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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Similarities Between Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan

Kobe Bryant's late career postseason productivity--particularly from 2008-10 when the L.A. Lakers won three Western Conference titles and two NBA championships--is very comparable with Michael Jordan's 1996-98 playoff performances during the Bulls' second three-peat but overall I rank Jordan ahead of Bryant in pro basketball's Pantheon: Jordan had a better postup and midrange game and his larger hands enabled him to be a superior ballhandler and provided Jordan more finishing options in traffic. However, it is obvious that the two players are very similar both stylistically and in terms of their productivity; Bryant has far exceeded the accomplishments of the various other so-called "Heir Jordans" that the media attempted to elevate, ranging from the sublime (perennial All-Stars Grant Hill, Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady) to the ridiculous (the inaptly nicknamed Harold "Baby Jordan" Miner).

While going through old files I discovered previously unpublished notes that I made regarding an interesting on air discussion in 2008 between TNT commentators Reggie Miller and Mike Fratello about similarities between Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan.

Miller cited four things that Bryant and Jordan have in common:
  1. Balance. "They always come to a two foot jump stop."
  2. Technique. "The ability to attack defenders going in either direction--rocker moves, pump fakes."
  3. Agility. Miller said that both players can immediately contort their bodies on the fly to counter whatever the defense does.
  4. Heart. "Finish in traffic, take the contact, make the impossible possible."
Fratello added that both players could create space to get off a shot, a skill that Fratello said is "so key to being a star in this league."

Balance, technique, agility, heart and the ability to create a shot are not traits that can be quantified but Miller and Fratello are correct that these five characteristics link Jordan and Bryant while also separating them from most other players.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:11 AM



At Tuesday, August 28, 2012 3:47:00 PM, Anonymous boyer said...

Yes, Jordan had larger hands and probably was better in the areas you mentioned. But, Kobe has the advantage in other areas: footwork, long distance, and a wider variety of moves.

Regardless of who everyone thinks is better, Kobe will never get a fair comparison to jordan by the majority. Even by those who try to make a legit comparison, there's so much bias in favor of jordan already. If the media portrayed kobe kindly and jordan unkindly, our views would be much different of both players.

What I often hear is that it's entirely unfathomable for 'said' person to think anyone who could be better than jordan. When someone says that, then their ratings of players are not legit. It's like jordan is some supernatural player that cannot be touched. I hate this line of thinking. Jordan may be the best player ever, but if he is, it's not by much. To me, there really isn't much difference between the elite elite. There's much evidence support that kareem or wilt or magic or even kobe to be mentioned as the best.

Sure, jordan was unfairly blamed for being a ballhog in his early days, but that quickly went away, and nobody really remembers much of that anymore. Kobe is still unfairly blamed for shaq's leaving, to say the least.

David, I'm confused by why you choose to admit that you rate jordan ahead of kobe, while you don't like to rate any of the other players in your pantheon or make any such lists. Why is this? When I chose to discuss west vs. kobe with you awhile back, you still couldn't say kobe was better, though there's much more overwhelming support to suggest this. West was certainly great, but he was a tiny guard and admitted to not being able to dribble well with his left hand. These 2 facts should be ample reason enough. Do you limit rating the old-timers more because of less video coverage of them?

At Tuesday, August 28, 2012 6:25:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I don't agree that Bryant has the advantage over Jordan in footwork; I would rate that as a tie or perhaps a slight edge to Jordan.

I cannot speak for the "majority" (however that is determined and whatever that means) or for the evaluations made by other people.

I have no intention of systematically attempting to rank each player in the Pantheon but I will make individual player comparisons when such comparisons are relevant. This is not the first time that I have expressed my opinion that I would take peak Jordan and overall Jordan over peak Bryant and overall Bryant respectively but that I rank "old" Bryant at least equal to "old" Jordan.

West is a very underrated player and I am sure that is the primary message I attempted to convey to you in the earlier discussion.

I believe that a case can be made that any of the Pantheon players is the greatest player of all-time or at the very least deserved to be labeled as such at some point during his career. It is not difficult to find various archival articles and/or books that make such claims about each of the Pantheon players but I am not interested in trying to create some hypothetical greatest of all-time ranking among the Pantheon-level players.

At Saturday, September 01, 2012 6:59:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Nice stuff as always, Dave.

Obviously their are many aesthetic similarities between Jordan and Bryant's playing style.

In my opinion, the most striking similarity between the two is their personalities. I've seen several videos of Jordan and Bryant in candid situations. The attitude, the way they trash talk, the competitiveness. It's almost like they're the same person.

That to me is why Bryant has been the most successful "next Jordan." Above everything else, the things that pushed Jordan to such great heights were his insatiable competitiveness and unflappable confidence. There have been several players over the years with similar physical gifts to Mike, but Kobe is the only one so far who has compared mentally. Same work ethic, same confidence, same maniacal competitiveness.


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