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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Kobe Bryant Quotes Provide Insight Into His Basketball Philosophy

When Kobe Bryant turned 37 a couple months ago, ESPN posted a list of 37 quotes from Bryant over the years. A few of those quotes are worth examining in greater depth.

Bryant is often accused of shooting too much but he is unfazed by that criticism: 

I've shot too much from the time I was 8 years old. But 'too much' is a matter of perspective. Some people thought Mozart had too many notes in his compositions. Let me put it this way: I entertain people who say I shoot too much. I find it very interesting. Going back to Mozart, he responded to critics by saying there were neither too many notes or too few. There were as many as necessary.

Here is another quote from Bryant about supposedly shooting too much:

I would go 0-for-30 [from the floor] before I would go 0-for-9. 0-for-9 means you beat yourself, you psyched yourself out of the game...The only reason is because you've just now lost confidence in yourself.

ESPN is well acquainted with the critique that Bryant shoots too much, since ESPN's Mike Wilbon frequently attacks Bryant on this basis--and Wilbon's facts are usually as off-base as his feeble attempts at basketball analysis. Regarding great players, I agree with Bryant's philosophy that such players should never go 0-9 from the field; a great player must have the confidence that if he misses nine shots in a row he is about to make nine shots in a row. Michael Jordan is lauded for having that high degree of self-confidence and it is odd that Bryant is bashed for having a similar belief in his abilities.

***

Speaking of ESPN, Bryant was unfazed before last season when the self-proclaimed "Worldwide Leader" ranked him as the 40th best player in the NBA:

I've known for a long time they're a bunch of idiots...I tend to use things as motivation that tend to be in the realm of reality.

ESPN's basketball rankings are pretty predictable: Bryant will always be ranked lower than he should be, while players who never have won anything of substance and probably never will win anything of substance will be praised for their unselfishness and how much their teammates supposedly love them. The reality is that, prior to the 2014-15 season, Bryant should not have been listed as the 40th best player in the NBA; during his last full season (2012-13), he was a legit top five player/MVP candidate, so upon coming back from injury he should have either been still considered a top five player until proven otherwise or else he should have not been ranked at all due to his prolonged absence from the court. It made no sense to arbitrarily rank him 40th--except for the fact that by doing so ESPN generated a lot of clicks for their website and a lot of bantering opportunities for their talking/screaming heads, like Wilbon and Stephen A. Smith.

***

Bryant learned from an early age to not be intimidated:

The last time I was intimidated was when I was 6 years old in karate class. I was an orange belt and the instructor ordered me to fight a black belt who was a couple years older and a lot bigger. I was scared s---less. I mean, I was terrified and he kicked my [butt]. But then I realized he didn't kick my [butt] as bad as I thought he was going to and that there was nothing really to be afraid of. That was around the time I realized that intimidation didn't really exist if you're in the right frame of mind...

That is a good life lesson in general. One of the best things my Dad ever taught me was that no matter how scary a bully might seem the bully is actually more scared than the kids he bullies and that if you stand up to him he will respect you and leave you alone. Once you learn to not be intimidated mentally, emotionally or physically (the latter was the toughest one for me but my Dad helped me figure it out) you open up a whole vista of possibilities--including the reality that many people are easily intimidated, a piece of knowledge that is very useful during any kind of competition and something that Bryant applies to good effect.

***

Not everyone learns the lesson about being strong in the face of intimidation. If you are scared and/or soft, Bryant does not want to play with you:

There's certain players that I've made cry. If I can make you cry by being sarcastic, then I really don't want to play with you in the playoffs.

Jordan is commended for being this way, while Bryant is criticized for being this way. In The Jordan Rules, Sam Smith quotes Horace Grant saying that if you were scared during practice Jordan would put a saddle on you and ride you right out of town. Jordan attacked his teammates during practice--both verbally and, at times, physically (ask Steve Kerr)--to see how they would respond under duress because he did not want to battle the "Bad Boys" Pistons at playoff time with a bunch of soft dudes who were scared or soft. That is not "nice" and it is not the only way to be a leader (Julius Erving and Tim Duncan are two championship-winning superstars who led/lead in a completely different way) but if the sports media world is going to canonize Jordan for such traits then Bryant deserves the same treatment; if we are in a kinder, gentler era in which such conduct is no longer cool then Jordan's reputation should be reevaluated as well.

***

Some players thought that they could get Bryant off of his game by talking smack to him. That did not work out very well for those players:

Better learn not to talk to me. You shake the tree, a leopard's gonna fall out.

This quote refers to J.R. Smith, who then played for the Denver Nuggets, yapping at Bryant during a 2008 playoff game. Here is my recap of what happened: Unstoppable: Kobe Drops 49 as Lakers Smash Nuggets, 122-107. Bryant's raw numbers that game were 49 points, 10 assists, 18-27 field goal shooting. The "leopard" reappeared in the 2009 playoffs after Ron Artest, who then played for the Houston Rockets, verbally and physically confronted Bryant; that time, Bryant dropped 31 points on 14-23 field goal shooting in a 102-96 Lakers win.

Although my default preference is for athletes--like Julius Erving and Bjorn Borg--who let their performances speak for themselves, I have also enjoyed the exploits of athletes like Muhammad Ali and Reggie Jackson who talked big but fully backed up what they said. However, I believe it was Chris Mullin who said that if you talk a lot but cannot play then you are just a chump. I love it when a player like Bryant shuts up a chump like J.R. Smith. Smith is a good player--anyone who makes it to the NBA is a good player--but he has no business talking smack to a great player like Bryant. 

***

After Bryant poured in 44 points on 34 field goal attempts in just 31 minutes as his overmatched L.A. Lakers lost 136-115 to the eventual NBA champion Golden State Warriors he was unapologetic about shooting so much:

I'd rather not have to do that, but you can't sit back and watch crime happen in front of you.

I love this quote because it captures so many truths about Bryant, about basketball and about the bizarre double standard applied against Bryant.

One, most of the media coverage of that game stated directly or at least implied that Bryant played inefficiently and/or selfishly, so it is worth noting that 44 points on 34 shots is very efficient. For years, Doug Collins has mentioned that the standard for good defense against a great player is to hold him to a point per shot; in this case, Bryant well exceeded that mark despite playing alongside no credible offensive threats and despite facing a dominant team that won 67 regular season games en route to capturing the championship.

Two, some people may scoff at the idea that Bryant does not want to shoot 34 times but he was the primary playmaker on five championship teams so he is a willing and capable passer when he has teammates who can do something with the ball.

Three, instead of just quitting and accepting inevitable defeat, Bryant fought the basketball "crime" being committed in front of him by doing everything he could to compete against a clearly superior team. As Phil Jackson used to say (borrowing a line from his teammate "Super" John Williamson), "Go down as you live." I would much rather be in a foxhole with someone who fights to the end as opposed to someone who whines or makes excuses or just quits.

***

During his third season with the Miami Heat, LeBron James declared that the Lakers would never receive the scrutiny that the Heat did. Bryant was unimpressed by James' complaint:

What does it matter? What does he want, a cookie for that?

This quote reveals so much about the difference between Bryant and James. Bryant focuses on results, on what he and his teammates need to do to win games and championships. Bryant does not care about hype and he does not care what people think of him as long as he is doing his job. James craves the spotlight but only if it is shining on him positively. In Miami, James belatedly learned that he needed to accept and embrace the challenge of being the best player on the court and this self-awareness resulted in winning two championships--but Bryant figured this out from the start.

***

For a time during the early 2000s, a legitimate debate could be held about Kobe Bryant versus Tracy McGrady, but Bryant did not think that the debate was particularly legitimate:

I played T-Mac. I cooked him. Roasted him. Wasn't even close. Ask him, he'll tell you. When I was about 20, we were in Germany doing some promotional stuff for that other sneaker company and we played basketball every day. We were in the gym all the time. We played three games of 1-on-1 to 11. I won all three games. One game I won 11-2. After the third game he said he had back spasms and couldn't play anymore.

Of course, a few one on one games played during the players' formative years do not prove who was the better player in a five on five context but it is interesting that Bryant took the challenge so seriously and remembered the outcome so vividly. This is reminiscent of how Jordan viewed the 1992 NBA Finals not just as Chicago versus Portland but also a one on one showdown to determine who was the best shooting guard in the NBA.

***

This quote sums up Bryant's focus, determination and work ethic:

I feel like killing everybody every time I go to the arena.

Nothing more needs to be said.

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posted by David Friedman @ 12:39 PM

29 comments

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29 Comments:

At Thursday, October 15, 2015 7:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the most irritating examples of the media's anti-Kobe bias is the 2011 playoffs when the Lakers were swept in the second round by the eventual champion Mavericks. Many NBA analysts used this as proof that Kobe is overrated and should not be mentioned in the same breath as other all-time greats. This was just after Bryant led the Lakers to three straight finals in a tough western conference, winning the last two and the lone loss came against a stacked defensive juggernaut who enjoyed home court advantage (this was also the first time I ever heard the phrase "six game sweep"). Just one round earlier, Tim Duncan's number one seeded Spurs lost to the eighth seeded Memphis Grizzlies, only the second time this had happened since the first round became a best-of-seven series. The year prior, they were swept in the 2nd round by the Suns and the year before that they lost in the first round to the Mavericks even though they enjoyed home court advantage.

I don't recall anyone saying that these perplexing early round losses had any meaningful impact on Duncan's legacy but somehow a second round loss after back-to-back championships/three straight finals appearances while trying to play through a knee ailment is a defining black mark on Kobe's career. The mental gymnastics that people engage in to take cowardly cheap shots at Bryant defy the most basic logic and reason.

 
At Thursday, October 15, 2015 10:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I forgot about some of those SA teams. Duncan's done great for his career, but he's had tremendous stability and every year he's had a very competent roster, but his teams still have underachieved several times. Duncan's had 3 teams that were #1 seeds that didn't make the finals and once losing in the 1st round, James has had 2 such teams not make the finals, Jordan none, Kobe none. All of these 'blackeye' comments I often hear about Kobe are usually double standards. Nick on here likes to constantly denigrate Kobe for losing 04 finals while having almost no chance winning with the injuries LAL had during the finals, while somehow Duncan losing in 2nd round is better than what Kobe did that year. Kobe played well overall in 2011 2nd round, though struggled some at times, but got almost no help from anyone else. And this is all coming off 3 straight finals trips. Making 4 straight finals in the cupcake East like MIA did is still a great accomplishment though pretty much a given with how good their roster was overall, but doing it in the stacked West is an entirely other thing.

 
At Friday, October 16, 2015 1:59:00 AM, Blogger Nick F said...

"Nick on here likes to constantly denigrate Kobe for losing 04 finals while having almost no chance winning with the injuries LAL had during the finals, while somehow Duncan losing in 2nd round is better than what Kobe did that year. "

My problem with Kobe in that series isn't that he lost, it's that he hogged the ball while he was shooting 30-something percent and Shaq was shooting well over 60% and completely outmatching whichever Wallace was stuck on him that play. Kobe lost a series he probably should have won by trying to prove he was "the man." Is it still denigration when it's true?

Could the Lakers have won anyway if Malone were healthy or Payton didn't suck? Sure, maybe. But they won three titles in that era by going through Shaq first and Kobe second, and all three cases Kobe was playing better than he was in '04. When you're playing alongside the most dominant player in basketball (at the time), you should probably be more focused on getting him the ball than jacking up contested 20 footers you're making 30 percent of.

Duncan's losses, on the other hand, have never been because he jacked up way more low percentage shots than his All-NBA teammate who was on fire. That's not to say none of the blame for any of them falls on Duncan- some of it definitely does, particularly against Memphis- but it's a "he should have been better" kinda blame, not a "he pointedly made the wrong basketball decisions to try and prove he was the alpha dog" kinda blame.

I don't hold Kobe losing in '06, '07, '08, or '11 against him (except in conversations that are explicitly about "who did the most with the least" or whatever). I do hold '04 against him.

 
At Friday, October 16, 2015 2:11:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

You are 100% right. It is funny that Kobe supposedly has lost the only "five game sweep" (in 2004) and the only "six game sweep" in NBA playoff history.

The sad reality at this point, however, is that Bryant used to be able to beat back his critics with scoring titles, improbable playoff runs with Smush Parker/Kwame Brown and, of course, championships, but I don't think that his body is going to hold up over an entire NBA season anymore, particularly if the Lakers play him more than 30 mpg.

 
At Friday, October 16, 2015 2:32:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Nick:

Yes, let's ignore injuries to the Lakers' starting power forward Karl Malone and key reserve Derek Fisher. Let's ignore the fact that Gary Payton could no longer guard his grandmother or hit the broad side of a barn (.366 field goal shooting in 22 playoff games). Let's ignore the fact that Shaq came into camp out of shape and lumbered through the regular season scoring a then-career low 21.5 ppg while Bryant carried the team. Let's ignore the fact that Shaq averaged 21.5 ppg during the playoffs--his lowest average since his first playoff run as a second year player and, at just 31, the last time he averaged at least 20 ppg during the postseason. Let's ignore that Kobe Bryant had to play a firefighter role on defense, switching between Billups and Hamilton because whoever Payton guarded lit up the Lakers like fireworks on the Fourth of July. Let's assume that it actually is easy and possible to just force feed the ball every time down the court to Shaquille O'Neal and that this strategy will work with an out of shape big man against the league's best defensive team. Let's ignore the fact that the only game in the series that the Lakers won is the game that Bryant took over down the stretch.

Let's ignore that in The Last Season, the Phil Jackson diary of a season that Kobe-haters love to quote from selectively, Jackson wrote, "By the end of the Minnesota series, Karl was clearly our most valuable player." Jackson felt that Malone's injury was a major factor in the Finals loss. In other threads, you assert that Jackson, not Kobe, is the key factor in bringing the most out of Kobe's teammates. Do you also trust Jackson's assessment of the 2004 NBA Finals? Or do you only cite/trust Jackson when you can do so to attack Bryant in some way? Jackson did not feel that Bryant was intentionally sabotaging the team but Jackson did suggest that the weight of a season that put immense physical and psychological pressure on Bryant had eventually worn him down.

Sure, if we ignore all of those things then your insistence that Bryant not only cost the Lakers a championship but did so deliberately to prove a point makes sense.

Otherwise, not so much.

 
At Friday, October 16, 2015 2:43:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Nick:

Also, let's ignore the fact that O'Neal attempted 55 free throws in five games but made just 27 of them. If you add O'Neal's free throw attempts to his field goal attempts you get a fairer picture and you realize that the Lakers did indeed get the ball into Shaq a lot during that series.

One more thing to ignore is Shaq's stellar turnover to assist ratio of 14 to 8.

Another thing to ignore is Shaq's perpetual foul trouble (22 fouls in five games, easily the most fouls of any player on either team).

Let's also assume that because O'Neal shot a high percentage on the possessions when he did not turn the ball over or get fouled that he definitely would have shot the same percentage--and not turned the ball over--if the Lakers had just passed him the ball every time down the court.

 
At Friday, October 16, 2015 10:47:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You must not have watched the series that much, Nick. Kobe and Shaq hogging the ball is what was needed. Shaq got his touches, but often was rendered useless from being tired, lazy, not his 00-02 self, and DET's help defense. His FGA and FTA were both up, and these don't include all the times he had the ball and either wasn't able to shoot to score or turned it over. He had plenty of opportunities. Shaq tired out in the series, and couldn't be bothered with playing defense. If LAL was as healthy as DET and Shaq played some defense, LAL probably wins. These 2 things, along with Payton actually living up to his "Glove" nickname remotely would've allowed Kobe to actually be Kobe offensively. Kobe shot poorly, no doubt, but lots of variables involved, along with him coming off a knee procedure and criminal case. To think Kobe would actually lose a series, especially the finals, to prove a point is pathetically absurd at best. You need to look at his career as a whole.

And who cares if Duncan's losses, which are many as the favorite, don't come because he doesn't shoot much, which is much harder for a big, I might add. And actually, this should be more of a detriment to Duncan. If his teammates aren't getting it done, then where is he? If he's as great as you say he is, then he needs to step in there. I think he was able to do this for a few years, though still often wouldn't, but he hasn't been able to take over games offensively for years now. Even if someone wrongly holds 04 against Kobe, there's a lot of years to hold against Duncan then.

And I didn't realize Malone was the 04 Lakers MVP. Phil's diary definitely should be taken literally always.

 
At Friday, October 16, 2015 11:27:00 AM, Blogger Nick F said...

"Jackson felt that Malone's injury was a major factor in the Finals loss"

I don't disagree and mentioned it. I said in my original post: "Could the Lakers have won anyway if Malone were healthy or Payton didn't suck? Sure, maybe."

"Let's ignore that Kobe Bryant had to play a firefighter role on defense, switching between Billups and Hamilton"

No, that's great. Good for him. Still probably should have shot less. Though the league's 18th best offense wasn't all *that* dangerous, and LA held them to about 90 PPG. LA lost because they didn't score enough, not because Detroit scored too much.

"Jackson did not feel that Bryant was intentionally sabotaging the team but Jackson did suggest that the weight of a season that put immense physical and psychological pressure on Bryant had eventually worn him down."

Fair enough; Jackson thinks Kobe played poorly because of fatigue rather than selfishness; that's fine, and very well may be true, but it doesn't change the outcome- namely that Kobe played unwise basketball in that series and likely cost his team a title. It wasn't just his constant crappy shooting either; Kobe basically didn't rebound that series, putting up fewer per game than Derrick Fisher.


"Let's ignore the fact that Shaq averaged 21.5 ppg during the playoffs--his lowest average since his first playoff run as a second year player and, at just 31, the last time he averaged at least 20 ppg during the postseason."

Similar to another recent argument of ours, I'm not super persuaded by raw scoring numbers when my complaint is "they should have given him the ball more." Thanks to Kobe's increased usage, Shaq shot five fewer times per game during that playoffs.

"Also, let's ignore the fact that O'Neal attempted 55 free throws in five games but made just 27 of them. If you add O'Neal's free throw attempts to his field goal attempts you get a fairer picture and you realize that the Lakers did indeed get the ball into Shaq a lot during that series."

Shaq's crappy free-throw shooting hadn't been a deal breaker for them in their three championships; it's a millstone we know for a fact that team could overcome (and one that creates foul situations for the other team and brings crappier players onto the floor). But let's factor in the free throws and Kobe's 3s, see if maybe the FG% number is misleading... Kobe's TS%: .456. Shaq's TS%: .615. Nope. That's still pretty significant.


"One more thing to ignore is Shaq's stellar turnover to assist ratio of 14 to 8."

That's not great, but it's also sort of a cherry-picked stat; Kobe had turnovers on a higher percentage of his plays than Shaq did. The ball was safer in Shaq's hands that series. It is not surprising that Kobe had more assists and turnovers given both his role and his ball-dominance; it is a little damning that he was turning the ball over more frequently than the double-teamed big man, though.


Part 1/2

 
At Friday, October 16, 2015 11:27:00 AM, Blogger Nick F said...

"Another thing to ignore is Shaq's perpetual foul trouble (22 fouls in five games, easily the most fouls of any player on either team)."

He was still on the court over 40 minutes per game, so I'm not buying that one.

"Let's also assume that because O'Neal shot a high percentage on the possessions when he did not turn the ball over or get fouled that he definitely would have shot the same percentage--and not turned the ball over--if the Lakers had just passed him the ball every time down the court."

He was less likely to turn the ball over than Kobe in that series, and considering that they won three titles with him shooting about that percentage (and more often) I don't think that's much of a leap. Even if his percentage dropped to, say, 50%, it'd still be much higher value per play than Kobe was putting up.

Shaq's O-RTG in that series: 111
Kobe's O-RTG in that series: 90

The LA offense was much healthier when it was going through Shaq. Kobe's definitely smart enough to know that. There's no good reason for him to have played the way he did.

 
At Friday, October 16, 2015 11:50:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

You make some excellent points.

Regarding Jackson's comment about Malone, consider the whole sentence. Jackson did not say that Malone was the most valuable player on the team for the season but that in the playoffs by the end of the Minnesota series Malone was the most valuable. Before he got hurt, Malone did yeoman's work against some tough power forwards, including prime KG.

 
At Friday, October 16, 2015 12:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I'm a little confused what Phil and you are saying about Malone. Phil's book, which is a diary mostly, which is written in the heat of the moment often, shouldn't necessarily be taken as facts. Kobe haters often point out that Phil said Kobe was uncoachable in his book, but then he comes back after a year to coach him for many more years, so go figure. Phil was upset with some things at times which he would then write about, and we all should by now that Phil likes to stir the pot as well. Phil sided with Shaq mostly during the end of the Kobe/Shaq days because he didn't want to lose the lockerroom, and this didn't sit well with Kobe. Most believed and still do that it was Kobe's push to be alpha dog causing the problems, where in fact it was because he was upset with Shaq's work ethic. First off, Shaq's 00-02 was probably the best 3-year stretch of any player in nba history, and Shaq still needed Kobe to bail him out many times with Kobe outperforming Shaq in some of their playoff series. Jordan, James, whoever, would've been #2 to Shaq, and at least Jordan, wouldn't have liked that at all either. But, if Shaq continuously worked hard, he and Kobe would've gotten along well enough. Even still, their issues were mainly off-the-court issues, not on-the-court issues.

You make a great point that if anyone were to quote Phil and use that against Kobe, then you can't say Kobe intentionally or even unintentionally sabotaged the 04 finals for LAL, since Phil doesn't believe that even in the slightest. I can see where Malone was very valuable to LAL in the playoffs, and that by losing him essentially was a huge reason for their loss to DET. However, it's clear Kobe and Shaq were both not only better, but much better than Malone, and much more valuable. I understand what Phil was thinking, and he's right, and while he used the words 'most valuable' to describe Malone, Kobe/Shaq were obviously much more valuable than Malone. What Phil is saying about Malone is what I often hear people say 'who's the X factor' in this series? It was almost always Odom when he was with LAL. Sure, LAL did a lot better when Odom played well, but this mysterious X factor, which Phil seems to allude to in Malone in the 04 playoffs, to me it's almost the team's best player. It's just a way to acknowledge a key role player to a certain team's success, which is fine, I guess.

 
At Friday, October 16, 2015 4:03:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

My understanding of what Jackson meant about Malone is that Malone's value was so high because the teams that they faced had excellent power forwards and also the options to replace Malone were not very good. Kobe was worn down and Shaq was out of shape, so in the totality of the situation Malone was very valuable to the Lakers. That is not the same as saying he was better than Kobe or Shaq. Spoelstra extolled Bosh in a similar way when Bosh played with James and Wade.

 
At Friday, October 16, 2015 5:53:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Nick:

Do you think that the 2004 NBA Finals is the defining moment of Kobe Bryant's 20 year career? You mention it very frequently considering that it happened more than 10 years ago and that he has won two championships since that time.

If you merely asserted that Bryant played below his usual standard in the 2004 NBA Finals I think that we would agree about that. However, you repeatedly assert that he intentionally, deliberately played in a suboptimal way to prove a point at his team's expense. As the saying goes, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof--and you have no proof to support your claim as you stated it.

Are you aware that Shaq attempted two more FGAs per game in the 2004 NBA Finals than he did during the 2004 regular season? No one was deliberately keeping the ball away from Shaq. The Pistons also fouled him a lot, so his FGAs would have been even higher without those fouls.

Bryant averaged over 46 mpg in the 2004 NBA Finals, after a season that was exceptionally difficult physically and mentally. Defense was a big concern for the Lakers with Malone out of the lineup and Payton looking like he was 79 years old. Jackson describes team meetings during the Finals when defense was a major concern, particularly regarding Payton. Bryant's efforts at that end of the court exhausted him. Bryant did attempt more FGAs per game in the Finals than he did during the regular season but that just brought his attempts in line with his typical numbers during the preceding and subsequent seasons. Bryant's FG% plummeted because of the weight of the season and his enormous workload during the Finals--but there is no evidence supporting your assertion that he deliberately kept the ball away from Shaq to prove a point.

You are entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts--and your opinion in this regard is not supported by any facts, while there is plenty of evidence that Bryant's play was affected by workload/exhaustion and that, in any case, Malone's injury, Fisher's injury and Payton's ineffectiveness were larger factors in the Lakers' loss than Bryant's play.

 
At Friday, October 16, 2015 7:35:00 PM, Blogger Nick F said...

"Do you think that the 2004 NBA Finals is the defining moment of Kobe Bryant's 20 year career? You mention it very frequently considering that it happened more than 10 years ago and that he has won two championships since that time."

No, I don't. But my opinion was brought up and misrepresented, so I clarified it. Other than that, I usually only bring it up in "greatest ever" type conversations because it's a black mark that a lot of the other major contenders don't have. I still think Kobe's a tremendous ballplayer, but I think he was wrong in '04.

"However, you repeatedly assert that he intentionally, deliberately played in a suboptimal way to prove a point at his team's expense. As the saying goes, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof--and you have no proof to support your claim as you stated it."

That may be misunderstanding my position slightly; I don't think that Kobe intended to lose. But I think he was dead-set on being the reason they won, and I think had he been more willing to stick with what worked- and what was working in that series- his team would have won.

"Are you aware that Shaq attempted two more FGAs per game in the 2004 NBA Finals than he did during the 2004 regular season? No one was deliberately keeping the ball away from Shaq. "

My problem is less Shaq's numbers relative to his regular season numbers, and more Shaq's numbers relative to Kobe's. I think we can both agree they were the only two Lakers who were even remotely able to score against the Pistons, but Shaq was doing a much, much better job of it than Kobe. A smart playmaker should have leaned into that, instead of gunning his way into defeat. Kobe is a smart playmaker, so I have to assume there was something going on in his head beyond "what is the single best basketball play for my team right now?"

"Defense was a big concern for the Lakers with Malone out of the lineup and Payton looking like he was 79 years old. "

Sorta/kinda. They held the Pistons to about 90ppg, which is usually enough to win. Kobe (and Shaq) had a massive hand in that, but it doesn't really have much to do with my criticism that Kobe was shooting too much, too poorly.

"Bryant's efforts at that end of the court exhausted him"

Then he shoulda taken more of a breather on offense.

"Bryant did attempt more FGAs per game in the Finals than he did during the regular season but that just brought his attempts in line with his typical numbers during the preceding and subsequent seasons. Bryant's FG% plummeted because of the weight of the season and his enormous workload during the Finals--but there is no evidence supporting your assertion that he deliberately kept the ball away from Shaq to prove a point. "

Ok, first of all, if he'd shot as well as he had in previous seasons- somewhere around that .450 mark you like to point to as an indicator of success- I'd have a lot less of a problem with it. But he shot horribly. It's not a good idea to keep chucking when you're below 40%.

The evidence, then, is that Kobe Bryant is definitely smart enough to know that. He had to know what he was doing wasn't working. Everyone knew what he was doing wasn't working.

"your opinion in this regard is not supported by any facts, while there is plenty of evidence that Bryant's play was affected by workload/exhaustion"

My opinion is not that he shot poorly on purpose- I'm sure that was workload/exhaustion/Detroit's D. But I'm reasonably certain he kept shooting on purpose, because it's very difficult to take a contested 20 foot jump shot on accident.

1/2

 
At Friday, October 16, 2015 7:35:00 PM, Blogger Nick F said...


"Malone's injury, Fisher's injury and Payton's ineffectiveness were larger factors in the Lakers' loss than Bryant's play."

I agree that Malone's injury was a huge factor, and plausibly- though not in my opinion- a larger one than Kobe's gunning; Malone had absolutely been their strongest defender in the playoffs that year, including holding prime Tim Duncan scoreless for about 20 minutes in one game. I don't think the poor play of Fisher or the ineffectiveness of Payton hurt as much as Kobe's chucking, but that's a subjective opinion either way and I can't imagine getting anywhere arguing it.

It ultimately doesn't matter whether Kobe's gunning was the main reason they lost, or merely the second or third reason they lost. Bottom line, he was shooting like garbage, and he kept right on shooting. If the rest of his team was playing like crap- and, hey, a lot of them were- this would be defensible but Shaq was getting whatever he wanted almost every time he touched the ball and he was racking up fouls on Detroit's front line. This was a team with little rebounding or rim protection off the bench, and getting Big Ben off the court would have made it easier for the other Lakers- Kobe included- to finish at the rim and/or help on the boards.

Jacking up those long 2s and contested 3s helped no one who wasn't wearing a Detroit Pistons jersey.

 
At Friday, October 16, 2015 7:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shaq averaged the same # of FGA/game during the playoffs as the reg season, which was 14. During the finals, Shaq averaged 17 FGA/game. Where do u get Shaq averaging 5 fewer FGA/game in the playoffs as opposed to the regular season. Shaq not getting more FGA or ability to get good position to receive the ball had little to nothing to do with Kobe's supposed ball-hogging.

DET may not have scored that much, greatly in part to Kobe, but that still doesn't excuse Shaq/Payton's awful defense. With no competent offensive threats other than Shaq/Kobe, LAL had to win via defense, and they didn't play enough defense in order to do so.

How did Kobe play unwise basketball, other than your absurd opinion that he wanted to prove a point which isn't backed up by anything, and didn't care if LAL lost the finals?

LAL may have scrapped by for 3 titles with Shaq's awful FT shooting, but many of Shaq's teams haven't had that fortune, and this big weakness of his was highly exploited during his career, including his 04 team.

Kobe had the ball a lot more than Shaq, mainly because he's a guard and LAL's primary ballmaker, not vice versa. Given the amount of time each had the ball, Shaq was much less dependable with the ball, and he's not really making plays for others.

 
At Friday, October 16, 2015 11:56:00 PM, Blogger Nick F said...

Anonymous-

" Where do u get Shaq averaging 5 fewer FGA/game in the playoffs as opposed to the regular season"

Innocent misunderstanding here; I meant he shot five fewer times than Kobe, not five fewer times than his regular season numbers. I should have written that more clearly.

" Shaq not getting more FGA or ability to get good position to receive the ball had little to nothing to do with Kobe's supposed ball-hogging."

Wrong. I watched the series, Shaq got whatever position he wanted; that'll happen when you guard him with a 6'9 guy, no matter how talented of one. Go back and watch the tape; there's a lot of dubious Kobe jumpers while Shaq lurks six or seven feet from the hoop in single coverage. Detroit was largely daring Shaq to beat them (and he was killing him when he got the chance), and trusting their D to make the rest of the Lakers ineffective (which worked).

"DET may not have scored that much, greatly in part to Kobe, but that still doesn't excuse Shaq/Payton's awful defense. "

Shaq's D wasn't stellar, but it was fine. They got roasted by perimeter guys torching Payton/Fisher/Bryant. Almost half of Detroit's entire scoring load came from Billups and Hamilton, including over 40% shooting from long from both. Hamilton especially roasted them from midrange if memory serves.


"How did Kobe play unwise basketball, other than your absurd opinion that he wanted to prove a point which isn't backed up by anything, and didn't care if LAL lost the finals?"

My opinion is plenty backed up by the combination of 113 FGA and 38% shooting in the NBA Finals. Show me anybody else who took nearly that many shots shooting anywhere nearly that badly, let alone with an MVP level teammate who was having his way with the defense. Smart players don't do that; Kobe's normally a smart player. Something's rotten in Denmark.

"LAL may have scrapped by for 3 titles with Shaq's awful FT shooting, but many of Shaq's teams haven't had that fortune, and this big weakness of his was highly exploited during his career, including his 04 team."

Sure, but against a thin front line and an offensively anemic team, it's a lot less of an albatross, and with how poorly the rest of LAL was shooting, the difference between a Kobe missing 6/10 jumpers- leading to live rebounds- or Shaq missing 10-11/20 free throws (dead rebounds that also get you a foul)- is pretty minimal. Shaq shoots 20 FTs, you're getting 9-10 points, a foul, and less transition. Kobe shoots 10 shots, you're getting 8 points (based on his EFG% for that series), no foul, and a high risk of a transition run out. That's a no-brainer.

"Given the amount of time each had the ball, Shaq was much less dependable with the ball, and he's not really making plays for others."

How is Shaq less dependable with the ball? Kobe turned the ball over on a higher percentage of his possessions, scored fewer points per possession, and didn't draw as many fouls. Literally the only thing Kobe did better on offense was get assists, and even that's partially because Shaq couldn't legally pass to himself- the only Laker who was making more than 40% of his damn shots.

 
At Saturday, October 17, 2015 12:43:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Nick:

There is a big difference between saying that Bryant did not play as well as usual and/or Bryant did not shoot as well as usual and saying that Bryant deliberately took bad shots to prove a point. For one thing, what kind of point would Bryant prove by doing that? It makes no sense and, as you noted, Bryant is a smart player who by that time had already won three titles and who won two more championships after 2004.

If Bryant repeatedly dribbled down the court and jacked up long jumpers without even trying to feed the post then maybe there would be some validity to what you are asserting--but that is not what happened. There were many factors at play in the Lakers' loss and no one from the Lakers' camp--not even those who sometimes criticize Bryant--has ever suggested, to the best of my knowledge/recollection, that Bryant somehow intentionally sabotaged the team in the 2004 Finals. Bryant was coming off of injuries and a long, public criminal proceeding for which he ultimately was exonerated. He played more than 46 mpg against the best defensive team in the league. I noticed how you snuck in a little snide remark about Bryant being one of the Laker guards who was burned by the Pistons. Wrong! Bryant was the only effective perimeter defender for the Lakers. In fact, the Lakers' perimeter defense was compromised by Shaq's poor defense.

People love to grab quotes out of context to lambaste Bryant. Let's try some in context quotes from Jackson and his assistant Tex Winter about Shaq's role in the series. After the game two victory, the Lakers' coaches were still concerned about Shaq's "ineffective" (Jackson's word) screen/roll defense. "When I'm all done," Winter declared in reference to Shaq, "I'm going to expose this guy as overrated." Winter added that Shaq has terrible footwork, is uncoachable and does not make his free throws, while dismissing Shaq's high FG% because "those are all dunks." Winter and Shaq had a profanity-laden confrontation in the wake of the game two win and Jackson lamented not standing up more for Winter, who threatened to not make the trip to Detroit.

Speaking of the game three loss, Jackson said that the team played with effort but lacked crisp execution, failing to run sets properly, with the result being Kobe was "forced into crowds." The nature of Kobe's FGAs was not a result of Kobe going rogue but the whole team failing to execute properly. Jackson said that the game three loss was the worst playoff game he had seen Kobe play but he did not blame Kobe (who was 4-13 from the field, hardly numbers suggesting that Kobe had been gunning) and instead lamented that "we couldn't get the ball to him on a steady diet." At least concerning game three, Jackson wished that the Lakers had gotten the ball to Kobe MORE, not less.

 
At Saturday, October 17, 2015 12:46:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Nick:

Maybe you are thinking just about game four. Jackson felt that Kobe pressed a bit to make up for his poor performance in game three--but a player pressing a bit in one game when his team is down 2-1 is not at all the same as a player taking bad shots for the entire series to supposedly prove a point. That is a pretty serious charge and one needs some serious evidence for such a charge to be at all credible.

After the game five loss, Jackson said that he told Kobe he admired "the effort he gave in this series." As Anonymous notes, Jackson is not averse to "stirring the pot." If Jackson thought that Kobe had shot too much during the series, then he would have noted it in the book.

You just seem to be going out of your way to look for something bad to say about Kobe. That series was not one of his shining moments but Kobe has won five championships and he owns a 5-3 record in the NBA Finals. He also dragged two horrible teams to the playoffs (2006 and 2007) and in 2013 when the Lakers were floundering he put them on his back and carried them to the postseason before rupturing his Achilles, the injury that may turn out to be the beginning of the end of his career. With all that Kobe accomplished, it just seems strange to focus on that one series. As Anonymous says, Duncan's multiple first round losses as a clear favorite look a lot worse than Kobe losing in one Finals when his team was decimated by injury and running him out there over 46 minutes per game.

 
At Saturday, October 17, 2015 1:33:00 AM, Blogger Nick F said...

"For one thing, what kind of point would Bryant prove by doing that? "

Well, if he made those shots, and the Lakers won the series, he'd prove he was the "alpha," which both he and Shaq recently admitted was one of the primary issues between them- a battle for who "the man" was. Up to that point, it had been Shaq.

"If Bryant repeatedly dribbled down the court and jacked up long jumpers without even trying to feed the post then maybe there would be some validity to what you are asserting--but that is not what happened."

Not on every single play, but it definitely happened.

"I noticed how you snuck in a little snide remark about Bryant being one of the Laker guards who was burned by the Pistons. Wrong!"

Dude. I watched the series. Kobe did better than Fish or Payton to be sure, but he wasn't able to stop Billups or Hamilton, either.

"After the game two victory, the Lakers' coaches were still concerned about Shaq's "ineffective" (Jackson's word) screen/roll defense"

Fair enough. I guess none of the Lakers played particularly well on D, then.

"Winter added that Shaq has terrible footwork, is uncoachable and does not make his free throws, while dismissing Shaq's high FG% because "those are all dunks." "

Well, you and I both know Shaq had pretty good footwork, he made the Finals for three different coaches (and won for two of them), his free throws were more reliable than Kobe's jumpers that series, and I'm pretty sure dunks still count for two points.

"If Jackson thought that Kobe had shot too much during the series, then he would have noted it in the book. "

That certainly fells speculative. You may be right, you may also be wrong.

"You just seem to be going out of your way to look for something bad to say about Kobe"

I was specifically mentioned, and my position was misrepresented. I posted to clarify, then to defend my position. I'm not going out of my way.

"That series was not one of his shining moments but Kobe has won five championships and he owns a 5-3 record in the NBA Finals."

I have never disputed any of this.

1/1

 
At Saturday, October 17, 2015 1:34:00 AM, Blogger Nick F said...

"With all that Kobe accomplished, it just seems strange to focus on that one series."

I'm not the one who brought it up. Like I said, I usually only bring it up as a comparison piece to other GOAT candidates- none of whom to my knowledge have played that poorly in that kind of environment.

"Duncan's multiple first round losses as a clear favorite look a lot worse than Kobe losing in one Finals when his team was decimated by injury and running him out there over 46 minutes per game."

That's your opinion. The difference for me is that I don't feel like Duncan actively hurt his team's chances with his play in those series- though he certainly could have played better, and it's fair to criticize him for those series- but I do feel like Kobe very probably cost his team a championship by insisting on being the hero.

In 2011, Duncan was flummoxed somewhat by Gasol's defense (though he still shot the best of any Spurs starter) and didn't score enough, but he also led the series in blocked shots, second in rebounds, and kept Gasol mostly under control on offense. The main reason the Spurs lost that series is that their other interior defense options were Richard Jefferson and Matt Bonner; neither of whom remotely equipped to guard Zach Randolph, and because nobody on his team played well on offense (there is no MVP candidate on the Spurs scoring 1.3 PPP or whatever for that Spurs team).

In 2009 Duncan and Parker played well, but had little help, and were defeated by a Mavericks team only two years from returning to the Finals. Again, the distinction here is that Duncan didn't jack up 25-30 shots per game on 38% shooting. He had a teammate playing well- Parker- and took a secondary role in the offense because Dallas couldn't stop Parker. Didn't work- Dallas was just too deep- but at least made sense.

Last year, the ancient Tim Duncan barely lost to an extremely stacked Clippers team. He led his team in minutes, shot 59% against All-Defensive 1st teamer Deandre Jordan, and put up 18/11. SA lost because Chris Paul absolutely eviscerated Tony Parker, because Manu and Danny couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, and because Blake Griffin played the best ball of his life.

Duncan deserves some of the blame for all of those, but there's nothing there where he's jacking up bad shots while his dominant teammate watches. That's the difference, at least for me.

 
At Saturday, October 17, 2015 3:17:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Nick:

Your initial contribution to this thread included the following statement/question: "Kobe lost a series he probably should have won by trying to prove he was 'the man.' Is it still denigration when it's true?" You claim that you are not particularly obsessed with the 2004 Finals and that you do not believe that the 2004 Finals is the defining moment of Bryant's career--two claims that are not entirely plausible considering how strident your view of Bryant's performance is and how often you bring it up.

Let's break down your claim step by step. It is not a fact that "Kobe lost a series he probably should have won..." That is an opinion--actually, it is three opinions: (1) Kobe "lost" the series (as opposed to the series being "lost" as a result of other factors), (2) "He" (presumably meaning the Lakers and not just Kobe by himself) should have won the series and (3) Kobe "lost" the series "by trying to prove he was 'the man.'"

You have not proven any of the elements of your claim.

(1) Regarding the first element, Kobe did not "lose" the series because the most important factors in that loss include but are not limited to Malone's injury, Payton's absymal defense, the Lakers' lack of any bench production (a problem exacerbated by Fisher's injury and also by Malone's injury, which forced bench players into larger roles) and Shaq's terrible screen/roll defense. Each of those factors is mentioned prominently in Jackson's book about that season/series. Jackson also mentions another factor, namely Kobe being fatigued from the weight of the entire season plus the large load he had to carry in the Finals (over 46 mpg)--but you did not say in your claim that Kobe was fatigued, you said that he could have won the series but intentionally played in a suboptimal way. In other threads, you like to cite out of context quotes from Jackson and Tex Winter to purportedly support your claim that Bryant's defense has been bad for the entire second half of his career; so, when you think that Jackson and Winter are on your side you consider them credible authorities (though you also misstate/misunderstand what they said). However, in this thread I have provided for you specific quotes and comments from Jackson and Winter about this series and you dismiss their words out of hand. These quotes and comments are not out of context and have not been retracted, refuted or clarified later. They represent Jackson and Winter's thoughts about the series.

In the only game of the series that the Lakers won, Kobe had 27 FGAs and Shaq had 20. Kobe dominated the game down the stretch. That evidence suggests that maybe the Lakers should have gotten the ball to Kobe even more in the four games that they lost—and, indeed, as I mentioned in an earlier comment, in his book Jackson lamented that the Lakers did not run their offense more effectively in terms of getting the ball to Kobe, particularly in game three when Bryant only had 13 FGAs. Shaq had 14 FGAs in that game as the Lakers struggled to run the Triangle with the three other starters shooting 5-19 from the field and not executing properly in addition to shooting poorly.

The only game in which Jackson was concerned about Kobe’s FGAs was game four; Jackson thought that Kobe might have pressed a bit to make up for game three—-but Jackson admitted that perhaps the biggest problem/mistake was his decision to play an ineffective Gary Payton for 43 minutes. A major concern during the series was Payton’s bad defense; whoever Payton guarded got hot and Bryant obviously could not guard both Billups and Hamilton at the same time.

(To be continued)

 
At Saturday, October 17, 2015 3:22:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Nick:

Down 3-1, the Lakers were essentially done. Jackson’s main comment about the fifth game was that two early and questionable fouls against Shaq put the Lakers on their heels. Jackson felt that the officiating throughout the series hurt both Kobe (who was fouled repeatedly by Prince, in Jackson’s estimation) and Shaq, who was not given freedom to operate in the post.

As already discussed in this thread, both Shaq and Kobe increased their FGAs during the series compared to the regular season but Kobe’s FGAs were in line with his numbers in previous and subsequent seasons.

You say that the Lakers survived Shaq’s bad footwork, laziness and poor free throw shooting before—but I would argue that does not mean that those were not factors in the 2004 Finals. Clearly, they were or Winter would not have gotten into a profanity-filled argument with Shaq about this in front of the whole team. Nobody was cussing at Kobe to shoot less. They wanted Shaq to work harder and play better defense. When Shaq refused to do that, the Lakers got rid of him, rebuilt around Kobe and won two more titles.

Therefore, your assertion that Kobe "lost" the series is not supported either by facts or by anecdotal evidence.

(2) Regarding the second claim, the Lakers were a banged up team with at least some internal turmoil (Shaq feuding with Winter, Payton’s role and minutes being a matter of controversy throughout the season and particularly in the Finals). Kobe wore himself out carrying the team throughout the season as he battled his legal issue and physical problems. Shaq was out of shape and discontented. Meanwhile, the Pistons had four All-Star caliber players at or near the height of their powers and a Hall of Fame coach hungry to win his first NBA title.

Should a healthy, fully functioning Lakers team have beaten Detroit? Perhaps—-but how many NBA teams have won four championships in five years? That is what Shaq, Kobe and Jackson were trying to do. Duncan cannot even win two in a row.

Therefore, your assertion that the Lakers should have won is not supported by facts. If you expect the Lakers to do what no team other than Russell’s Celtics ever did, then you must apply similar expectations to other great players/teams, including Duncan’s Spurs.

 
At Saturday, October 17, 2015 3:36:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Nick:

(3) We have already established that Kobe did not “lose” the series, meaning that he was not the primary reason for the defeat, so it is not even necessary to plumb the depths of his motivations for how he played—-but let’s touch on that issue anyway. Kobe has been the primary playmaker on five championship teams. Shaq, Gasol, Bynum, Mihm, Odom and other big men have all played the best basketball of their careers alongside Bryant (you say that teammates playing their best basketball with a particular player is very important to you and weighs heavily in your positive feelings about Nash and Dragic, two players who actually have not won anything--unlike Bryant). There is a mountain of evidence that Kobe is a smart player whose primary goal is to win championships—-and that Bryant brings out the best in his teammates while doing so. There is no reason to believe or evidence to support an assertion that Kobe decided during the 2004 Finals that he was going to prove some point that he had not proven in the 2000-02 Finals and that he did not try to prove in the 2008-2010 Finals.

On to Duncan. You believe that Duncan is greater than Kobe and one of your major reasons for this belief is the claim—refuted above—that Kobe "lost" the 2004 Finals. You say that Duncan should not be held fully accountable for the Spurs' many early round losses/upsets because Duncan did not play poorly and/or did not intentionally play sub-optimally.

However, you cannot have it both ways regarding Duncan. You cannot assert that he is better than Kobe and one of the very best of all-time and then say that his team's losses aren't really his fault. If Duncan is as good as you say, then he could have and should have done more. The excuses you provide for Duncan may or may not be apt (that is a subject for another day) but Kobe and the 2004 Lakers deserve at least as much benefit of the doubt as you give to Duncan.

You also say that no other Pantheon-level player has had a Finals performance as bad as Kobe's in 2004. Larry Bird shot .419 from the field in the 1981 NBA Finals, eighth best out of the 11 Celtics who played in the series. Bird took 16 more shots than Hall of Fame center Robert Parish, who shot .506 in that series. Bird averaged nearly 6 ppg less in the Finals than he did in the regular season. The Celtics won that series because of the efforts of Cedric Maxwell, who earned the Finals MVP. Should Bird be given a pass for that inefficient performance just because his team won as a result of someone else stepping up?

In the 1985 Finals, Bird led the Celtics in FGAs by a wide margin despite shooting .449 from the field. Parish shot .481 but was fourth on the team in FGAs during the Finals. McHale shot .598 but was third on the team in FGAs. The defending champion Celtics lost. Was Bird trying to prove a point? Was he trying to justify his first regular season MVP and/or set the stage for winning more MVPs by taking so many shots even though his two HoF inside threats were scoring more efficiently?

I could go on with other examples but the point is that your conclusions about Kobe's performance in the 2004 Finals are unsupported and betray a lack of understanding of how playoff basketball works. Players get fatigued, foul trouble affects their aggressiveness and the fact that a player shot a given percentage on X number of FGAs does not at all prove (1) that he could have/should have gotten the ball more than he did or (2) that he would have maintained that percentage if he had gotten the ball more often.

So, yes, Anonymous was quite fair in describing your assessment of Bryant's play in the 2004 Finals. What you repeatedly say about Bryant is not true and it is denigrating to one of the greatest players of all-time.

 
At Saturday, October 17, 2015 4:37:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, quite the summary. Nick, you kind of sound like Wilbon/Jon Barry a bit when you repeatedly bring up Kobe's FGA and shooting pct., and for that primary reason you confidently assert that not only Kobe was shooting too much, but you also take a huge additional step by saying he intentionally played his way to prove some type of point, which isn't backed up by any evidence, especially from Phil/Tex. Why is Shaq feuding with Tex during the finals is beyond me. If Tex says Shaq has bad footwork, why do you think you know more than him about this? I don't know the context of this comment, maybe he was upset with Shaq at the time. He mentioned 3 things in that comment, and the 3rd is irrefutable about Shaq's bad FT shooting. Shaq was so good for a time that he and teams could overcome his weaknesses, which doesn't mean that he didn't have these weaknesses. After 2002, Shaq had a noticeable decline though, and his teams weren't nearly as able to overcome his weaknesses as before.

You constantly bring up the 04 Finals to denigrate Kobe, which is why I brought it up. I never hear you denigrate or blame Duncan that much if any, and especially as hard as with Kobe. Your player analysis of Kobe is so bad, you need to stop. The other thing you like to denigrate Kobe with is his defense. You do realize Kobe is the most-decorated guard defensively in nba history, right? And even if you disagree with 4-5 of his selections, that still leaves him with 7-8. Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but you need to get your facts straight at least. You and David love Dr. J, so I'm sure he likes it when you say he was a defensive beast, and he's a bit biased here. I'm sure he was a very good defensive player, but he only has 1 defensive selection, and he played in an era when defense was much more of a commodity than it is today. I suppose he possibly could've been shafted on some selections, don't really know for sure. But, to say a 1-selection guy was better than a 12-selection guy, and much better at that, that's a very bizarre comment.

Back to Duncan. I'm not saying he's completely to be blamed for his team's failures, like you do with Kobe. I'm just making the comparison. Duncan has had much better teams overall than Kobe's, and much better team stability as well. He's had a competent roster every year, which is good enough to win every year he's been in the league. However, he still has experienced less team success than Kobe, and Kobe's teams have a better H2H vs. Duncan's teams. Duncan's teams have had many more losses as the favorite than Kobe's teams. I can only think of 2 instances Kobe's were the favorite before a series and loss: 04 finals and 11 2nd round. In both instances, Kobe's casts performed extremely subpar, and even if Kobe was on his game completely, his teams still probably lose. Both losses were to the eventual champs as well. And in both instances, Kobe's teams were trying to accomplish something only the Russell C's have done: 4 titles in 5 years, and 4 straight finals. Making it deep in the playoffs every year takes so much out of you, and eventually will catch up to you. Duncan's teams have only once made consecutive finals, and never won back-to-back titles.

 
At Saturday, October 17, 2015 4:38:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again, I repeat, 3x have Duncan's teams been #1 seeds and failed to make the finals, not to mention other times his teams have been upset. Every single time Kobe has had the best team, and that's primarily because of him putting them over the top, his team has made the finals at the very least. From how you talk about Duncan, it seems like you consider him an elite player still. I haven't considered him elite for at least 6-7 years now, though he's still obviously a good player. SA has lost in the 1st round 2x in the last 5 years, while having a champ caliber roster each team. I'm sorry, but Paul/Griffin have never made it out of the 2nd round, and after Jordan as their #3, they don't have a whole lot. 2011 is one of the worst defeats, if not the worst for a great team/player in nba history. Sure, Ginobili missed 1 game, big deal. And he still played well when he returned. MEM was a #8 seed, and they were without Gay, their leading scorer, for the entire series, which is a much bigger loss than Ginobili for 1 game, especially considering they were the #8 seed. Duncan's had the luxury to be able to play fewer minutes/games, and a much lesser team role for years now; as compared with Kobe, Kobe has always been needed to play high minutes/games(doesn't take games off like Duncan sometimes does). This is a big reason why Duncan has been healthy enough to continue playing full seasons, and Kobe hasn't. They're in much different situations/roles late in their careers.

 
At Saturday, October 17, 2015 5:54:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

I agree with most of what you wrote, with just one clarification: I do think Erving is an underrated defensive player who probably should have received more All-Defensive Team honors, but I do not think and have never suggested that he was consistently a lockdown defender to the extent that Kobe was. Erving was a much better shotblocker than Kobe and a somewhat better ball thief. They also had different roles and responsibilities defensively, as Erving mostly matched up with forwards while Kobe mostly matched up with guards.

 
At Saturday, October 17, 2015 6:12:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

It is worth noting the huge difference between Kobe's performance in the 2004 Finals and LeBron's performances versus Boston in 2010 and Dallas in 2011. In 2004, Kobe played in his usual manner but was less efficient than usual. In marked contrast, LeBron played passively and rarely attacked the hoop. It was clear that he was not playing like he usually does and this has nothing to do with numbers. I sat in press row when LeBron quit versus Boston and I will never forget it. I have never seen a player with his talent just give up like that. I did not cover the 2011 Finals in person but from a distance it looked like much the same thing for extended stretches. LeBron became mentally stronger and subsequently led the Heat to two titles. The quitting would have defined his career otherwise but now it is just a puzzling chapter, part of his legacy but not the entirety of his legacy.

 
At Monday, October 26, 2015 4:55:00 PM, Blogger Al Fahridi said...

"The young man has finally hit the wall." The late Dr. Buss commented Bryant's 2004 finals with these words, before choosing to sign him max money and not Shaq. I am actually quite surprised that nobody brought up the exceptional nature of the 2004 season for Bryant (and for the Lakers). Colorado did not only mean mental stress, but also much fewer practices with the team, and several cases where Bryant just got off the plane from Colorado and headed to the Staples. This worked in an epic way at times (one of my Bryant's favourite games, G4 vs Spurs), not so well many other times. I think Bryant played subpar in the 2004 finals - I also think it is a testament to Bryant's dedication and professionalism that he was actually able to play and lead his team to the finals in such odd conditions. Had he temporarely retired (as he hinted to in a couple of interviews) this argument would vanish... so in the end, I agree with David: Nick's argument is pretty weak, to say the least.

 

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