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What is Kobe Bryant‘s place in basketball history?

Can’t believe Kobe has died, brain is still processing this.

As many people may know I wasn’t a Kobe fan and I considered him the most overrated player of all time.

That said Kobe was still one of the greatest players in NBA history, a top 10 player all time, the second greatest SG all time without a doubt.

Kobe has the unique status amongst basketball players of being much bigger than their sport. I think Tim Duncan is probably the most contrasting example with Kobe. Quiet dude, had just a great a basketball career/resume, yet Kobe is probably 10x as famous as Duncan. Kobe was like Michael Jackson, or his idol Michael Jordan, or Tiger Woods. Someone so famous that they transcended what they did.

Kobe was famous for his legendary work ethic, his dedication to his craft, and his “mamba mentality”. He inspired millions around the world in a way that few other basketball players could. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an outpouring of grief for an athlete’s death in my lifetime. Shaq, Tmac and West all broke down crying on TV. Past legends like Kareem, Magic, Russell, Isiah, Dr J, Rick Barry all tweeted their condolences. Late night show hosts offered a tribute. Presidents Trump and Obama tweeted about it. Modern NBA greats like Lebron, CP3, Wade, Melo, KD, Curry, Iverson, Kawhi, Pierce, Kidd, Nash etc all had something to say about Kobe. It was unlike everything I had ever seen. Kobe touched almost everyone. That was his greatness.

Although I don’t rank Kobe as highly as others on my all time list, I cannot deny that Kobe was the second greatest ambassador for basketball in its history after his idol MJ, as he was probably the second most famous basketball player in the world.

RIP Kobe Bryant. You will be remembered as one of the all time greats, by anybody.

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Why does everyone have Kobe Bryant top 5 all time?

In a recent poll of NBA players here’s the results

Wow! Kobe is in 3rd place! As the GOAT! And Allen iverson and Kevin Durant being on the list is a surprise to me. Keep in mind these are NBA players that did this survey. What the heck?

And not only that but the fans seem outraged that Kobe isnt in 2nd place over LeBron.

 

Wow look at that! How many fans are praising Kobe!! He must have the most die-hard fanbase ever.

But this seems at odds with ESPN and Sports nations own rankings..

Why is there such a big gap between where sports analysts rank Kobe and where casual fans and even NBA players rank Kobe?

I think there might be a few reasons why.

  1. Kobe was the best marketed athlete of his generation. He was advertised everywhere. He even came with his own buzzwords “cold blooded assassin” “killer instinct” and “mamba mentality” and even won an Oscar after his playing days! This kind of marketing is obviously going to influence a lot of casual NBA fans.
  2. Kobe won alot of rings and winning is the most important thing to casual NBA fans. Kobe has 5 rings. That’s more than most players. And casual fans don’t bother to think about the nuances of what kind teams he was on versus which other teams, only that he won.
  3. Kobe scored alot. Scoring is the most important stat to casual NBA fans. They don’t care about efficiency or advanced stats or defensive stats as much. Raw points is the boxscore that comes up the most often and that’s the one that most fans see. Kobe holds the second most points scored in a game at 81. That’s good enough for most fans.
  4. Kobe played for a large market team and played very flashy. I mean this is one reason why Duncan doesn’t get mentioned very much. Not very flashy, and played in a small market town, never drew attention to himself, despite his credentials being at least as good as Kobe’s.
  5. Kobe played in a different era. Sure LeBron and Kobe’s careers overlapped. But Kobe is seen as a “tougher” player than LeBron is and that’s due to the different eras. LeBron flops to get more points in the current era. That (fair or not) leads people to label Lebron as “weak”
  6. Kobe is seen as more clutch than Lebron. I say “seen as” because Kobe actually isn’t as clutch. He’s only 7/28 in last 24 seconds of 4th quarters (in postseason) and has no highlight clutch finals move like LeBron’s last second block on Andre Iguodala in closing seconds of 2016 finals. But nevertheless because of effective marketing many fans believe Kobe is money in the clutch.
  7. Kobe is seen as a harder worker and more “skilled’ than LeBron and I think this stems from the fact that he’s a guard and thus more relatable to most people than LeBron is, who is a 280lb freak of nature. Big men never really get their due. That is another reason why Duncan doesn’t get mentioned as often as Kobe and Jordan is seen as more skilled’ than Kareem or Wilt.
  8. Fans think Kobe was robbed of MVPs of course this isn’t true. Kobe wasnt on the MVP voting ballot in 2005 and was 4th place in 2006 but this doesn’t stop fans from thinking that there was a media conspiracy against him
  9. Kobe is the closest to Jordan in terms of skillset and play style. Of course this doesn’t mean he’s the second greatest by that definition but a lot of casual fans think that automatically makes Kobe second best.

Those are the main reasons I think why casual fans rank Kobe much higher than sports analysts do. As for NBA players ranking Kobe higher – most NBA players are actually not all that different from casual NBA fans who happened to be really good at basketball and get drafted. What’s more there’s an obviously a bias towards recent players – note the lack of Kareem (1% in the poll), Russell or Wilt. Iverson over Wilt or Russell is a travesty in any case but most NBA players are young and it shows. Many of then grew up idolizing Kobe which is why Kobe ranks highly for them too.

Kobe is like the JFK of basketball players. The average fan is always going to rank them higher than the experts do. Experts can open any stats book and see that LeBron destroys Kobe in any statistical matchup but what casual fans care about and what basketball analysts care about aren’t necessarily the same things – hence why Kobe is as high as #2 for so many people.

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Kobe Bryant is overrated

Disclaimer: First off, non-basketball fans can ignore this post, because this is a nerdy b-ball post and stats are coming up.

Hey, I'm Kobe. LeBron is better than me, but no one knows it yet.
Hey, I’m Kobe. LeBron is better than me, but most people don’t know it yet.

Ok, so Kobe Bryant is one of the most well-known basketball players on the planet. He’s practically god in China, and many fans, particularly Lakers fans put Kobe as one of the top 5 players of all time, and some even consider Kobe to be the greatest Laker of all time, or on par with Michael Jordan.

Edit: Looks like those guys over at Boxscore Geeks (one of my favorite bball sites) just wrote an article about how Kobe is overrated a few days after me. Good timing, heh.

Now, I’m a big LA Laker fan, but even then, I think Kobe is incredibly over-rated by the vast majority of the public (in fact he got voted in this year’s all-star game despite being injured). Why? Lets take a look at his stats and his overall resume:

Why is Kobe overrated?
from Basketball-reference.com
-Regular season: He averages 25.5 points a game, 5.3 rebounds a game and 4.8 assists a game.
-Playoffs: He averages 25.6 points a game, 5.1 rebounds a game, and 4.7 assists a game.
-His field goal percentage for his whole career is a measly .454 (45%), and his three point percentage is .335 (33%). Those are not outstanding numbers for someone who is a top 5 player.
-His first three championships are because of Shaq, period. Shaq was just so dominant, that I think an average shooting guard could have won those three championships from 2000-2002 playing with Shaq. Remember Shaq was often double or triple teamed, giving a guard better looks.
-Kobe is a ball hog, period. The years he led in scoring (2006,2007) he also not coincidentally had a high number of field goal attempts as well. His career assists average is only 4.8, which is lower than Allen Iverson’s assists average (6.2), who most people consider selfish as well.
-Kobe is consistently not clutch, despite there being a popular misconception that he is. In fact he only shot .413 (41%) from the field during the 2004 playoffs, and .405 (40%) from the field against the celtics in 2008, the years that the Lakers lost the Finals.

Comparison with Michael Jordan
So, a lot of people want to compare Kobe to Michael Jordan. Ok, lets do that:

Michael Jordan Kobe Bryant
16 seasons 18 seasons
Career stats: 30.1 ppg/6.2 rpg/5.3 apg Career stats: 25.5 ppg/5.3 rpg/4.8 apg
True FG%: .569 (56.9%) True FG%: .555 (55.5%%)
6 Championships 5 Championships
6 Finals MVPs 2 Finals MVPs
10 Scoring titles 2 Scoring titles
1 Defensive Player Of The Year 0 Defensive Player Of The Year
5 MVPs 1 MVP

…As you can see, Jordan beats Kobe at every category, despite playing less seasons. Also, Kobe’s first 3 championships was because of Shaq. Jordan’s 6 championships were all his. So, there’s no argument here. Jordan is better in every way.

Comparison with other Legends
The worst thing about Kobe is that he’s inefficient. Let’s compare him to some other legends:

Kobe Bryant Magic Johnson Oscar Robertson Lebron James Jerry West Larry Bird
Career stats 25.5/5.3/4.8 19.5/7.2/11.2 25.7/7.5/9.5 27.6/7.3/6.9 27.0/5.8/6.7 24.3/10.0/6.3
Field Goal % .555 .610 .564 .581 .550 .564

…So when we compare to other legends that are great shooters, Kobe actually has the worst field goal percentage, as well as coming up the lowest rebounds per game, and assists per game when compared to Oscar, Magic, LeBron, Bird, and Jerry West (in addition to Jordan).

Comparison with other shooting guards (who were former scoring leaders)

Kobe Bryant Michael Jordan Dwayne Wade George Gervin Jerry West Pete Maravich Allen Iverson
Career stats 25.5/5.3/4.8 30.1/6.2/5.3 24.4/5.0/6.0 26.3/5.4/2.8 27.0/5.8/6.7 24.2/4.2/5.4 26.7/3.7/6.2
Field Goal % .555 .569 .568 .564 .550 .500 .518

Comparison with forwards (who were former scoring leaders)

Kobe Bryant Rick Barry Adrian Dantley Alex English Bernard King Dominique Wilkins Tracy McGrady Lebron James Kevin Durant Carmelo Anthony
Career stats 25.5/5.3/4.8 25.6/6.7/4.9 24.3/5.7/3.0 21.5/5.5/3.6 22.5/5.8/3.3 24.8/6.7/2.5 19.6/5.6/4.4 27.5/7.2/6.9 27.4/6.9/3.5 25.2/6.5/3.1
Field Goal % .555 .525 .617 .550 .561 .536 .519 .581 .600 .547

Kobe is not that great
So when people tell me they think Kobe is the greatest player, or a top 5 player, or greatest Laker, I’m like Are you kidding me??, Kobe is the result of great marketing, and he’s a top 10 player because of his competitiveness, but definitely not a top 5 player.

And when people say he’s the greatest Laker, I mean c’mon, if Magic Johnson shot the ball more, he would score way more than Kobe, since his field goal % is a full 7% higher than Kobe’s. Not to mention, Magic lead the Lakers to 9 NBA Finals, never caused any locker-room issues, and averaged more than twice as many assists, but anyways, you get my point. I’m not even gonna mention other Laker greats Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaq, Elgin Baylor, or Wilt Chamberlain because obviously their stats would blow Kobe’s out of the water.

So in conclusion, gimme a break; Kobe’s over-rated, he’s not as good as people think he is, and he’s not a top 5 player (Jordan, Russell, Kareem, Wilt and Magic are my picks). And definitely not the greatest Laker (Magic Johnson is).


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