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.

If we substituted Magic Johnson for Lebron in LBJ’s NBA Finals series, would he get more than 3 rings?

Yes – I believe he would but only in one Finals, 2011. In 2011 Lebron famously melted down and I don’t think that would have happened to Magic.

For the other 5 lost Finals – no I don’t think so. 2007, 2015, and 2018 Lebron’s second best scorers were Zydrunas, Delladova, and a very inconsistent Kevin Love. I don’t think Magic would have done much better than Lebron did, especially considering that Magic is not as good a scorer as Lebron was.

In 2014 and 2017 the Cavs were simply up against two of the greatest NBA teams of all time, and its doubtful that Magic would have beaten them. Keep in mind Magic played most of his career with the NBA’s all time leading scorer.

Another thing I might note is that Magic might have lost the 2016 Finals. I don’t think he would have been able to come back up from 3–1 down to win the series the way Lebron did. So maybe he would have ended up with 3 rings either way – just swap 2011 with 2016.