With the conclusion of the NBA finals, we finally saw Kobe get the” he can’t win without Shaq” monkey off his back. Kobe’s career is far from done, but his window of greatness could be closing as he transitions to the jump shooting phase of his career. I say that for one reason, he has averaged less free throw attempts per game each year for the last three seasons (10+ from 04 to 07, 7.6 in 08, and 5.9 in 09), which makes me think he would rather not take it to the hole, so instead he’s pulling up for jumpers. Has Kobe had enough “greatness” so far to be considered close to Jordan? Kobe is turning 31 over the summer, so this should be a good point in his career to compare what he’s done so far to Jordan at the same age. I don’t think this is going to be close, but we’ll run it by two categories: stats and bio. I can’t say that Kobe’s resume is as impressive as MJ’s, but adding the fourth championship should make it close!
His Airness – Jordan at the age of 29, went into retirement after winning three straight Championships with Phil in Chicago. He left the game he ruled to play professional baseball, but many think that it was an undercover suspension for MJ’s gambling habits (I’m a believer in that theory). He was at the top of the game and his resume was impressive at his first retirement winning; 3 MVP’s, 8 first team All NBA awards, 88’ Defensive Player of the Year, 6 first team All Defense awards, and 3 NBA Finals MVP’s. He won the scoring titles every year from 87 to 93. Many felt that in 93 Jordan deserved the MVP, but they were tired of giving it to him, so they gave it to Barkley.
Black Mamba – I’m sure we’re all a little fresher on Kobe’s stat’s to date, but here they are anyways. Keep in mind that MJ took his year off at 30 years old. Which is when Kobe won his 4th Championship, and added his 1st NBA Finals MVP. He also rounded out the resume with 1 League MVP, 2 time scoring champion, 7 first team All Defensive awards, and 7 first team All NBA awards. At this point I don’t think their stats are comparable, but Kobe did win one more championship than Jordan.
His Airness – Jordan had his struggles coming into the league since he joined a team that basically sucked. He learned how to win in college hitting a NCAA Championship game winner in 1982. The early Bulls teams were terrible, so he had to compensate by forcing it at times. His greatness still allowed them to win and make the playoffs only to be knocked out early (1st or 2nd round) throughout his first five seasons. In his second playoff series, against the 85-86 Celtics, considered by many to be one of the greatest in NBA history, he made his first playoff mark by scoring 63 in one game (still the record). Two seasons later, Jordan won his first MVP, and the defensive player of the year award.
MJ’s first three Championship years were none other than domination. In the first championship run, it was the first time that Jordan realized he had teammates averaging 8.4 assists in the playoffs, and 11.4 in the Finals. Jordan’s stats seemed to go up when he was in the playoffs. He averaged 34.6 Points, 6.8 Rebounds, 6.6 Assists, and 2.3 steals in his first 9 playoff appearances.
Black Mamba – Kobe came into the league a couple of years younger and less experienced, but was put into the starting rotation in his second year at the age of 20, and showed that he would be a star in the league. Already being teamed up with a superstar in Shaq, he had the chance to figure things out in a winning environment, drastically different than Jordan’s early years. The strike season of 98, shortened Kobe’s first year as a starter to 50 games, but league wide everyone knew that he was going to be a star. The following year Kobe was given the greatest coach of all time in Phil Jackson. With an amazing core, the Lakers would go on to win 3 championships. Kobe would continually increase his all around stats each year, but never won a finals MVP. He became a fixture in the fourth quarter as everyone would wonder when it was going to be “Kobe Time”. At the age of 23, he was the youngest player in the history of the NBA to have three titles.
There wasn’t a fourth championship run, and that’s when Kobe’s struggles started. He wanted to be the “man” in LA, and basically forced the owners to decide what the Lakers future was, him or Shaq. The Lakers chose Bryant as they traded away their star center and gave Kobe the fat wallet he desired. Kobe, was the man and he won scoring titles, but just like Jordan in his early years, he couldn’t really trust his teammates since they weren’t all that good. Kobe was unstoppable, but teams realized he was playing selfishly and just like Jordan didn’t want to pass to a lesser player to let them miss a shot. Kobe’s playoff averages aren’t bad, but comparing them to Jordan’s playoff stats at the same point in his career makes me appreciate just how good Jordan was. Kobe’s playoff stats look like this 25.0 Points, 5.1 Rebounds, 4.7 assists, and .5 steals (His first two seasons totaling 20 games brought down those stats).
Since championships matter most out of all the stats, I guess we can say that Kobe wins! MJ 3 Kobe 4, at the age of 30. There, I said it. I didn’t want to, but I did. This ultimately isn’t a race to win 4 championships though! Kobe still needs two more championships to be standing on the same pedistal as Jordan. He’s going to have to be the Finals MVP for both before I will truly put him in another comparison to Jordan. Looks like Kobe’s got some work to do!