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Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Simple Question for Those Who Doubt That a Double Standard is Applied to Kobe Bryant

We have just spent the past 48 hours or so hearing that Kobe Bryant should never be compared to Michael Jordan because Bryant's Lakers lost game four of the Finals after leading by 24 points.

Many people--including this author--consider Tim Duncan to be the greatest power forward of all-time. He led the Spurs to four championships in a nine year stretch.

If having one's team lose a 20 point lead in one playoff game is the sole determinant of greatness, how come no one suggested that Tim Duncan could no longer be considered the greatest power forward of all-time after Duncan's Spurs--the defending NBA champions--lost to Bryant's Lakers after blowing a 65-45 lead with just 17:54 remaining in the game?

The answer, of course, is that it would be absurd to judge Duncan's entire career on the basis of one game during which his teammates shot 22-59 from the field, including a combined 10-30 performance from Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. I doubt that anyone thought for one moment about writing such a stupid, slanted article about Duncan in the wake of that game. So it is worth asking why so many people--from heavy hitting mainstream writers to Joe Blogger--instantly had such a visceral anti-Kobe Bryant reaction to game four.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:52 AM



At Sunday, June 15, 2008 3:49:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

The answer to your question is simple. No one ever compares Duncan to Jordan. They merely say he's better than other power forwards (Malone, Barkley, etc.), or compare him to other great big men like Shaq. Kobe gets tougher treatment because he is compared to Jordan, and Jordan never had a poor game, always single-handedly led his teams to victory, and won the championship every year he played*. Jordan also had a perfect SAT score, built the first computer, and will soon find Osama bin Laden.

*1984-1990 don't count because Jordan had not yet "learned how to win", "wasn't in his prime", blah, blah, blah. 1995 doesn't count because he was in horrible shape after his layoff, even though he averaged 31.5/6.5/4.5 in the playoffs. 2001-2003 obviously don't count since he was old and generously came back to show the younger generation how to play.

At Sunday, June 15, 2008 4:25:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I just saw a story at ESPN.com that mentioned how the Lakers missed the playoffs in 2004-05 with Kobe--but neglected to point out that the Lakers were 6-10 during the games that he missed or that he was playing at an MVP level the first two months of the season before spraining his ankle (28.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 7.1 apg as the Lakers got off to a 15-12 start), not to mention that the Lakers went through two coaches that year (Rudy T., Hamblen). Nope, regardless of the facts that season will be known as "the season that proves that Kobe is nothing without Shaq."

At Sunday, June 15, 2008 8:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a common logical fallacy your employing here. Because argument X in favor of proposition Y is a bad argument, therefore proposition Y is false. Game 4 doesn't prove that Jordan is better than Kobe; the fact that Jordan was a more prolific scorer, more efficient scorer, better passer, rebounder, and defender, better teammate and better leader, proves that Jordan is better than Kobe. Put Jordan on a team with 00 era Shaq and they would have gone 80-2.

Also, if Kobe wasn't so petulant, entitled and childish, Shaq amd Jackson wouldn't have been run out of town that season, and no one would have to wonder if Kobe was nothing without Shaq.

At Monday, June 16, 2008 12:18:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ugh...I may come off as a Kobe-hater, but there are a couple of reasons why no one says this about Timmy. First, of course, is the absurd comparisons to MJ. Kobe's great (Top 10-15 all time as it stands now), but he isn't Jordan, and some people have visceral reactions to that comparison that Duncan never has to deal with.

But there is also the issue of the position that they play--Kobe is a 2-guard with the ball constantly in his hands, while Duncan depends on other's to get him the ball. Both of their teammates matter, certainly, but Kobe has the opportunity, at his will, to drive into the paint.

Duncan, also, is on the downside of his career. Now, if Duncan circa 2005 had a similar collapse where he didn't score much AND his team lost a crucial game (a la Kobe Game 4), people would have criticized. But Duncan is universally acknowledged to be past his prime while Kobe is still 29 and the reigning MVP.

At Monday, June 16, 2008 7:04:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


You are misreading what I said. I said that MJ was greater than Kobe but I disagree with making such sweeping evaluations on the basis of one game.

If you read objective accounts of what happened in L.A. then you will learn that Shaq in fact was very petulant and childish. The Lakers started declining when he decided to put off surgery because he got hurt "on company time" so he thought that he was entitled to heal "on company time"--in other words, during the season. That was in 2002-03. Meanwhile, Kobe kept the Lakers in contention while Shaq convalesced but when an out of shape Shaq came back he wanted Kobe to slow down and pass him the ball. Kobe's reply was that if Shaq wanted the ball then he needed to get in shape and then Shaq said if the big dog is not fed (the ball) then he won't guard the house (play defense in the paint).

Shaq's behavior during this period convinced Jerry Buss that it would not be worth it to resign Shaq for max dollars and max years. Jackson had some health problems and took a sabbatical. Note that Jackson could have probably gotten any coaching job in the league but he came back to coach Kobe. Kobe won the MVP and carried the Lakers to the Finals, while Shaq carried the Heat down the tubes this year and his addition was not enough to get the Suns past the Spurs. It sure looks like Buss chose the right guy.

At Monday, June 16, 2008 7:07:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Plenty of great players have had bad games and bad series but they are rarely attacked the way that Kobe is. This series is not even over, so how can game four define his legacy? Right now, the Lakers are two wins away from winning the title. Who knows what the defining moment of this series will turn out to be?

At Tuesday, June 24, 2008 8:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tim Duncan is rarely compared to Jordan.

But, then again, Duncan plays an entirely different position, is not similar in height or weight to Jordan (as Kobe is) does not play a STRIKINGLY similar style of basketball, does not ape Jordan's every gesture and facial expression and does not imitate Jordan to the point of actually adopting his exact speech tones and patterns.

At Tuesday, June 24, 2008 11:57:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


You are missing my main point. I am not asking why Duncan is not compared to Jordan or even why Kobe is compared to Jordan. I am asking why people act like one game in the middle of a playoff series provides the definitive proof about Kobe's worth as a player compared to MJ's. No one would even think of defining Duncan's worth based on the Spurs blowing a 20 point lead in one game. Magic's career is not defined by the mistakes that caused Kevin McHale to dub him "Tragic" after the 1984 Finals.

My point is that some people are so bound and determined to either praise MJ and/or belittle Kobe that they will grasp at any straw to do so.

I don't think that, to this point, Kobe has proven himself to be greater than MJ was--but game four of this series did not tell me anything that I did not already know about Kobe. What I saw in game four--and what the series overall confirmed--is that the Celtics had a better, deeper team than the Lakers.

This post is a response to all of the media lemmings who wrote essentially the same story after game four, turning that contest into some phony MJ-Kobe referendum instead of actually analyzing what happened in the game, how the Lakers built a big lead and how the Celtics came back--subjects that I discussed in my Pro Basketball News article about this game.


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