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Tuesday
Jul272010

Current Players And The “Best Ever” Discussion

Michael Jordan is one of the best ever in NBA history. Are there any current players who can join him in that discussion?Everyone loves a debate that has the words “best ever” in it. In the NBA, the discussion about the “best player ever” kind of quieted after Michael Jordon retired the second time, but it's started up again recently with Kobe Bryant earning his fifth ring. So let's take a look at a) who is the best retired player ever out of the usual suspects, and b) which current players are rightfully in that discussion.

 

The key criteria I'm using to judge players is: improved the team's ability to win in the regular and post-season, great production numbers in regular season and post-season, worked more toward helping the team be a strong unit than toward accruing individual statistics, and was a solid contributor on both the offense and defense.

 

Best Two Ever

There's actually much less (reasonable) debate over who the two best players ever are than you think. Michael Jordan is one of these two for obvious reasons. Not only did he post great ppg averages throughout his career, his career shooting percentage was 50%, really good for a guard who was clearly the focus of every defense he ever faced. He usually lead the Bulls in assists, and he did so at a PG-like A-TO rate (career 5.3-2.7). His defense was very good, and the 27-55 team he was drafted to improved continually to the point of utter dominance. When he left for two years in the 90's, the Bulls posted their two lowest win totals of the decade before his second retirement in 1998, and they never got out of the Eastern Conference Semifinals without him. His already high numbers remained high or exceeded themselves in the playoffs, resulting in six championships without a real center to hold things down underneath.

 

The greatest player of all-time was Bill Russell. He is undoubtedly the greatest defensive player ever. He is probably the smartest player ever. He was probably the greatest passing big man ever. He was one of the two greatest rebounders ever. And his will to win no matter what was matched only by Jordan. Where Russell separates himself, even from MJ, was in his ability to unite his team from day one to play as a true unit with little regard for individual statistics; this is why the Celtics' top scorer often didn't top 20 ppg, and why Russell's assists averages were usually second on the team, just behind that of a Hall of Fame point guard (Bob Cousy or K.C. Jones). And Russell's mighty statistics only got better in the playoffs, including multiple years with apg numbers higher than Bill Walton's 5.5 in 1977, often considered the pinnacle of point-center involvement on a Championship team.

 

Boston won 11 titles in his 13 seasons, and the two misses were when he was injured in 1958 and had to sit out some Finals games, and his first season as a player-coach in 1967, at the helm of an aging team while facing terrible racism as the league's first black coach. Fans like to point out Russell's great supporting cast on the C's, but keep in mind they never even made the Finals before he showed up (during which they basically had the same team as his first season), and they fell right out of the playoffs for two years after he retired (again, with basically the same squad they had in his final season). If you read John Taylor's “The Rivalry,” a great look at the NBA in the 60's, you'll also realize the Celtics seemed to always go on multi-game losing streaks whenever he missed a few contests. And it should be mentioned that Wilt Chamberlain played alongside only two less All-Stars over his career than Russell did (26 to 24), and you have to think that Boston had so many simply because they kept winning titles. There wasn't anything about the Celtics as a team that didn't improve significantly with Russell's presence all throughout his career; Jordan had his own agenda for a while before Phil Jackson reigned him in somewhat during his seventh season.

 

Why It's Only Two

The sheer regular season numbers posted by Wilt Chamberlain are mind-blowing, but he always did much worse in the playoffs, and he was worthless at the ends of games; he didn't want to take the tough shots down the stretch for fear of missing them, and he tanked his defense big-time in order to keep his streak of never fouling out of a game intact. Despite playing on plenty of loaded teams, he won only one title as the top player on his squad, and that season (1966-67) was clearly his least Wilt-like (14 shots per game after averaging between 25 and 40 in his previous seven seasons). It's well know that he directly got in the way of almost any system his teams tried to play (like cutting off Elgin Baylor's left baseline drives), focused completely on himself all the time, was hated by his teammates and coaches (nine – no one liked trying to handle him), was traded in his prime for nearly nothing, and the Laker players once voted 9-2 against their team buying his contract (meaning no one would have to be traded away). Consequently, his record against Russell was 58-84, and his teams were a pedestrian 4-5 in playoff Game 7's (thanks, Bill Simmons). He was directly to blame for his teams' lacking chemistry and not doing well when it counted.

 

Of all the superstars in NBA history, Oscar Robertson was one of the most hated and feared by his teammates. His team's never did well in his 10 years in Cincinnati—the team's top win totals in that span were 55, 48, and 45—and he was a distant second fiddle to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on his only title team (1971). He was traded for very little before that season, which tells you something about the Royals' thoughts of its star player. He put up some crazy triple-double numbers early in his career, but those went away quickly once the league started signing guards who weren't short and weak, which coincides perfectly with the inclusion of more than two black players per team (just saying).

 

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar presents the best case of making it a trio at the top of the NBA's “Greatest Ever” list because he put up great numbers on both ends of the floor forever, and he won six titles (five with Magic). He can't join MJ and Russell, however, because he didn't have the drive those two had. Sure he had some bad supporting casts in the 1970's, but the ABA kept plenty of talent away from the NBA until 1976, yet he still played on some middling squads that a super dominant center should never be part of. For example, before Magic Johnson arrived in 1979, the Lakers won 40, 53, 45, and 47 games with Kareem running things – hardly “best ever” material for a guy in his prime.

 

I might as well mention Larry Bird and Magic Johnson together since that's where they sit in our memory banks. They may be the two most important offensive players ever in terms of their effect on how their teams played. Their outstanding and unselfish passing was contagious, and both did great in the playoffs and brought their teams up to their levels. The big knock on Johnson was his bad defense, and Bird's window of dominance was simply too short to be called the best ever.

 

Current Players

When you look at what Russell and Jordan accomplished during their careers, you have to be quite careful when throwing around the possibility of a current player being “the best ever.” Here is a look at some current ballers who writers and announcers like to mention on all-time squads, using the same criteria I used for players from the past.

 

At least one book has called Shaquille O'Neal the greatest player ever, chiefly due to his overpowering stats in the regular season and the playoffs, being the alpha dog on a Lakers three-peat, and helping every team he played on until age 35 do much much better once he arrived (and they also got much worse once he left). All very compelling stuff, but he has always been unreliable at the ends of games because of his atrocious free-throw shooting, and there's a lot of questions about his drive to be a dominant winner. His teams have been swept out of six playoffs, he's left a lot of franchises on bad terms, and it's hard to say which he put more energy and thought into: his famous All-Star Game parties or his off-season conditioning. He's almost become a cartoon reflection of himself, the guy who just keeps giving himself “Big” monikers and is constantly joking around about running everything. Plus two of those championships were directly due to reffing (LA over Kings in Western Finals in 2001, Miami over Mavericks in 2006).

 

Kobe Bryant scores a lot of points and has five rings, so it makes sense his name gets mentioned with Jordan's. There are a few stark differences between the two however. Bryant's key attribute is also scoring, but he is a volume scorer, not a skillful scorer. His career 45% shooting mark is low for the league and his team over the past 13 years, and he's never exceeded 47% shooting or 50% eFG% (both league averages) in a season. Never. His A-TO marks (career: 4.7-2.9) are low for a guard and often one of the worst on his team. He was clearly not the top player on his first three titles with Shaq, and his Finals performances in the past two ranks behind the contribution of Pau Gasol. Kobe's shooting percentages and turnover totals are usually worse in the playoffs, and almost always even moreso in the Finals. During LA's three-year stretch without either Shaq or Gasol from 04-05 to 06-07, the Lakers won four total playoff games. If we're talking about the best player ever, you'd think that stretch would be better, like the 9 playoff wins the Bulls had in 1988-89, well before Scottie Pippen was Scottie Pippen, at the apex of the league's level of talent (or their four wins the previous year, and again we're talking about very early in MJ's career with no real help). The Lakers have always had one of the highest payrolls in the league, even during that stretch of mediocrity, so arguments centering around Kobe's lack of a supporting cast make you wonder how Jason Kidd got the Nets into the 2002 Finals with Keith Van Horn putting up NJ's best scoring-rebounding combo with 14.8 and 7.5 on a team whose payroll was $30 million below those of the top two in the league. It also doesn't help that the Lakers' record when Bryant has been injured but Shaq or Gasol/Bynum were in the lineup is 46-11 (.807). When those big men have been out, Kobe's Lakers drop to near .500. The team's improvement without Bryant is the most damning piece of evidence against him.

 

The most compelling case by a current player is Tim Duncan. He compares more with Russell because of how well he makes a team play as a team. The Spurs have usually won between 65 and 70% of their games each season throughout his career (never dipping below 61%), and they've won four titles, all with Duncan clearly as the team's best player, even in the one season David Robinson was still effective (1999). Sure he had Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, but they've combined for four All-Star Game appearances during the Spurs' extended run of greatness, so it's not like he's had great #2 men. Duncan's defense has been overhelmingly great for most of his career, and his statistical contribution has been amazing and steady (21-12 career average, with almost all 13 years looking like that), and he's only improved in the post-season. Duncan's been an above-average passer for most of his career, but he hasn't been as crucial to San Antonio's offensive system as Russell's keystone importance to the Celtics' fastbreak (and an only slightly above-average 51% FG% isn't helping the case of a player who usually leads the Spurs in scoring), plus Russell's defense is better. That's why Duncan isn't at the very top, but the argument for his consideration is a strong one because of how closely his play dictates how well the Spurs work as a team, which always seems to be smart and rock solid.

 

Kevin Garnett might be the fiercest defensive player in NBA history, and his career has been great and marked by unselfishness, but he and his teams regularly underperformed in the playoffs. He's played up or (usually) down to his teammates when it's counted most for much of his career, which is not the way to get named the best ever. LeBron James obviously has to put some more time together, but it doesn't look like he's on the right path to joining Russell and MJ. He's all kinds of skilled, but his post-seasons have been relative disasters to the point everyone is now questioning his heart and drive. His drive to make tons of cash and to be a spectacle has never wavered, so that's a bad sign, especially since he just joined a team that already has a superstar leader. The decisions that James pressures his GM's into making don't seem to be winners, either.

 

So there you have it. The two greatest players ever are Michael Jordan and Bill Russell, with the legendary Celtic winning the big crown. Tim Duncan has a strong case for being included at the top, but it's not quite strong enough, although it is better than any of his contemporaries.



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Reader Comments (39)

I get you hate Kobe, but you can't put Tim ahead of him anymore. SInce Shaq left, Tim has yet to beat Kobe in the playoffs. Kobe has defended his title, Tim has not. You undervalue Tim's complimentary players while overemphasizing Pau's contributions. You kill Kobe for bad playoffs yet fil to mention Tim's 4th title his finals performance was behind Ginobli, Parker, and Robert Horry. You note Tim's defense but not Kobe's. You use specfic numbers to evaluate Kobe and generic subjective phrases to evaluate Tim. Funny, you left out the Olympics as well. The 1999 title was in a strike shortened season, is it really that big?

I like your blog. I'm an adult and understand you can dislike whomever you choose. But your argument as of now holds little weight. 3 years ago it was Tim hands down. The last 3 years have pushed Kobe past Tim. If you put both players under the same microscope, and take out how you feel about kobe, there is no way Tim has had a better career.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJames

by MARK GREY

6.26.10

As another NBA season is now behind us and Kobe Bryant has picked up his fifth title, his place in history is up for debate. Bryant who was once the clear cut poster boy for the post Jordan era of the NBA, is now the most polarizing figure in all of sports. Millions of people love the Lakers star, and millions of people hate him, but every basketball fan has an opinion on Kobe and are pretty passionate about it. It has gotten to the point where when someone asks whether or not you are a Kobe fan, it almost defines you as a person. It’s like asking if you are a Democrat or a Republican. While trying to debate Bryant’s place among NBA greats, I was amazed by how many Bryant haters there were. The number of haters was so great that I didn’t even find it fair to throw them all into one group. So just to be fair, I broke the Kobe Bryant haters up into groups so they are easier to identify.

When you ask most Kobe Haters (we will call them KH for short) to talk about Kobe, the first thing you will hear is, “he’s not Michael Jordan.” What exactly does that mean? Jordan is regarded as the greatest basketball player who ever lived - is not being better than him a bad thing? I wonder if I brought a 7’6” man into these peoples living room if the first words out there mouth be, “he isn’t the tallest man to ever live.” I’m guessing they would be thinking more along the lines of, I don’t know if he is the tallest person to ever live but he damn sure is tall, and if he isn’t the tallest person ever, he sure is close. Saying Bryant is no MJ really isn’t saying anything, its just ignoring who he is because of who he is not.

Then there is the group of haters who always seem to think Kobe is the second best player in the league no matter what. Let this group tell it, Bryant has been the second best player in the NBA for over a decade, but the number 1 player changes every other year. Somehow the number 1 player always seems to fall down the list but Kobe just never moves up. There was the he’s not better than Iverson debate that lasted for a couple of years, then there was the he’s not better than Tracy McGrady campaign which was followed by he’s not better than Steve Nash era -- hell even Chris Paul got his name mentioned for a year as the one guy in the NBA who is better than Kobe.This is the fan who has become a diehard Cavs fan out of nowhere. He is the same guy who years ago said that if Vince Carter or Tracy McGrady ever played with the best center in the NBA they would win a title too. His favorite line use to be "Kobe will never win without Shaq", but he never seems to remember saying any of that. He often has a lot to say in the regular season, but not so much in the playoffs.

Which then brings us to the group that we will just call “Mr. Unrealistic-Casual fan.” That’s the guy who watches about 10-15 basketball games a year, normally at a bar where he isn’t even paying attention and by the time the game is over, he is too drunk to even tell you what happened in the game. He is the guy who yells out “all I know is when Shaq left, Kobe couldn’t even get out of the first round.” It’s hard to really argue with him because he is right, that is all he knows. He never mentions that Kobe lost in the first round to a Suns team that had All Star Shawn Marion as the third option, while the Lakers third leading scorer was Brian Cook.

The next type of KH, is “Mr. I-know-basketball-more-than-you.” He normally is the guy who played basketball in High School and may have even walked on at a D2 school. He now coaches kids basketball so he thinks he has this ability to understand the game that no one else does, and can see things that you cant see and no one else can explain. He is the guy who says Kobe just doesn’t make others better, he says things like, you have to take Steve Nash over Kobe or no one wants to play with Kobe because he’s too selfish. When you ask him to explain why Nash has played on some of the most talented teams in the NBA over the last decade and hasn’t won anything, he really can’t answer you. He says Kobe doesn’t make anyone better but can’t explain why three years ago no one wanted Pau Gasol but now everyone seems to think he is the best thing since sliced bread. Three years ago, no GM in their right mind would have traded Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion, for Gasol and Odom, but for some reason this guy insists that Nash gets more out of his teammates then Kobe. This guy normally has a long list of players he would rather start a team with (Nash, Paul, LeBron, Dirk etc.) all of whom have never won anything even in college, but he can’t explain why because you just wouldn’t understand. When you ask him to name Bryant’s weakness, he gets frustrated trying to tell you, so he just tells you that you don’t understand the game like he does. Sounds pretty stupid, but who are you to argue? He does coach 6th graders. The more you listen to him, you can tell his hate for Kobe is deeply rooted. He secretly blames star players like Kobe for the reason his hoop dreams never panned out. If the star player on his college team had just passed more, coach could have seen all his talent. He will never tell anyone out loud, but in his heart he thinks he could have been better than Kobe if he was allowed to shoot more.

The hardest guy to argue with is the history guy. He typically watches a lot of basketball and knows his stuff. He doesn’t like Kobe, but respects his game and as painful as it is to say, he will even admit that Kobe is the best player in the NBA today. He considers Kobe the best player of his generation, but will quickly tell you he is not one of the best ever. He will say Kobe is somewhere between 15th to 20th best player of all time. The problem with history guy is he can never name 15 players better than Kobe. He often starts reeling off names fast like Jordan, Magic, Bird, and Wilt. After spiting out four names really fast with ease, he throws out two more names, then just starts saying ridiculous things like Dr. J and Walt Frazier. In a last second effort to reach 10 players, he says George Mikan, even though not only has he never seen Mikan play, his father hasn’t either. He can never tell you who the remaining 7 to 8 players are who are better then Kobe but swears they exist he just can never think of them right now. While naming the greatest players of all time, he often changes the criteria for being great. He says Bill Russell has to be top 5 because its all about rings, then goes on to name a handful of players who he thinks are better then Kobe who combined have less rings than him. He always wants to point out that Kobe played with Shaq, but never wants to mention that Jordan, Bird, and Magic never won a title without another Hall of Fame player on their team. History guy knows his basketball, the only thing he doesn’t know is why Kobe isn’t one of the top players of all time.

The most interesting of all the KH is hypocrite guy. He says one thing, but his hate for Kobe says another. He says he hates Kobe because he wants to be like Mike, but doesn’t even notice he is wearing a number 23 Cavs jersey. He says he can’t stand Kobe because he’s so arrogant, but his favorite player is a 25 year old who calls himself King and speaks in third person -- all while inviting us to “witness his greatness.” He is always complaining that today’s players only care about money and don’t care about getting better, but for some reason hates the player who works hardest in the NBA. He is often screaming that Kobe can’t win a title on his own in one breath, and in the second breath screaming LeBron needs help. He says things like today’s players have no respect for the players of the past, then turns around and says Kobe steals players moves from the past. He hates Kobe so much that he doesn’t even realize that stuff he says makes no sense. He calls every Kobe fan he knows every time Kobe has a bad game to say “I told you so” but he is the hardest guy to find every time Kobe has great game or hit’s a game winning shot. He always says he can’t stand Kobe because he wants to be like Jordan, even though every Saturday he himself hit’s the park in his Jordan shoes, Jordan socks, Jordan shorts and Jordan shirt and never forgets his Jordan bag full of Gatorade. Hypocrite guy doesn’t even realize everyone wants to be like Jordan including himself, the only difference is Kobe is the only one willing to put in the same work Mike did.

Last but not least is “Ms. I-can’t-stand-him.” This is the female who obviously used to date Bryant, if you didn’t know any better. She often says I can’t stand him with so much passion that you can tell it goes deeper than basketball. She has a long list of reasons she hates him, and not one of them has anything to do with basketball. She doesn’t even have a favorite basketball team, she just roots for whatever team is playing the Lakers. If you watched her throughout the playoffs you would think she was a Suns, Thunder, and Celtics fan her whole life. There really is no need to argue with her because all she ever says is “ I can’t stand him” and all you can really do is wonder, does she know him?

Does every super star in sports have his/her group of haters? Yes, but hating Kobe has gone to a different level, it has taken on an art form. While millions of Americans will admit to being a Kobe hater, there are several hundred thousands of fans out there who don’t even know they are Kobe haters. The saying goes, “it’s lonely at the top,” or as Jay-Z once said, “you don’t even know me and you mad. How it feel to be a hater, now I know exactly how it feels to be a Laker."

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike Grey

@James

Since Shaq left, the Spurs have only played the Lakers once. That was in 2008 when the no-call on Fisher tackling Brent Barry helped the Lakers achieve their win in 5 games. Not to mention that was the beginning of the end for Manu's health.

Kobe has never made it out of the first round without a dominant big man. Gasol is considered one of the best 2-way big men in the NBA right now. It would be similar to the Spurs getting D-Wade in a trade. It's no wonder the Lakers do so well. I do think that Kobe is necessary for that team to win a championship. He fires up his team like no one else, but his teams do better consistently when he isn't in the game as Zach pointed out.

Kobe has always had the ability to be an All-NBA defender. But until the last 2 years, Kobe has not been playing at that level even if the talking heads claim that it is so.

As for Tim's career, you can't not mention intangibles. There's a reason that the Spurs have become only the second team in league history to win 50+ games in 11 seasons (would have been 13 except the 1999 season). It's Tim Duncan. He's the epitome of the Spurs and requires that everyone else fall in line. Kobe for too long was worried about his own statistics and only recently came around to being a leader. It sounds like you're putting too much weight on the last 2 years.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjleithart

2007 Finals - Here are the stats for that 4-game series for the top-3 Spurs. I'll keep rebounds and blocks out of it because that will give away which one is Duncan.

Player A: 98 points, 42-74 shooting (57%), 13-12 A-TO, 3 steals
Player B: 71 points, 18-49 shooting (37%), 10-9 A-TO, 5 steals, was also the top contributor from the free throw line
Player C: 73 points, 29-65 shooting (45%), 15-11 A-TO, 5 steals

Who's the best of those 3? I'm guessing A, but C appears to be more of a distributor. What if I added that whichever one is Duncan also had 46 rebounds compared to 20 and 23 for the others, and had 9 blocks compared to 0 and 0, not to mention was the team's best defender by a mile (and ran the defense vocally), which is always important when it's the center because he'll end up cleaning up after everyone else (which is something considering Parker and Ginobili aren't good defenders). All of these things considered make it quite a stretch to say Duncan's Finals performance was behind the others. And let's not forget that Duncan's regular season and playoffs contributions up to the Finals were even further above everyone else's, so you can pin them being there squarely on him.

A=Parker
B=Ginobili
C=Duncan

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZachariah Blott

@jleithart

The spurs lost. Quantify it any way you feel, but they lost. Had the Spurs won you and Zach would've surely noted such. Pau Gasol was in no way considered a top 20 player, let alone atop 5 player, until he played with kobe bryant. For you to argue anything else or compare it to the spurs getting dwade is just not objective nor is it factual. Gasol was not a "dominant big man" in 2008. Pau is a huge part of both championships, but he has 2 3rd team all nba appearances. Thats not Pippen or Kareem or Mchale by any stretch.

So Kobe's 1st team all defense is not the same as Tim's? So when they vote Kobe for 1st team on the ballot thats a bad vote but when they move the pen upward and vote Tim its a good vote? How can that be? Isn't that logic problematic?

Again, Tim is a great player no doubt. When Tim was the best player in the league for 2-3 yrs Kobe was a top 5 player, arguably top 3. Kobe has been the best player for the last 4-5 yrs, has Tim been a top 5 player? 06 yes 07 yes but not the last 3. yrs. Kobe has done it as well for a longer time.

Look, I'm not taking anything away from Tim Duncan at all but if you put them under the same microscope Kobe will come out on top.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjames

@ zach

No argument there. Tim was the reason they got to the finals no doubt. But if you are going to talk about Kobe's final performance, then, be honest. You know Horry and the others played better than Tim that series. Whatever stats you post,they don't pass the "eye" test. Tim shot poorly when it mattered. Missed clutch shots and was bailed out by Horry late and in OT.

The point is Tim and Kobe have both been helped by other players. But if you can reasonably argue for Pau being finals MVP then use that same lense and logic to evaluate the 07 finals. Thats all I ask. Hate Kobe but evaluate him fairly. Of all the players you named, only Kobe has won a title without another top 5 or hall of fame player.

As long as the variable "I hate kobe" is used as part of the evaluation as to who is better, than kobe can't win.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjames

I see what you're getting at, but KB's always had the benefit of a crazy high payroll and amazing frontcourts to clean up his misses. Look at the 3 years he didn't have Gasol or Shaq (who Kobe pushed out of town, so he's kinda responsible for that mess the Lakers went through) and compare them to the two years Pippen didn't have MJ. If we're talking about best ever, Pippen doesn't even exist, yet he still had the Bulls doing alright with Horace Grant and that's it. And don't forget that 46-11 record -- kinda hard to explain that one away for someone in the "best ever" discussion.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZachariah Blott

Zach,

I'm kind of confused as to what you believe the 46-11 record says exactly. If I took that stat directly, I'd say that it says that the Lakers are a better basketball team without Kobe Bryant. Do you believe that to be the case? If so, then I'd have to disagree with you there--and I know people like to say that Kobe supporters ignore stats, but I just think that's a statistic that doesn't seem to hold much merit.

After all, it would seem that were I the coach or GM of the Lakers, and I consistently thought the Lakers were better when Kobe wasn't playing, then I'd never play him, no?

Also, although we may never know the full details, at this point I don't know if I can confidently say that Kobe pushed Shaq out of town. They fought like a bad married couple, yeah, and Kobe was a prima donna. But I believe in the past few years, we've also seen Shaq a little more clearly--he's not just the big, lovable guy we see in the media, he's also the guy (who you, of course, described) who has had his own share of prima donna moments with the Suns, Heat, and even the Cavs.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

@Zach & all the noobs,

O please, people love to bring up "those 3 years". You should be ashamed as a basketball fan to even compare Pippen, Grant, Kukoc to the likes of Odom, Smush Parker, Brian Cook and even Caron Butler.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNicks

Why the dismissive, unsupported paragraphs for KG and LBJ at the end? EIther include the statistics or just don't mention them. I liked the rest of the article, but summing it up with a paragraph of "Garnett and James choked in the playoffs" without even touching a number key seems unnecessary.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJB

Ya that 46-11 stat is kind of silly. Its like the stat john hollinger discussed last season that the Thunder had a better +/- with Durant on the bench than on the court. I mean if thats the case then we should just start sitting superstars. Obviously they dont have a positive effect on the outcome of games for their teams, right? Comparisons are so hard to do, especially when personal bias are involved. I mean on one hand kobe's faulted for not being better when his big men are injured but then duncan was given a pass in the '08 playoffs because Manu was hurt. Lets be real. You cant compare everything equally because things arent always that black and white.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBryan

Look at the numbers however you want, but they in no way reflect someone who should be in the "best ever" discussion. I'm not saying KB sucks, just that there is way too much information mounted against his even being in the general area of MJ. MJ's efficiency statistics were much better, and he never had a big to dump the ball into to make things simple. Kobe has now played with the best center of the last 15 years and the current best, and he still can't choose his spots well enough to top 50% eFG% in a single season. Jordan's career average tops that. Again, doesn't mean KB sucks, but you can't with a straight face look at numbers like KB's shooting, A-TO, LA's winning % without him, and say they're that similar.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZachariah Blott

@Bryan,
46-11 is not a silly stat to look at; it's wins and loses. My opinion (correct me if yours is different) is that the best players should be the best at improving their team's ability to get wins and avoid loses. That's just how I see it.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZachariah Blott

These debates seem to always spiral out of hand of who's the greatest ever.

First things first, need to define the criteria of what defines the greatest. Luckily this was done in the 2nd paragraph:

The key criteria I'm using to judge players is: improved the team's ability to win in the regular and post-season, great production numbers in regular season and post-season, worked more toward helping the team be a strong unit than toward accruing individual statistics, and was a solid contributor on both the offense and defense.

Instead of nit picking the runner ups/contenders, is anyone disagreeing with Russel as #1 and Jordan #2 with the aforementioned criteria?

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGavriel

Bill Russell is not the greatest of all=time he's not even in the top five of all-time. Jordan, Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson, and Robertson.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteven R

@zach - i hear what your saying but like Andrew said the stat makes it sound like the Lakers are better without Kobe which i dont think the case is. And if thats the case then by all means they should play without him if they receive better results. Also to fully appreciate that stat you'd have to look at the level of competition during those 57 games, were the opponents missing key players, what were the opponents records at the time...stuff like that. Just feel it could be a little deceiving.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBryan

Also to answer your other question...Russell was probably the greatest winner of all time. He always did what his team needed to do to win, but he was rather limited on the offensive end. I think MJ was a better all around player. He not only dominated on offense like no other guard has but he was a top 3 perimeter defender in his time also. I'd give the nod to Michael.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBryan

People need to check their history if they think Russell was just some stiff on offense. When the team crashed after he left in 1969, John Havlicek attributed a lot of it to BR's passing out of the post, which set up their offense. So not only was he the single most important player for the Celtics' devastating fastbreak, none other than Hondo pointed out their half-court O depended on him as well. And on yeah, he was the greatest defensive force ever.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZachariah Blott

@ Zach

Apparently as soon as you say Kobe isn't as good as someone, people will come out of the woodworks to attack your credibility.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjleithart

Horrible opinions. Can't believe you think Russell is a better player than Jordan.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJackson Avery

Ok checked my history and came back with Russell averaged 15 pts and 4.3 asts while shooting 44 fg% and 56.1% on his fts while playing 42 minutes per game for his career. In case you want to claim his teams didnt score that much either, the celtics averaged 115.4 pts a game in his 13 seasons with the team. So assuming his 4.3 asts accounted for 8 pts a game (because the 3pt line hadnt been invented yet) Bill Russell accounted for roughly 23pts a game for his team. Thats means he accounted for just about 5% of the his teams points. Not sure what your definition of a stiff is but Bill Russell was definitely limited on the offensive end. I dont care how many Havlicek quotes you want to use.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBryan

Russell's Celtics teams regularly had 4-5 players in the 14-20 ppg vicinity since the team's big dog (Russell) was OK getting everyone involved, realizing that's the best way to go; while other stars through history have demanded more of the ball, Russell was busy getting everyone involved so they couldn't be stopped. He, more than any other superstar in league history, was cool making the team better at the expense of his own stats. Still, he was always right there among the team leaders in scoring (usually within a couple ppg of whoever was the top), plus his shooting percentage was often one of the best on the team (shooting percentages were terrible league-wide in the 60's). His assist totals were almost always a close 2nd on the team, which is amazing considering he's a center. Not only that, assists were harder to record in the 60's (the whole no dribble rule) and his best passing came on long bombs down the court after a block or rebound to get their awesome fastbreak started, so he was responsible for a zillion fastbreak points that he received almost zero assists for. There are very few players in NBA history whose presence made their entire team's offensive SYSTEM better.

It's funny that people think it's ludicrous to call Russell the best when his team had never done anything before he showed up, got terrible once he left, lost the only Finals he missed games during (one of only two he didn't win), and had multi-game losing streaks whenever he missed games - but with him around healthy, they won 11 of 12 titles. There's pretty much never been a clearer case in NBA history of a guy whose presence changed how a team played so drastically, but people still get hung up on Wilt's 50 ppg or Oscar's triple-double season. Thank god people back then viewed a player's importance based on his ability to cause a team to win games; that's why Russell won the MVP during the big statistical season of Wilt and Oscar. It would never happen today because people would complain he doesn't score enough points and think of his amazing defense as a nice intangible to be mentioned if there was enough time after watching some highlights.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZachariah Blott

This is an excellent post stating a well-defended opinion with a lot of research done. I have some agreements and disagreements, so let's start with the agreements:

Those that say anything about Kobe being the best player in the game today has a good reason to - there are many statistics, game film, etc, that will support your opinion. However, it is hard to reason that Kobe is the greatest player ever. A "james" in an earlier comment mentioned the fact that Pau Gasol wasn't considered a top 20 player, and that Kobe is the first one to win a title without any Hall of Famers - that will depend on the future, would it not? Also, if Gasol wasn't considered a top player in the league, why did everyone groan when the Lakers got Gasol? Because it gave them one of the best players in the league. Now, I have no argument between Kobe and Tim Duncan. Honestly, I feel like that both sides of that are fairly well defended, and I think this is just personal preference, really.

I have disagreements with the original post, primarily some observations about Bill Russell's play, and also some of your analysis of other players. Firstly, I love Bill Russell, and I'm glad someone out there realizes that Russell not scoring 50 points a game is not because he was limited on offense - he was by no means as dominant as Wilt offensively, but he was no slouch on offense either. Professional basketball back then was also a different time, and they didn't record many different types of stastics (and recorded them diffferently), and therefore many of his statistics do not do Russell justice. However, I feel that you are underestimating his team a little bit - although probably not as good as Jordan's team during Jordan's first retirement, Russell still had an amazing team to play with. He also had the benefit of lessened competition (the same criteria you used against Oscar) and an amazing coach/GM ahead of his time. It is no coincidence that the best players are often linked to a coach - great coaches and great players usually come together to win championships, which neither would be considered great without.

Also, I believe you underestimate Michael Jordan's contributions. Michael Jordan was also one of the best perimeter defenders in history, his prowess lessened only by the fact that centers tend to have a larger effect on team defense (due to the fact that they guard the rim and are gigantic). And although Russell was amazing in the playoffs, MJ was phenomenal. It is a shame that he didn't win those two years because of the "Jordan Rules" Pistons, which was a team almost designed to stop the Bulls. He also almost won against one of the best teams in history basically by himself. Again, I love Russell, and I think he's phenomenal, but I just can't see him being better than Jordan.

Lastly, Mike Grey asks someone to name 15 players better than Kobe (I'll name 16) - Jordan, Russell, Wilt, Magic, Larry, Jabbar, Olajuwon, Shaq, Oscar, Reed, Pettit, Hondo, Isiah, Stockton, and both Malones. Honestly, though, you could make an argument that Kobe's better than 8 of the 16 I listed, and although I'd disagree, it wouldn't be one without backing. And yeah, realize that from 2008-2010 Kobe's team was considered one of the most stacked teams, and a few people (non-LA fans) were saying that they had a chance to break the 72-10 mark. Also realize that Kobe, in the era of the salary cap, would be hard-pressed to find a team full of superstars like the old days, but he also doesn't have to face many teams with many superstars. It's a 2-way street, so instead of comparing Kobe's teams to the old teams, compare his teams to the competition (in which case, he had great teams the years he won championships).

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterB.~

I think it's stupid when people compare fg%.

How about you understand what the stat really means instead of lookin at it black and white.... I'll elaborate.

Kobe shoots 46% for his career. Jordan is at 50. Hmmm Jordan took the ball to the hoop more and. Hardly shot the 3. Kobe on the other hand shoots the 3 consistently, any true stat analyst will tell you shooting the 3 kills your percentage, while all the missed attempts that are called fouls do not count. (well and1s do)....... And what does all this tell you.


Jordan made .02 more shots per game than Kobe........02. Not even a whole shot.

Yall Kobe haters need to come up with somethin new because I really will discredit all of your blogs.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRick j

Also the assist to turnover ratio is pathetic the lakers run primarily a triangle offense, which runs off reactions from the defense. No player will dominate in the assist category running the triangle. He may not have the most assist but he does lead in assist during most of the lakers seasons.

And that's all due to the system. And I would not have it any other way. The only stat that is black and white is the ability to win. If you can have an injury plagued season and still tough it out and get it done, at any cost. If you can take a scrub number 7 seed and take them a Tim Thomas 3 from knocking off the top seed. If you can make big guys better, or even make arguably one of the worst draft bust in the league look diff.

You've shown, as a primary option, an ability to win. And that's all that matters.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRick j

I just don't understand how dumb/blind you all are. not once does he say tim is better than kobe right now, yet the first comment is talking about that. he's talking about careers you halfwits. yes, kobe is better than tim currently, but kobe's also better than mj, kareem, larry, and magc right now as well. does that mean his career is better? no. i'm a huge kobe fan, to the anger and protest of all my friends. i love the guy. i believe he will be remembered as one of the best to the play the game. but team loyalties shouldn't excuse sheer idiocy. i think duncan will be remembered as the better player, but who knows? neither's career is over yet. another championship, especially over the heat, would help bryant's cause. but please, stupid people like james and mike grey (who literally just copied that whole thing from another website - I've already read it, so please don't attempt to claim things as your own when they're not), at least try to pay attention to the point of the article.

July 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterzach

@ Mark Grey

I've been a Lakers fan for the last 13 years. I've seen Kobe grow from a teenage star to the NBA alpha dog that he is today. He's been my favorite player all these years even though that can be a frustrating experience at times. Let me explain:

I believe Kobe to be one of the most skilled players to ever play the game. From a skills standpoint, he is 2nd to no one except maybe for Jordan, but that's just my opinion. But the thing about being the best player in the league or the best player ever is that the argument hinges on things like leadership, will to win, performance in the clutch, making your teammates better (the term is thrown around a lot though no one really knows what it means) etc... The trouble with many of this things is that they're not really quantifiable, and are somewhat subjective. And that is why we end up reading articles like this one trying to make sense of it all.

My problem with Kobe is that he gets in his own way far too often. Like I said before, I've seen Kobe grow from a teenager to the man he is today, and if you're a faithful Lakers fan it is apparent how he has struggled to define himself over time. Sometimes it's as if he's trying to fit his career into Jordan's. Yes, Kobe is a winner and he wants to win probably as badly as anyone in the NBA, BUT he's not prepared to win at ANY cost and that bothers me. He wants to win but he wants to win as THE man. And in the process he comes off as egotistical and narcissistic. If Kobe had that win at all cost Larry Bird/Bill Russell DNA he would have been hailed as the 2nd or 3rd(if u wanna count Russell, i'll come back to that later) best player ever.

He takes an indefensible amount of bad shots. And although that was understandable during the Smush Parker era, I think it's outrageous now that he has a legit supporting cast,and one of the best offensive big men in the league. He can inspire his teammates to be better, and he's done that often enough that we now know how great he is. But he also has nasty habit of sucking the life out of his team and running it into the ground at times. Sometimes he'll do both of those things in the same game, and Kobe Lovers and Haters willl usually chose to remember either, while fans like me remember both.

During this year's playoffs he cost the Lakers some wins in Oklahoma while trying to prove that he wasn't old (and he wasn't, he just had a bad knee, but nonetheless it was the wrong time for an ego-trip). He failed, and he was memorably shut down by Durant during some stretches of the game. He would later have his knee drained, and vs Utah he was able to prove that he was far from washed up. By the time the Lakers played the Suns (and Lebron had been eliminated) everyone was back to hailing Kobe as the league's unquestionable superior player (ironically after handing the MVP trophy to Lebron a few weeks before)

Is Kobe one of the 2 best ever? If we're using this article's criteria then no he isn't. Not even close. His desire to be an MJ type winner has hurt him in the playoffs because he tries to do too much on the scoring end and not in enough on the playmaking end (something at which I think he is better at than MJ when so inclined). So his playoff numbers aren't mindblowing. HIs points do go up a bit but so do his TOs and his fg% goes down. Also his championship resume as the man is a bit spotty. The 3peat years with Shaq, and the 2 championships with Gasol. The Shaq years need no explanation, but his 2nd championship with Gasol has left some ammunition for his detractors. Gasol's numbers were better in this year's finals and Kobe had no great game where his team won. (And there's that 6/24 thing) So had people not been star struck we might have a different finals MVP.

So according to this article's criteria, do we then equate Kobe's 5 championships to Magic's 5? do they hold the same value? or are Kobe's 5 worth Bird's 3? It's a slippery slope. Cz if winning a championship is more meaningful when done in some ways as opposed to others then we can start questioning everything. I for one would start with Russell's 11. The league had sthg like 10 teams. So statistically if championship were won at random he was 3 times as likely to win one back then than he is today. And he always had a top 5 supporting cast throughout his 13 years in the league. Should we discount points for that too? And he had Red Auerbach as a coach, How many people can name another coach from that era?

Anyways, I think it's necessary to maintain some perspective and not get stuck in absolutes like # of championships, fg%, and so on. We should definitely take them into account, but deciding that X player is greater because he averaged 3 more points per game 15 years earlier is definitely unwise.

Regarding this discussion, I don't think Russell should rank ahead of Jordan. I think he is 2nd on the list but he can never be 1st. My reasoning for that is simple; take Jordan in his prime and place him in the NBA today and he will be the best player in the league. Take Russell in his prime and put him in the NBA today and he might have a hard time making an all star team. It's that simple. Russell was simply too little to be a dominant center in today's NBA. It was a different era back then, and Russell made the most of it. In today's league he would struggle for championships like everyone else. I don't know that you can say that about Jordan.

July 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPhil

@B

Pau Gasol was not considered a top 20 player when he was on memphis. The league was upset because he got traded for a below average player in Kwame Brown. As for the HOF comment, when the other players I named won championships they had a top 5 player with them OR a HOF. No one on the Lakers roster the past 2 yrs, other than Kobe is a top 5 player or a certified HOF as were McHale, Kareem, or Pippen. Pau may put together a body of work in the future, but as of the past 2 seasons he is not.

As for better than Kobe, your list is rather confusing. Jordan, Russell, Jabbar, Magic, ok. I think with the last two years Bird and Wilt and Kobe occupy the next level below. You don't have west or elgin there, not that they are better than Kobe, but they are better than the rest of this list. Olajuwon, Shaq, Oscar, Reed, Pettit, Hondo, Isiah, Stockton, and both Malones are all great players but Kobe has accomplished more than all of them. And, you didn't list Tim Duncan which means you agree with my point Kobe is better.

July 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjames

Ok, while we're looking at records without a player, how about this one:

102-62...that's the Bulls combined record in '94 and '95 without Jordan. You wonder why people point to this as a meaningless stat, it's because, like all stats, it can be MANIPULATED. You cherry pick areas and forget about others. It's always forgotten that the Bulls made it to the Eastern semis without Jordan and that Pippen had an MVP year in '94 before injuries. People talk about FG% like it's a number that can be used in isolation. Well, Andrew Bynum has a very high EFG% but are we saying he's one of the best shooters ever? The fact is that Jordan played the post often because he never had a dominant offensive big man. Kobe has often had a dominant big man in the post so he shoots jumpers more often. Jordan played with the best 3 point shooter EVER and you wonder why his assist totals are so darn good.
Also, it's worth noting that Zach likes to talk about Kobe's poor game 7 shooting the ball, yet can defend Russell for his defense and rebounding. Conveniently leaving out that a shooting guard (Kobe) grabbed 15 rebounds in game 7. While we're cherry picking games, how about we mention Jordan's game 6 against the Jazz in '98? He shot 15 of 35. I know, you're thinking, "yes, but I'm sure the player that Kobe can never be as good as must have had some awesome stats outside of shooting." And you'd be right! If you were looking at the line relative to Smush Parker. Jordan had 1 rebound, 1 assist and 1 turnover (but hey, that's a 1:1 ratio!). We could also talk about how Jordan averaged 42.7% from 2 and 30.8% from 3 for the series and averaged an amazing 4 rebounds and 2 assists over 6 games. But Jordan was the obvious MVP because he scored more points, something that tends to happen when you shoot more than twice as many shots as any of your teammates.
When you're entire argument boils down to stats that are taken in isolation in a game that relies on movement and 9 other players on the floor, you've already lost the argument. Mark Twain said it best (and yes, I know he attributed the phrase to Disraeli), there's "lies, damned lies and statistics". Truer words have never been spoken.

July 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIan

Loved the article by Mark Grey (second comment). Only type he missed out in the article is the Ms. I-cant-find-a-good-reason-so-i-am-gonna-talk-about-the-girl-in-Colarado.. puhleeze.... Bring me all the saints in NBA.
Concentrate on the game you loser.. I bet you are cheating on ur gf right now..

July 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAZ

I think we should stop doing these stupid lists and comparisons.

The biggest problem that is never adequately addressed is the differences in the game and level of competition in different eras.

How can we compare Bill Russell's performance in a much smaller league with very different rules and much less competition than MJ or KB ever had? I think it's ridiculous to even try.

July 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterYogi

Same view as above. People (including) you, need to start valuing players for more than their stats.

With your standards, I'm sure LBJ would be part of the best.

I can't believe I spent minutes out of my life reading another damn biased article, only to find out it's just a blog haha. Go post your thoughts on a sports forum, where it would be valued considerably less.

July 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

Jordan's vs Kobe playoff stats; final three peat vs three straight finals

You will note that Kobe how MUCH MUCH GREATER kobe's contributions were in ALL OF THE FOLLOWING: total points, total assists, total rebounds, total steals, total blocks, and 3pt%- AND EVEN FG% AND FTt%
while Jordan was much better in total turnovers and fouls

and

G TR TA TS TB TTO TPF TPTS FG 3P FT MIN PTS RB AS
1995-96 18 89 74 33 6 42 49 552 .459 .403 .818 40.7 30.7 4.9 4.1
1996-97 19 150 91 30 17 49 46 590 .456 .194 .831 42.3 31.1 7.9 4.8
1997-98 21 107 74 32 12 45 47 680 .462 .302 .812 41.5 32.4 5.1 3.5

2007-08 21 119 117 35 8 70 59 633 .479 .302 .809 41.1 30.1 5.7 5.6
2008-09 23 123 126 38 21 59 59 695 .457 .349 .883 40.9 30.2 5.3 5.5
2009-10 23 138 126 31 16 79 75 671 .458 .374 .842 40.1 29.2 6.0 5.5

July 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTaul

Jordan's vs Kobe playoff stats; final three peat vs three straight finals

You will note how much greater kobe's contributions were in ALL OF THE FOLLOWING: total points [+177], total assists [+130!!!], total rebounds [+34], total steals [+9], total blocks [+9], and 3pt% [+27]- AND EVEN FG% [+17] AND FT% [+71]

Jordan was much better in total turnovers [+72!!!] and fouls AND GAMES [this last is notably significant and makes a weighted contribution of rebounds equal between the two]

------------G----TR---TA---TS---TB--TTO--TPF--TPTS--FG-----3P-----FT-----MIN---PTS----RB---AS

1995-96--18---89----74---33-----6---42---49---552---.459---.403---.818---40.7---30.7---4.9---4.1
1996-97--19---150---91---30---17---49---46---590---.456---.194---.831---42.3---31.1---7.9---4.8
1997-98--21---107---74---32---12---45---47---680---.462---.302---.812---41.5---32.4---5.1---3.5

2007-08--21---119--117---35----8---70---59---633---.479---.302---.809---41.1---30.1---5.7---5.6
2008-09--23---123--126---38---21---59---59---695---.457---.349---.883---40.9---30.2---5.3---5.5
2009-10--23---138---126---31--16---79---75---671---.458---.374---.842---40.1---29.2---6.0---5.5

July 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTaul

Zach is a moron. The 46-11 stat is wrong just like most of his other stats. This guy thinks he is John Hollinger junior but he's not.

July 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKing James

The 46-11 record is correct. And again, that is the Lakers' record when Kobe does not play AND Shaq or Gasol/Bynum do play.

July 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZachariah Blott

Okay all jokes aside we get it you don't like Kobe Bryant because it was your girlfriend that slept with in Colorado but please if you are going to write an article at least state some facts. To say Pau Gasol was better in the last two finals is a joke at best I might give you one which was this year. Anyways to say Kobe is not skillfull just tells me and everyone else you are a jackass. Honestly how many Kobe games hae you watched, well I have watched everyone since 2000. Kobe Bryant is more skillful a scorer than Jordan and I have watched hundreds of Jordan games. What exactly was Pau Gasol before he landed in LA (wait nothing). Kobe is the best player and your FG% numbers mean nothing because you just talked about Jason Kidd who can't out shoot my girlfriend. In the future stop bashing Kobe because I would say he has accomplished more in his Basketball career than you have. I have friends who play in the NBA and they tell me websites like yours are moronic and are made by guys who know nothing. I couldn't hae said it better.

July 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKing James

@Zach

I've gone back and looked at your argument vs. Kobe and I don't think some of them are fair at all. They don't hold water when thoroughly analyzed. Now I'm not saying that Kobe should be on par with Jordan in the best ever discussion, I just have an issue with the arguments you used to make that case.

1- Kobe has cleared the 50% mark on eFG% 3 times in his career.

2- Your claim that Kobe has more turnovers and shoots a lower fg% in the playoffs is true, but this is also the case for Jordan. And Jordan's turnovers per game in the playoffs are slightly higher than Kobe's.

3- You mention LA's 3 year stretch without Gasol and Shaq. That 1st year the Lakers had a new team, lost their new coach mid season continued with an assistant, and the team basically sucked. They missed the playoffs. The next year the team got worse (Caron Butler for Kwame Brown) but Phil returned and the Lakers took the Suns to 7 games, a team that'd make it all the way to the conference Finals that year. The year after that the 42-40 Lakers would meet the 61-21 Suns and lose in 5 games. On those two playoff teams the third best player was Luke Walton, and the 2nd best was L.O.

The 88 Bulls had MJ, Charles Oakley, and rookies Horace Grant and Pippen. (23yr old rookies at that who contributed in the playoffs, nothing like 17 yr old Bynum). They would win 50 games that season and beat the 42-40 Cavs in 5, before being bounced by the Pistons. The next year the Bulls add Bill Cartwright an all star in 1980 and Craig Hodges one of the best 3pt shooters in the league. They finish the season with 47 wins and upset the Cavs in 5. They then defeat the Knicks (50 wins) and are once again were eliminated by the Pistons.

Now, no one can objectively look at those Chicago teams and say Jordan had no help. He didn't have great help, true, but it was nothing like Kobe's situation in LA. He had much better teams than Kobe did and not just because he was on them. Furthermore he had the advantage of playing a 5 game 1st round series which makes upsets far more likely to pull off. The Lakers on the other hand, despite taking a 3-1 lead on the Suns, couldn't close things out.

4- You mention the Lakers' high payroll at the time but forget to point out that Brian Grant was the 2nd highest paid player at 14 mil and he wasn't/couldn't play. It's not that they were stacked at all. Having a roster full of bad contracts doesn't mean you have a good supporting cast. Case in point; the Knicks for the last decade.

5- The Nets and Jason Kidd comparison. I thought that was very unfair to be honest. In the early 2000s the east sucked! That year the Nets led the East with 52 wins!! They made it to the Finals by beating the Pacers, Hornets, and Celtics, none of whom had won 50 games in a watered down eastern conference. Look at those teams they beat and tell me f you're surprised that a roster led by Kidd, Van Horn, Martin, Kittles, and Jefferson made it to the finals. That finals was probably the most lopsided in the history of the league. Any of the 8 teams that made the playoffs in the West would have had a good shot at beating that New Jersey team, that's how bad the East was.

6- You mention the Lakers' record without Kobe Bryant. But there's something subtle that you do that I don't think a lot of readers noticed. Now if you've read my previous post above you will see that I pride myself for being fairly objective when it comes to Kobe. I don't think you had any malicious intent but it's misleading to mention the Shaq/Gasol Lakers' record without Kobe and then compare it to the Kobe Lakers without Shaq/Gasol! You aren't forthcoming about this but for the most part those are entirely different teams! Like we said Kobe's Lakers without Shaq or Gasol were terrible teams that somehow managed to remain above 500 the majority of the time, not unlike Wade's heat the past few years.

What you should have done was to compare the Gasol/Shaq Lakers with Kobe to the Gasol/Shaq Lakers without Kobe. Had you done that you wouldn't come up with that ridiculous .800 vs .500 winning %. I haven't done the research but I imagine you'd come up with .800 vs sthg like .730. Which is a more reasonable discrepancy. Most of those games without Kobe would be from Kobe's rookie season until the Colorado era when the team was primarily built around Shaq. It is not surprising that that team was still able to thrive in the regular season without Kobe (Shaq was that good) the real question though is whether the Lakers would have been a better playoff team without Kobe. I think the answer to that is an unequivocal NO. And I don't think you'd be hard-pressed to argue against that. The skills that Kobe brought to the table were particularly valuable in the playoffs where opponents were vastly superior and better prepared.

7- Kobe and Shaq's inability to mesh together should cost them both. Had they had good chemistry they could have won 3 or 4 extra championships together. Even though they won 3 you can't say they ever gelled as teammates to their full potential. The fact that the Lakers (who once again were built around Shaq) may have played better in the regular season without Kobe doesn't surprise me much. It doesn't mean Kobe made the team worse, instead I see it as a reflection that Shaq with Kobe together made the team worse at times. They are both to blame.

8. Lastly you say that Kobe is a volume scorer and not a skillful scorer. Though I was able to gather the point you're trying to make from the rest of your comment, I think that bit was poorly worded. Kobe is the 2nd most 'skillful' scorer of all time. I'm nitpicking yes, but it had to be said. When it comes to skill let's give Kobe his due. Shaq and Howard shoot at a very high % but no one calls them skillful scorers.

9. Compared to Jordan you also can't say that Kobe is a volume scorer. Jordan scored a lot but he took a lot of shots to get there. His FGA/game are obscenely high. And although he did get to the line a lot, which offsets the 'volume scorer' label, Kobe at a similar stage of his career has been better at getting to the FT line while shooting less.

10. Had I been you, my case for Jordan would have been framed differently. From 86 to 93 Jordan put up offensive numbers that supplant anything Kobe's ever done (or anyone else). He did that while shooting a good %, playing All NBA D, and putting up great all around numbers. As the man, MJ put up ridiculous performances in the playoffs during that stretch as well and posted sick stats while winning 3 titles. In the twilight of his career MJ once again led the bulls to 3 championships and posted similar stats to Kobe's best years so far in the NBA. In a nutshell despite the uncanny similarity in demeanor and playing style (which isn't a coincidence btw) Jordan's career and accomplishments dwarf Kobe Bryant's in every way. Everything that Kobe's done, Jordan's done more of and/or better. Their resume's don't match plain and simple. 5 time MVP, 6 time Finals MVP, Defensive player of the year, unquestioned best player in the league for nearly a ten year stretch, 10 time scoring champion, all of that matters.

It is easy however for many Kobe fans to imagine a scenario where Kobe's career unfolds in a different manner such that he gets a better chance to attempt and mimic Micheal's career. I think that's what drives Kobe fans mad because they can't help but wonder how well Kobe would have done had he been in MJ's shoes. I personally think the point is moot. When evaluating people it's best not to get stuck in hypotheticals cz u soon get overwhelmed (What if Shaq could shoot fts or a jumpshot, what if VC had Kobe's heart, what if Charles Barkley was 6'11'', what if AI was 6'6'', and so on and so on)

July 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPhil

All this back and forth rhetoric bout who is the Goat in the NBA is a very moot point... simply because such a huge diversity exists regarding significant aspects throughout the history of the game! ...But, what is not debatable is the fact that Kareem and his unrivaled Sky Hook was "The Most Unstoppable" force/weapon in the history of the NBA... defensively he was no slouch either, especially in his prime.

With today’s hullabaloo, even seasoned fans tend to forget the unfair advantage Kareem was to every other team and their fan base back in the day. Today’s neophytes simply suffer from a lack of knowledge, which generally tends to overlook these facts.

Bill Russell reaps an excessive amount of credit for his 11 rings... he benefited from playing with the best point guard, top shooting guards, the best small forwards, the best power forwards, the best sixth man, the best bench, etc, etc, etc, all on his team for the duration of his career... anything less would have been an immense disappointment.

The GOAT in the NBA really needs no introduction: Simply “The Sky Hook”

December 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermrjuanyourwarlock

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