Only two people are important in the world’s greatest sports debate.
But for some reason, they both avoid addressing it.
Both Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have shied away from the debate surrounding their careers, as the search for the next Michael Jordan continues to rage, especially with the recent fuel added by His Airness.
In a recent interview, Jordan commented that if anyone were ever to be compared to him, Bryant was the only logical comparison.
His Airness has spoken.
Many have tried and been met with utter disgust when presenting the notion that Bryant has actually surpassed Jordan as the greatest ever. Few Jordan fans embrace Bryant the same way the current generation has, they’re main argument residing somewhere between, “You never saw MJ in his prime, yung’n,” and “Kobe had Shaq.”
Yes, I never saw MJ in his prime on live TV, but I have ESPN Classic and NBA TV. I see him.
Yes, Kobe had Shaq. But a young Shaq had Penny Hardaway and a veteran Shaq had Dwyane Wade.
No three-peats with those guys.
But that’s besides the point. The point is there is really only one straight comparison that can be made between Jordan and Bryant, and that is that both men have an ego that couldn’t be contained within the Smithsonian Museum, let alone the nation’s capitol.
Besides ego, what do they really have in common?
It’s not accolades.
Yes, Kobe is approaching Jordan in championships and all-time points scored, but that’s pretty much it, save for a few All-NBA Team nods here and there.
Jordan has six NBA MVP’s as opposed to Kobe’s one. Jordan has six NBA Finals MVP’s as opposed to Kobe’s two (subject to change.)
MJ, six NBA scoring titles. Kobe has two (subject to change, goddammit).
Kobe can’t compare to Michael in the accolades department. No one will ever build the resume that the Almighty built during his NBA career, as LeBron is a little too far behind to make a legitimate charge at MJ’s success.
But what about basketball?
Not voted MVP awards, not All-NBA Defensive Team selections, not NBA Championships.
Is MJ really a better basketball player than Kobe Bryant? Is MJ really more gifted with a basketball than LeBron James?
In my opinion, the answer is no.
I believe that MJ has one edge on Bryant and this is in his explosion and power.
But that’s where the buck stops.
With that said, I am baffled as to why player comparisons focus solely on statistics and accolades.
There is someone with more championships than MJ. Someone with more points, too. Someone averaged more rebounds. Someone is a better passer than the Almighty.
He just so happens to have been an incredible winner and competitor, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to being the best, it just means he presents the best package historically and nothing more.
So let’s call him the ‘greatest package presenter’ as opposed to the ‘greatest player,’ because that is more than debatable.
I saw MJ win six NBA championships with one sidekick. I never saw Jordan win without Pippen and vice versa.
But I’ve seen Kobe win without Shaq and vice versa.
I’ve seen MJ score over 60 twice in his career and I’ve seen Kobe score over 60 twice in a week.
And twice after three quarters.
Who’s the better scorer?
I know that Shaq could have been the league’s greatest scorer had he not missed thousands of free throws in his career. I also know that if Shaq and Kobe were BFF’s, they could have won six championships easy.
That’s right, circumstances come into play as well.
MJ was the first of his kind. He’s the mold for every guard that has come after him.
But because he was the first, does that make him better than the rest?
It’s a matter of circumstances, similar to Jordan’s competition.
People always tell me, “You can’t blame anyone for who they played against.”
Yeah, I can, and MJ never ran across the path of a LeBron or Kobe. Yet they run across each other.
Jordan played against Magic and Bird, but is Larry Bird better than Dirk Nowitizki? Magic more gifted than LeBron? Tougher, sure. But more gifted?
No way in hell.
Who were the best shooting guards MJ played against? Clyde Drexler? Joe Dumars?
Does either compare to James? D.Wade? McGrady? Iverson? Kevin Durant? Paul Pierce?
I am a firm believer that MJ wouldn’t have walked over today’s competition.
By no means am I attempting to discredit Michael Jordan. I would slap myself before I ever did that. But I don’t subscribe to the belief that because he has six championships, he’s better than Kobe Bryant.
“MJ has six, Kobe only has five. And LeBron has none.”
And? I didn’t ask you who has more titles, I asked you who’s a better player.
If you can look me in the eye and tell me that in your mind, without a shadow of a doubt, Jordan has more tools on a basketball court than Bryant and James, I’ll be forced to give you a stern look.
Truth is, that assertion is patently false, and like my brother says when people tell him Tim Tebow is a good quarterback…
“I don’t like being lied to.”