Is it true that Kobe Bryant was never the unquestionable best player in the league

It’s true that he was never the unquestionable best player in the league. During his prime (2003–2011) he usually had Duncan/Lebron to compete with, and to a lesser extent Nash and Dirk who also competed with Kobe for MVPs during that time. Since a lot of Kobe fans like to talk about his MVPs getting stolen from him by other players let’s take a look at the MVP voting shares during Kobe’s prime (which I define to be 2005–2010 ish) and lets also look at win shares since that is an objectively good look for being the ‘best player’ comparisons. If you were the unquestioned best player, you should be either #1 or #2 in win shares, and you should be either #1 or #2 spot for MVP voting.

Ok so 2005 the year that Kobe fans think Nash ‘stole’ the award from Kobe. Uhh… Kobe wasn’t even on the MVP voting list this year. So.. I’m gonna say that Kobe wasn’t the best player this year since he wasn’t even on the voting list and moreover didn’t even make the playoffs that year.

Ok how about 2006? Did Nash steal from Kobe this year? Well … not exactly. Kobe was 4th in MVP voting. Hard to make a case that someone stole from you when you were 4th place. He was 4th in win shares as well. Also, he lost in the first round of playoffs that year.

Ok how about 2007? Did Dirk steal the MVP away from Kobe? Kobe was in third place this year. He was 3rd in win shares (tied with Duncan). I’m going to say no, at least not any more than Duncan was stolen from that year.

So in 2008 Kobe won his only MVP. He wasn’t the first in win shares though (that would be CP3) – Kobe was 4th in win shares that year despite winning the MVP. Hard to make a case for being the unquestioned best player in the league when you beat your 2nd place finisher by only 200 points and was 4th in win shares.

I can’t say Lebron robbed Kobe this year because even though Kobe was second place, Lebron beat him by a 417+ point margin in MVP voting and Kobe was 6th in win shares.

And in 2010, the last year of Kobe’s true prime, he was 3rd in MVP voting, and way below in win shares as well.

So there you have it, Kobe has never led the league in both MVP voting and win shares at the same time (or even be in second place for both), in fact he was only top 2 in MVP voting for 2 years (2008, 2009) and thus I cannot consider him the unquestioned best player in the league in either his prime or his career.

As of today, who had the better career: LeBron or Kobe?

Lebron James. You see people are now having GOAT arguments online about MJ vs Lebron. Did you ever see people debating about MJ vs Kobe for the GOAT? No, of course not, MJ was superior to Kobe in every way so that argument never happened. Now, personally I think MJ is still the unquestioned GOAT, but with Lebron there’s at least an argument. Compared to Jordan at least there’s some areas where he beats him, which is in rebounding and assists. Kobe has literally nothing over Jordan (81 point game or not) so there was no argument.

versus Kobe, it’s not really that close either. The only thing Kobe has over Lebron are rings and FT% (which is expected since he’s a guard and Lebron is a forward and generally guards have better FT%). One problem with casual basketball fans is that they equate rings with everything. Kobe has more rings -> better player right? Well no. Not all rings are equal. You gotta look at how many rings that player achieved as the best player on his squad. That’s why people don’t consider John Havlicek (8 rings) or Robert Horry (7 rings) as better than Michael Jordan for example, because they weren’t the best player on their teams.

For Kobe, only two rings can be counted with him as the best player on the team. I’m not gonna say Shaq carried him, but I will say that Shaq was most definitely the superior player on that team, he put up 30/15 every night that’s why he won 3 Finals MVPs in a row. Lots of Kobe fans try to minimize or downplay Shaq’s involvement to being ‘equal’ with Kobe. It’s not equal, cmon. Look at the VORP, look at the win shares, look at the plus/minus, look at the stats, Shaq was better during those playoffs period.

For Lebron all three of his rings he was the best player – and in two of those runs (2013 and 2016) he was the underdog. Those rings surpass Kobe’s rings, I think just because of how impressive his runs were. Kobe played such teams like the 2000 Pacers, 2001 76ers, 2002 Nets and 2009 Magic. None of those teams are all time great. Lebron faced a gauntlet of all time great teams including the Duncan Spurs Dynasty and the Warriors Dynasty (arguably the best team ever assembled on paper).

Not only that but Lebron beats Kobe in every other category including every advanced stat. MVPs, Finals MVPs, PER, True Shooting percentage, Plus/Minus, Win Shares, VORP, WP/48, every single one. He also has better raw stats as well 27/7/7 > 25/5/5.

He’s demonstrably more clutch (see graphic below)

Not only that, but he is breaking more of Kobe’s records as we speak. He recently just passed Dirk on the all time scoring list, he already passed Kobe on 30 point games, and will soon pass Kobe on all time FGM as well. There’s just no way any non-Laker non-biased fan can put Kobe ahead of Lebron by the time Lebron’s career is done he will have surpassed Kobe in nearly every category except for rings which I mentioned above, is misleading because Kobe wasn’t the best player for 60% of his rings.

Why is Kobe Bryant put out of the all-time top 10 every time by these current NBA analysts?

I think he is top 10, but nowhere higher than #9. Why? Because Kobe has always been, and will continue to be, rated much more highly by fans than by analysts. The reason is pretty simple: Kobe is an inefficient player. Besides his rings (which are team awards), his individual awards are lacking (only 1 MVP, 2 finals mvp, 2 scoring titles).

Kobe Bryant – 5 rings, 1 MVP, 2 Finals MVPs, 15x All-NBA, 2x scoring champ, 45% FG %

the 15x All-NBA and 5 rings are probably Kobe’s best awards – but the 5 rings come with an asterisk because the first 3 rings he was not the best player on his team. He has 2 rings as his team’s best player. In the top 10, no other player has less than 2 MVPs and at least 2 rings as the team’s best player except for who you place at the #10 spot which is either Jerry West, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaq or Oscar Robertson depending on the person.

Jordan – 5 MVPs, 6 rings as the best player, 50% FG%

Kareem – 6 MVPs, 3 rings as the best player (1971, 1980, 1985), 56% FG%

Wilt – 4 MVPs, 2 rings as best player (1967, 1972), 54% FG%

Russell – 5 MVPs, 7–8 rings as the best player, 44% FG%

Magic – 3 MVPs, 3 rings as the best player (1982, 1987, 1988), 52% FG%

Bird – 3 MVPs, 3 rings as the best player (1981, 1984, 1986), 50% FG%

Duncan – 2 MVPs, 3 rings as the best player (1999, 2003, 2005) 50% FG%

Lebron – 4 MVPs, 3 rings as the best player (2012, 2013, 2016) 50% FG%

so as you can see, every player ranked ahead of Kobe has more MVPs, more rings as the best player (except Wilt) and better FG% (except Russell). And since FG% is a big deal for advanced stats like PER, TS%, etc thats why analysts don’t like Kobe. Also, 2 scoring titles is a small number (less than Iverson, Durant and Gervin who all have 4 and obviously Jordan and Wilt) when Kobe is often touted as the “most lethal scorer of all time”. These are the reasons why Kobe is often rated much more highly amongst fans then by analysts. Of course, “killer instinct” and “mamba mentality” and “cold blooded assassin” are buzzwords used by Kobe fans but there’s nothing backing it up; even clutch stats show that Kobe is 7/28 in last seconds of 4th quarter which is worse than Jordan or Lebron. And also, Kobe fans like to say that Kobe was “robbed” of MVPs by Steve Nash, but the MVP voting shows that Kobe was not on the MVP voting ballot in 2005 and was only 4th place in 2006. That’s why Kobe is only #9 at best. And sometimes out of the top 10 completely. You could make good arguments for West, Oscar, Hakeem or Shaq over Kobe. Or even Steph Curry – 2 MVPs, 2 rings as the best player (2015, 2018), 48% FG%. You might say its blasphemous but there is actually a good chance Durant or Curry can surpass Kobe in accomplishments by the end of their careers – while shooting much better.

Also I don’t trust player’s opinions either, because they are biased to their position and era. For example, Kobe said the toughest player he ever had to guard was Tracy McGrady. In an overall ranking of shooting guards though, I don’t think Tmac would be in the top 10 though. Likewise Bird said the best teammate he ever played with was Dennis Johnson. Most people would rank McHale ahead of Johnson though. There are biases because certain players play more against certain other players, and only in their own era and position etc Lastly players rely on their own opinion, less so on concrete stats which analysts do.

And also for clutch shots… is Kobe really a clutch killer? Well the stats say otherwise:

Why LeBron James May Be The Most Clutch Playoff Shooter Of ...

Who's more clutch in the playoffs? michael jordan, lebron ...

Who's more clutch: Kobe, Melo, KD or LeBron?

Kobe is not as good as most people believe.

Sorry to say it, but its the truth. Kobe has many accomplishments and he is a top 12 – top 8 player all time, but he will never get ranked above that. Why?

-A top 5 player of all time should have more than 1 MVP. Kobe only has one.

-A top 5 player all time should be the alpha dog for almost all his career. Kobe was not the alpha dog or the best player on his team until 2004-ish. Shaq won all three Finals MVPs (deservedly so when you look at his stats) during the first part of his career.

-A top 5 player all time, especially if he is to be considered the best “mid range shooter ever” should be more efficient than shooting 45% from the field and 33% from 3 point range. For comparison, Larry Bird and Dwayne Wade shot 4% better than Kobe from the field, and Adrian Dantley (probably the most efficient mid range shooter I think) shot an astounding 54% from the field, a whole 9% better than Kobe!

-Because of how inefficient Kobe shoots, his advance stats suffer. A top 5 player of all time would never have a PER of a measly 10.7 (Kobe during 2014 season), or produce NEGATIVE win shares for his team (as he did in 2014 and 2016).

-on top of that Kobe isn’t really as clutch as people think. There are numerous articles that prove this. here are just a few:
Kobe might be the least clutch player in the NBA
The truth about Kobe Bryant in crunch time
LeBron May Be The Most Clutch Playoff Shooter Of His Generation
In the Playoffs, LeBron James Is More Clutch than Kobe

-a top 5 player all time is a good teammate, like Lebron, or Russell, or Wilt/Jordan later in their careers, or Bird, or Magic or Kareem. Instead, Kobe chased Shaq off the team, had numerous locker room issues, chased away free agents during the later part of his career, took a massive salary (the highest at the time) after he got injured, etc

-Kobe in his prime never took his team past the first round of the playoffs until he got Pau Gasol on the team, who I think doesn’t get enough credit for helping the Lakers out. People don’t realize that Gasol was the leader in win shares in 2010 even though Kobe got Finals MVP that year. For all the hate Lebron gets, he took his team all the way to the Finals. It was probably one of the worst teams to make the Finals (yes even worse than 2001 Iverson’s team). Without Shaq/Gasol and Phil Jackson, Kobe couldn’t take his team anywhere. Thats not top 5 player material.

-He doesn’t have any definable moments. Lebron scored the last 29 out of 30 points against the Pistons in 2007, averaged a triple double in the Finals etc. Jordan had numerous great moments. Kareem had that clutch last minute skyhook to force double overtime in the 1974 Finals. Magic had that clutch baby skyhook in 1987 against the Celtics, and that amazing Finals performance as a rookie in 1980. Kobe has that 81 point game going for him – but that’s a regular season game, and it was against a terrible team. that’s about it.

For all the reasons above I don’t think Kobe is a top 5 player all time. (and no I’m not a Kobe hater, I’m just stating the facts. Kobe ranks #9 all time for me).