Dan Patrick-Mike Wilbon Podcast, Part IIIn my previous post I talked about a Dan Patrick-Mike Wilbon podcast in which Wilbon used some "new math" to compare Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Wilbon asserted that Bryant attempts about four shots per game more than Jordan but this is not the case; he also greatly inflated Jordan's 1987 shooting percentage. There were a couple other interesting comments in that podcast that deserve attention, too.
One, Patrick mentioned that he has spoken with several coaches--who he would not name--who told him that Bryant is a better scorer than Jordan was for several reasons, including better three point range and better ballhandling skills. Wilbon literally laughed those points off and said that he and Patrick need to get a bottle of wine and watch some ESPN Classic tapes of Jordan to refresh their memories about how great MJ was. I'm not sold on the idea that Bryant is better than Jordan, either, but I think that one thing that a lot of fans and outsiders don't fully comprehend is that the notion that Bryant is the best player in today's game has nothing to do with his fancy dunks or his point totals: scouts and coaches recognize Bryant's complete mastery of fundamental skills, plus his high level of conditioning and his competitive spirit, which certainly rivals that of MJ or anyone else.
Two, Wilbon reiterated the popular canard that Jordan would never have performed like Bryant did in game seven of last year's playoffs versus Phoenix. This is an issue that I have discussed numerous times here. In game seven versus Detroit last season, LeBron James had virtually identical numbers to Bryant's game seven numbers versus Phoenix but nobody suggested that there was anything peculiar about how James played--and there was not anything peculiar about it: in both cases, a young team got overwhelmed on the road in game seven. As for whether or not Jordan would go through a long stretch of a playoff game without shooting the ball--the crux of the criticism against Bryant in this instance--the Chicago Tribune's Sam Smith covered Jordan and offered his take on this issue last summer. I quoted him in a post titled Thoughts on the Second Round So Far--and Kobe's Game Seven Performance Revisited:
This is what I think happened and it is Jordanesque. I don't buy that sabotage thing. Bryant had 23 by halftime and was on the way to 50 and the Lakers were in trouble, down 15 and going nowhere. So knowing Phil Jackson, he told Bryant the first four games they went inside and distributed the scoring and got up 3-1, that was their only chance. Kobe has been buying in and did so early in the series. So he does in Game 7 and the plan doesn't work and they're down 30 and can't guard the mop kids. It's over, so Kobe packs it in. If he shoots crazy now they lose and he's blamed for being selfish. So he shuts it down. Jordan did something similar in the 1989 conference finals against the Pistons. The Bulls were losing and the Pistons were double and triple-teaming Jordan, so Doug Collins told Jordan to move the ball and not shoot so much. OK, you think those guys can win! Jordan took eight shots in 46 minutes. Michael Jordan could get eight shots off on anyone getting off the bus. The Bulls couldn't recover and Jordan just stopped shooting. It was Game 5 of a six-game series loss. But Kobe is a villain and lightning rod too, so much of the blame goes to him. I don't think he was deserving of so much criticism.
posted by David Friedman @ 4:08 PM