Why isn’t Kobe considered a top 5 player of all time despite his incredible career?

Kobe is considered top 5 by casual fans, because he was one of the most popular and exciting players ever.

For fans who have more basketball knowledge, we know that Kobe is not top 5 all time.

Because there’s reasons for guys being ahead of him:

  1. Michael Jordan – this one is obvious because Jordan is just a better version of Kobe in every way. Every award and stat category, Jordan was better.
  2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – scored more points, had more MVPs, more RPG, more total rebounds, and more rings. There’s little reason for Kobe to be ahead of him.
  3. Lebron James – scored more points, more assists, had more MVPs, more Finals MVPs, more PPG, more RPG, more APG, better FG%. The argument for Kobe here is 2 more rings, being a better defensive player and a better free throw shooter. That’s not really enough to outweigh Lebron’s award/statistical lead though.
  4. Wilt Chamberlain – scored more points, had more rebounds, more MVPs, more PPG, more RPG, better FG% and basically every stat. The argument for Kobe here is rings and that’s it. because Wilt just demolishes Kobe statistically. So depends how much you value rings.
  5. Bill Russell – more rebounds, more MVPs, more rings. The argument here for Kobe is the opposite of for Wilt, Kobe’s scoring is the main advantage here, but Russell has more rings. So depends how much you value stats. Whatever you choose, either one of Wilt or Russell has to be over Kobe else you risk contradicting yourself.
  6. Tim Duncan – more rebounds, more RPG, more MVPs, more Finals MVPs, better FG%. Kobe is a better scorer than Duncan, and that’s pretty much it.
  7. Magic Johnson – more RPG, more APG, more assists, more MVPs, more Finals MVPs, better FG%. Again, just like with Duncan, Kobe is a better scorer than Magic and that’s pretty much it.

I think the best case for Kobe to be top 5 is if you only value rings and scoring – which is what most casual fans are like, hooray!

The only players with more rings and a higher PPG than Kobe are:

-Michael Jordan

and that’s it. So yes if you judge basketball players only by PPG and rings then Kobe would be #2 all time.

Of course Kobe has arguably the biggest and most devoted fanbase in basketball which isn’t unlike Apple’s devoted following or Trump’s devoted following. All these people are brainwashed in a similar way – they believe the marketing hype and get sucked into the mythos. For Kobe its marketing buzzwords like ‘mamba mentality’ ‘cold blooded assassin’ and ‘killer instinct’ and the media continuously plays his highlights on an endless loop. His 81 point game, 62 points in 3 quarters or sinking 2 free throws on a torn Achilles (notice how all Kobe fans literally point to the same moments? It’s because they rarely watched Kobe’s full games outside of the highlights)

Notice that for any other all time great player, there’s way more variety of highlights to show but since Hakeem and Duncan don’t have the marketing power and buzzwords of Kobe, they can’t compete with his zealous fans.

Edit: A commenter below wrote this, which is basically how the typical Kobe fan thinks:

Let me post my answer to this so I don’t have to keep repeating myself all the time to these common Kobe > Lebron comments that casual fan makes (their arguments almost always based on PPG and/or rings)

Lebron James is QUITE a bit better than Kobe. It’s honestly not even close.


I wrote a 5000+ word answer about this debunking all your points but everything people think about Kobe being better is either misleading or based on very ‘casual’ observations like # of rings or scoring achievements. You already pointed out a lot of these.

“Kobe beats LeBron in each of their best seasons”
In what way exactly? Here’s Lebron’s Finals performances vs Kobe’s Finals performances

Kobe – 2000 Finals – 15.6 PPG / 4.6 RPG / 4.2 APG / 36.7% FG%
Kobe – 2001 Finals – 24.6 PPG / 7.8 RPG / 5.8 APG / 41.5% FG%
Kobe – 2002 Finals – 26.8 PPG / 5.8 RPG / 5.3 APG / 51.4% FG%
Kobe – 2004 Finals – 22.6 PPG / 2.8 RPG / 4.4 APG / 38.1% FG%
Kobe – 2008 Finals – 25.7 PPG / 4.7 RPG / 5.0 APG / 40.5% FG%
Kobe – 2009 Finals – 32.4 PPG / 5.6 RPG / 7.4 APG / 43.0% FG%
Kobe – 2010 Finals – 28.6 PPG / 8.0 RPG / 3.9 APG / 40.5% FG%

Lebron – 2007 Finals – 22.0 PPG / 7.0 RPG / 6.8 APG / 35.6% FG%
Lebron – 2011 Finals – 17.8 PPG / 7.2 RPG / 6.8 APG / 47.8% FG%
Lebron – 2012 Finals – 28.6 PPG / 10.2 RPG / 7.4 APG / 47.2% FG%
Lebron – 2013 Finals – 25.3 PPG / 10.9 RPG / 7.0 APG / 44.7% FG%
Lebron – 2014 Finals – 28.2 PPG / 7.8 RPG / 4.0 APG / 57.1% FG%
Lebron – 2015 Finals – 35.8 PPG / 13.3 RPG / 8.8 APG / 39.8% FG%
Lebron – 2016 Finals – 29.7 PPG / 11.3 RPG / 8.9 APG / 49.4% FG%
Lebron – 2017 Finals – 33.6 PPG / 12.0 RPG / 10.0 APG / 56.4% FG%
Lebron – 2018 Finals – 34.0 PPG / 8.5 RPG / 10.0 APG / 52.7% FG%
Lebron – 2020 Finals – 29.8 PPG / 11.8 RPG / 8.5 APG / 59.1% FG%

The only one where Kobe bested Lebron in is Kobe’s 2009 and 2002 performances vs Lebron in 2007 and 2011. Post 2011, Lebron’s performances can’t be touched.

And let me post their stats in elimination games as well – since there’s always the ‘Kobe is more clutch! Bron is scared of the moment!’ arguments:

Kobe – 22.3 PPG / 5.7 RPG / 3.4 APG on 44% FG% in elimination games.

Lebron – 33.5 PPG / 10.8 RPG / 7.3 APG on 48% FG% in elimination games.

Kobe is 8-11 in elimination games while Lebron is 12-9.

Lebron is 8-20 in the final 24 seconds of a game and 6-11 in the final 10 seconds. He also has 5 buzzer beaters in the playoffs, the most of anyone all time, and is 7-15 on go ahead shots in the last 5 seconds in the playoffs

“if you look back at the ’13 all star game Kobe put the clamps on LeBron in the fourth despite not being as aggressive on the offensive end”

In an all star game? Seriously?


How about when Lebron dropped 41 on Kobe in a real game, including the buzzer beater??

“Kobe has more rings”

Yeah, 3 of them as the second best player on his team. Lebron has 4 rings, ALL 4 of them as the best player on his team. You really gonna count Kobe’s 2000 ring where he averaged 15 PPG on 37% shooting as the same as his other rings? Gimme a break

“has a higher finals win %”

This is again, a very casual statement. Finals records is entirely dependent on your team, the opponent, injuries etc. Look at Kobe’s Finals opponents. Who was the toughest Finals opponent out of those? The 2010 Big 3 Celtics with post surgery KG and and Perkins out for a game? That’s his toughest opponent right? Can’t be the 2001 76ers, or 2002 Nets or 2009 Magic that’s some of the worst Finals teams ever. And when he DID face good teams like 2004 Pistons and 2008 Celtics, he lost.
Now look at who Lebron faced – the 2013–2014 Spurs, the 2015–2018 Warriors. Any of those teams are better than any of the teams Kobe beat, and Lebron beating the 73 win 2016 Warriors, theres NO team that Kobe ever beat in the Finals that was remotely as tough as that team.

So Finals records is for casuals who only look at the number of W and L. You’re not looking at the context. Who their opponents were. Quite obviously when you have a stacked team and the opponent is weak, it’s easy to win. Lebron finally got a weak Finals opponent last year in the 2020 Heat and see how easy it was for Lebron to beat them? That’s what Kobe had EVERY Finals. It’s easy to say you have a better Finals record when you’re not facing tough opponents.

“Kobe is a far superior individual player than LeBron.”

And… what evidence do you have for this?

Cause head to head matchup it’s not even true. And of course overall statistics it’s not true either.

“Kobe is only one of six people in NBA history to average 35 or more. Those six are Wilt, MJ, Rick Barry, Elgin Baylor, and Kobe Bryant.”

First of all you’re missing James Harden. Secondly, why are you only looking at PPG? By that criteria I can say Adrian Dantley was a better player than Magic Johnson, cause he had a higher PPG.

Like I said, Finals records, PPG and raw points scored are only things that casual fans look at. Analysts and real basketball fans knows that it’s not an accurate measurement of how great a player is. John Havlicek 8–0 in the Finals so he’s better than Jordan? Karl Malone scored more total points than Jordan does that mean he’s better? Dominique Wilkins has a higher PPG than Larry Bird does that make him better? David Thompson scored 73 in a game before, does that make him better than Jordan who’s career high was 69? See how misleading these are when you don’t know the context?

“As for Bill and Wilt, they were phenomenal players no doubt but keep in mind, Bill and Wilt played when there were only 8 teams, 8!!!”

So? All 8 teams were stacked to the rims with Hall of Famers. That means every playoffs they have to go through a gauntlet of hall of fame teams all the time.

“compared to Kobe and Jordan’s days (roughly 90–100 ppg).”

Actually Kobe played half his career (post 2005) in the post hand checking rule era which granted perimeter players more points. Did you ever notice that guys like Gilbert Arenas and Allen Iverson and notably DWade in the 2006 Finals were all dropping 30+ PPG? Does that mean they were as good as Kobe?

“Magic played as a backup center sometimes”

Nope he only played a bit in the 1980 Finals when Kareem was out and started as center, but he very rarely played backup as center. His main position was PG and SG because he shared those duties with Norm Nixon at the time. You would know this if you watched or read the Showtime Lakers footage/books like I did.

“Magic and Kobe had different roles, Magic was a distributer, Kobe was a scorer, it’s like comparing apples to oranges.”

So then why are people ranking Jordan over Kareem and Wilt and Russell? Jordan’s a guard, Kareem/Wilt/Russell are centers. They have totally different responsibilities. So why can’t I compare Magic to Kobe yet people are ranking Jordan and Kobe over guys like Kareem and Duncan?

“Timmy had a higher FG% because of the difficulty difference in shots. Kobe sometimes shot over double teams, people draped on him, corner spin fadeaways. Tim worked more in the paint than the perimeter, but it’s hard to say who was better.”

You gotta ask yourself why Kobe was shooting these tougher shots. In today’s game, if a guard was shooting 45% then that’s completely league average. Right? Dame, Curry, Klay, CP3 etc are all shooting higher than that. You need to be a good shooter in today’s game. Why is Kobe uniquely held so high in esteem despite taking difficult shots and missing a lot of them? Imagine if a player today took bad shots being guarded by 4 players instead of passing to his teammate. That player would be criticized by everyone. But instead for some odd reason, Kobe is PRAISED for not passing and for hogging the ball and his bad shot selection. It’s so weird. If you have Kwame in the post and he’s open – PASS to him. I don’t care if he’s a ‘bad’ player, he has a higher percentage of getting the ball in than Kobe with 4 defenders draped on him. That’s bad basketball IQ. Kwame is an NBA player he can get it in. Hell, I can get those shots in if I’m wide open on a basketball court.

“Your comments about Kobe not having a high RPG is because Kobe played and worked mostly on the perimeter thus not having as many rebounding opportunities.”

Ok? That doesn’t make it any less of a fact that Lebron rebounds better than him. If Lebron and Kobe were both in the post who’s getting the rebound? OF COURSE Lebron is getting it. He’s bigger, taller, stronger etc

“The only players I agree with are: MJ, Kareem, and Wilt. Magic is too different to compare to Kobe, same with Bill, and Tim Duncan is debatable and I’m not sure who is better.”

If you don’t think Lebron is better than Kobe then I don’t know what to say. You must be a hater then. There is absolutely nothing Kobe has over Lebron. Sure you can talk about the rings, the ‘mamba mentality’ and the 81 point game. All that to me is marketing hype and the 5 rings is because he had the fortune to play with prime Shaq and be coached by Phil Jackson from the get go.

Look at what Lebron has done with his teams. He goes to Miami, comes back to Cavs, goes to the Lakers – in EACH instance, he wins within 2 seasons of getting there. But he needed help you might say. Well every player, needs help. What did Kobe do without Shaq and Gasol? Oh yeah, a first round exit. You see, everyone needs good teammates to get anywhere. What’s remarkable about Lebron is how he’s been able to do this with such a wide variety of teammates and a wide variety of coaches.

For Kobe he’s only ever won with Phil Jackson + a big/bigs. Shaq, or Gasol/Odom/Bynum. He needs a VERY specific system to win. You take away that system and Kobe can’t get anywhere just look at what happened 2005–2007. But he had a bad team? So did Lebron! Lebron had a shit team too from 2003–2010 and he took them to the Finals! But the East is weak you might say. Well if it was so weak how come the Heat won the year before and the Celtics won the year after Lebron went to the Finals? How weak was the East really? And Kobe himself lost to two teams from the East – one of which didn’t even have a Hall of Famer until this year (Ben Wallace).

Lebron leads Kobe in EVERY single category except for FT%. He leads Kobe in EVERY advanced stat category. He has more MVPs AND Finals MVPs. He’s been proven to attract free agents while for Kobe he actually pushed away free agents by taking the leagues highest salary in 2013 after his injury. I remember Melo wanted to play there but because of Kobe’s personality he decided to go to the Knicks instead. Let’s not forget Kobe kept demanding a trade when his team wasn’t doing well until the Lakers finally got him Gasol. Lebron, meanwhile has NEVER asked for a trade. He’s never thrown Daniel Gibson or Sasha Pavlovic or Eric Snow under the bus even though those players were EVERY bit as bad as Smush and Kwame.

“Keep in mind I’m talking about PRIME Kobe, ’07 Kobe, the one who averaged 35ppg, and scored 62 in three quarters and 81 against the Raptors.”

Yeah, those numbers are meaningless to me. You’re talking about a regular season game against bad teams, in the season right after hand checking rules changed and refs didn’t know how to call them properly yet. Same reason why DWade was averaging 34 in the Finals that year. If Kobe had 81 or 62 in 3 quarters in the PLAYOFFS now that would be something. But regular season? So what? Whoopidty doo. Doesn’t mean anything, nothing is on the line. Klay’s 37 points in one quarter might be even more impressive.

Now Lebron scoring the last 29 out of 30 points against Detroit in 2007, now thats something but that’s in the PLAYOFFS, against a very good team, guarded by Tayshaun Prince the exact same guy who caused Kobe to shoot 38% and completely choke in the 2004 Finals – remember game 3 where Kobe had 11 points on 31% shooting? Oh yeah what about in Game 5 of the 2000 Finals where Kobe had 8 points? What about in Game 4 of the 2011 2nd round where 38 year old Jason Kidd clamped Kobe down and Jason Terry dropped a record 9 3 pointers on him? What about in Game 7 of the 2006 first round where Kobe just stopped shooting to spite Phil?

Not to mention, a big reason why Kobe can score a lot of points – look at how many attempts he takes. In the top 10 Kobe owns HALF of the most shots ever attempted in a game. KD and Lebron average more PPG than Kobe and don’t even appear in the top 100. What do you think would happen if Curry or KD or Lebron attempt 40–50 shots a game? how many points do you think they would score?

Funny how you Kobe fans never remember the negative moments from his game and only the 81 points and 5 rings. Typical.

Edit 2: here’s a prime example of a typical Kobe fan’s response to my answer

Several things to note here:

-calls ME a casual despite not offering any stats, detailed evidence or footage as I have done in my answer arguing that Lebron was far superior. Personally insults me and curses at me, common for Kobe fans they get easily angered when they perceive any kind of ‘disrespect’.

-says that NBA players give Kobe their respect and thus Kobe should be in the top 5. Ok then go ask some NBA players from the 1960s who they think should be in the top 5. It’s probably going to have Russell, Wilt, Kareem, Dr J ,etc… sooo you are choosing to believe modern day NBA players over older NBA players? Makes no sense. older NBA players have seen more players play than modern day NBA players its that simple. If anything, their opinions would hold MORE weight than 23 year old Jayson Tatum. Also, if you choose to believe NBA players more then you shouldn’t be disagreeing with anything Paul Pierce, Richard Jefferson, Shaq, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Kendrick Perkins, etc are saying on sports shows. Cause they were NBA players. That means they know better than us fans. Right?

-gets triggered and tells me not to disrespect Kobe (or calls me a Kobe hater) even though I have a very long detailed answer on why I don’t place Kobe in my top 5. You will only see Kobe fans complain and whine like this. Bird, Duncan, Magic, Hakeem etc all have cases to be top 5 players all time but none of their fanbases will cry foul if you don’t have them in your top 5. ONLY Kobe fans.

-Resorts to personal insults like calling me and the media ‘idiots’

-claims to be a ‘true’ basketball fan who ALL apparently think Kobe is top 5 all time and yet gives no stats or evidence on why…

-Claims to be a ‘purist’ of the sport and then goes on to call out Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell for playing in the ‘easiest’ era ever. The 1960s was not the easiest era ever. That would be the 1950s with George Mikan, Paul Arizin, Dolph Schayes, Bob Pettit, Bill Sharman, Neil Johnston and Bob Cousy dominating an era full of nearly all white players – Bill Russell came in and cleaned those guys all up. Back then black players had to deal with racism and discrimination, the league didn’t pay players very well so they all had to take part time jobs, and hard fouls were HARD fouls. Wilt Chamberlain got his teeth knocked out by Clyde Lovelette and Bob Pettit has over 50 stitches. That’s anything but an ‘easy’ era. I’ve watched all the classic NBA hardwood games dating back to the 1950s. A so called ‘purist’ would know that basketball evolves and the 1960s were a league that had substantially more black talent than the 1950s and while there were only 8 teams, all 8 teams were stacked full of 2+ Hall of Famers on each. Each team played each other more back then. So it was actually quite competitive back then.

-Kobe’s championship runs being the 5 hardest ever makes me want to laugh. Kobe’s Finals opponents were the 2000 Pacers, 2001 76ers, 2002 Nets, 2009 Magic and 2010 post KG surgery Celtics. None of those teams would be considered an all time great Finals team. NONE. In fact the ONLY Finals opponent Lebron had that would be as easy as those were the 2020 Heat, that’s it. All of Lebron’s other Finals opponents were more difficult than the entirety of Kobe’s Finals opponent gallery.

tldr for Kobe fans, they always have a few things in common in all their responses – they bitch, whine and complain about Kobe being disrespected, they resort to personal insults like calling you a casual or saying you don’t know basketball or telling you to watch the footage (which I have, for all the NBA players I talk about), they say the stats don’t matter *except* when it does matter like when Kobe scores 81 points on 60% efficiency or when Kobe grabs those 15 rebounds in 2010 Finals Game 7. Then it matters. But other times when Kobe shoots 31% no it doesn’t matter. They say that the media robbed Kobe of an MVP because of his rape case when the real reason is Kobe couldn’t carry his team far enough in the playoffs. They say that the NBA conspired against Kobe when they vetoed the CP3 trade when it’s highly unlikely that CP3 and Kobe could have co-existed together as perimeter stars and unlikely Kobe would win any more rings against the more stacked Western teams coming up in that decade. They always make excuses for Kobe, let’s take a look:

2000 Finals – Kobe was injured

2003–2004 – Kobe had off court drama with Shaq

2005 – Kobe was injured

2006–2007 – Kobe had a shit team

2008 – Kobe was injured

2010 Finals Game 7 – Kobe was injured

2011 – Kobe was injured

2013–2016 – Kobe was injured

All in all, they are the worst fanbase in sports. Easily. Blames everyone else except for Kobe, makes conspiracy theories, and then if people disagree they personally insult them, says they know a lot of basketball, yet never gives any statistical evidence or footage when they probably only watched Kobe highlights and never watched any games pre 1990s.