old future Hall of Famer. Although he has probably at least a couple years until he retires, Bryant has already been rightfully placed in the conversation with all-time greats. But where does he fit in with the likes of Michael, Larry, and Magic?

First of all, let's dispel the myth that he can even be compared to Michael Jordan. Magic Johnson said himself that "there's Michael Jordan and then there is the rest of us." Larry Bird remarked after a playoff game that he played against "God disguised as Michael Jordan."

These guys are top 10 players of all time and here they are saying that Jordan is on a different level then they were. Bryant averages less points per game than Jordan and has less MVPs, NBA championships, scoring titles, and fewer achievements for just about everything.

Put simply, there is no comparison between 23 and 24.

Now where does Kobe fit in among all-time Laker greats?

Magic Johnson was a five-time champion and generally regarded as the greatest point guard of all time. At 6'9", Magic was one of the most well-rounded talents the NBA has ever seen. He averaged 19.5 points per game, 11.2 assists per game, and an astounding 7.2 rebounds per game.

The former Laker point guard also has more MVPs (3) and Finals MVPs (3) than Kobe.

Many may regard Kobe as a clutch performer, but this ESPN ranking give the best playoff performance to Magic Johnson (and Kobe isn't even in the top 10). In Game 6 of the NBA Finals, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wasn't able to play due to injury.

So Magic Johnson, a point guard, played center.

His 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals led the way for the Lakers to beat the 76ers and legend Julius Erving.

And that was in his rookie year.

There are two more Laker legends ahead of Kobe: Shaquille O'Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Shaq was the most dominant player of his generation. In the Lakers three-peat from 00-02, "The Diesel" won every single Finals MVP award and even reigned in a regular season MVP award in 2000.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is another big man who simply dominated the game. Six NBA championship titles, six MVP awards, 19 times an All Star, and of course the NBA's all-time scoring leader. There isn't much of an argument for Kobe against the legendary career of Kareem.

That makes Kobe the fourth best player to play in Hollywood and therefore not a top five player in NBA history.

Considering the staggering achievements in the careers of Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird and Bill Russell, Kobe drops down at least a couple more spots. He and Tim Duncan are in a similar spot among the NBA's greatest.

So is he in the top 10 of all time? Possibly. But top five? Definitely not.

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