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The Truth About Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant is one of the most talked about NBA players of all time and has arguably been the face of the NBA for several years. One cannot deny that he is certainly one of the best players to have ever picked up a basketball, but I feel that some of his accomplishments are not put into perspective.

Before I start I’d like to say that Kobe is personally one of my favourite players to watch and has been since I started watching the NBA. He is an all time great, first ballot hall of famer and an incredible player.

5 Rings

One of the arguments when it pertains to Kobe better than another player, or when ranking him on an all-time scale is that he has 5 NBA championship rings to his name.  Kobe Bryant has 5 championship rings to his name, but what does this actually mean?

Scottie Pippen has 6 rings compared to Kobe’s 5.  Dennis Rodman has 5 rings compared to Tim Duncan’s 4.  Does this mean that both Pippen and Rodman are better than Kobe and Duncan respectively? Of course not.

First of all, basketball is a team game and to rank someone based on the number of championships they have won as a player on a team is a very basic and non-sensical way of looking at things.

Of Kobe’s 5 championships he has 2 finals MVPs (2009 & 2010). Shaquille O’neal was the main man and best player on on the first three championship teams and as a consequence he has 3 Finals MVPs.

Many times people will try and spin the truth and label Shaq and Kobe as “option 1A and 1B.”  This is entirely false. Shaq, along with Michael Jordan, is the only player in NBA history to have won three consecutive finals MVPs.  Does that sound like he was ‘sharing’ the role of being the best player on the team with Kobe?  Additionally Shaq won a regular season MVP in 2000 and in mine (and many others) opinion he should have won MVP again in 2001.  Again, does this sound like he was merely ‘sharing’ the role as best player on the team with Kobe?

This isn’t to say that Kobe was useless throughout the first 3 championships. It is just to say that he was the second option, the side-kick and therefore to label him as the leader of all 5 championships (which is something that many main steam media organisations do such as Sport’s Illustrated) is clearly not true

Image
Sports Illustrated naming their all time Laker team – note how they label him the leader of 5 championship teams even though he only has 2 finals MVPs

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/multimedia/photo_gallery/0806/lakers.all.time.team/content.5.html

81 points and Scoring

Often when I ask a Laker fan who they think the greatest scorer of all time is they reply with “Kobe of course.” When I further question them the first response is “he scored 81 points.”

This is probably the most illogical response possible. Kobe’s 81 points against the Raptors  was the second highest single scoring total in NBA history by an individual. Surely using that logic then Wilt Chamberlain at 100 points in a game would make him the best scorer ever? Using the same logic would mean that David Thompson (career high 73 points) and Elgin Balyor (career high 71 points) are better scorers than Michael Jordan (career high 69 points). Using one, single game as evidence as to someone being the best scorer of all time is extremely shallow!

There’s no doubt that Kobe has been a prolific scorer for much of his NBA career, however, I feel that the negatives (his efficiency) are drastically overlooked when people and the media talk about his scoring. Kobe is currently 11th all time on the all time points per game list (25.51) (accurate as of Monday 11th March 2013) however for his career he is only shooting .454% from the field. In fact, he’s never shot above 47% for a season, which is very poor.

To give you an idea of how poor that is, both LeBron and Durant averaged over 25ppg on 47%+ shooting in their second year in the league.  Kobe has never done this!  Some other scorers who have averaged over 25ppg on 47% shooting for a season include: Dwayne Wade, Larry Bird, Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce, LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins.

When you compare his FG% to other elite scorers; both past and present, it’s shocking to see how low is FG% is not only in the regular season (45%) but also in the NBA Finals (41%).

To give you a quick summary regarding the negatives of Kobe’s shooting/ scoring here’s some records that Kobe Bryant holds:

  • Second all-time in total missed shots in the regular season.
  • All-time leader in missed shots in the playoffs
  • All-time leader in missed shots when you combine the regular season and playoffs
  • Most missed game winners and buzzer beaters
  • Only Finals MVP not to shoot above 50% in a single finals game (did this both in 2009 and 2010)
  • Worst shooting performance by any NBA finals MVP in history (40%)
  • Out of the top 20 players in points per game all time, the only player from the modern era with a lower career FG% than Kobe is Iverson
  • There are only 13 games in NBA history where someone has scored 50 points or more on sub 50% shooting, Kobe is responsible for 7 of those 13 games.
  • Only 5 players in NBA history have missed over 2,000 more shots than they’ve made; Allen Iverson, Bob Petit, John Havlicek, Elvin Hayes and Kobe Bryant.
  • Kobe hold the record for most consecutive NBA Finals games shooting under 50% (15)

Bet you didn’t know that huh?

From the above records its clear that while Bryant scores the ball a lot, he has done so at an inefficient rate.

Often the media will only focus on one side of the scoring; the point total. In recent years Kobe has passed up some of the all time greats such as Shaquille O’Neal, Moses Malone and Julius Erwing when it pertains to all time total points but has done so shooting a lower percentage. In fact, on the day Kobe passed Jordan for all time total missed shots he shot 3 for 21 against the Hornets, ironic isn’t it?

Statistically speaking Kobe is predicted to pass Michael Jordan in all time total points in the near future (most likely during the 2013-2014 season) and I know that the media and Kobe fans globally will be stating that this alone makes him a better scorer than Michael Jordan.  While Kobe may pass Jordan in all time total points it’s important to recognise that Kobe has already played approximately 200 games more than Jordan and has yet to reach his point total while shooting approximately 4% lower from the field. Not to mention the numerous other records that Jordan will still hold scoring wise.

Clutch Myth

Another myth that lives when it comes to Kobe is that he’s ‘clutch’, he delivers the game winning shot when it’s needed on a regular basis. I hate to burst your bubble but this simply isn’t true. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Although there are varying definitions as to what ‘clutch’ is, it’s widely accepted that a clutch shot is within the last 24 seconds of the game when your team is tied or down by 1,2 or 3 points.

Additionally, Bryant is 46 for 155  in crunch time (29.7%) and 7 for 28 (25.0%) for potential game tying or go-ahead shots in the post season.  That’s 52 for 168 (31%) in total.

Compared to some of the leagues other scorers:

Michael Jordan – 33 for 58 – (56.9%) in the regular season and  9 for 18 (50%) in the playoffs

LeBron James – 28 for 91 (30.8%) in the regular season and 7 for 17  (41.2%) in the playoffs

Carmelo Anthony – 29 for 66 – (43.9%) in the regular season and 1 for 8 (12.5%) in the playoffs

MJ vs LeBron vs Kobe in the last 10 seconds in the post season.
MJ vs LeBron vs Kobe in the last 10 seconds in the post season.

For more on ‘Kobe in the clutch’ click here

The Media’s Portrayal

I’ve talked a lot about how the media portrays Kobe and how they compare him to other all time greats such as Jordan; so let’s take a look at one such example.

Please note that the video compilation is fan made but I will be focusing on the audio that is spoken by various analysts and reporters from the main stream sports media.

“At the time of their 33rd birthday, is it Kobe that is more accomplished – outpacing Jordan in points, all star appearances and championships”

“Maybe even a better clutch player than Michael is….Kobe’s a better shooter than Michael Jordan and every bit the type of closer that Jordan was”

Let’s start off with the opening statement comparing Jordan and Kobe at their 33rd birthday. Is this a fair thing to do? Jordan entered the league at 21 years old where as Kobe entered the league at 18 years old. Therefore meaning that Kobe has already played 3 more years in the NBA than Jordan. Then we take into consideration that Jordan retired at the end of the 93 season and didn’t come back until the last 17 games of the 95-96 season so already we can see that Kobe has almost a 5 whole year advantage over Jordan when comparing them.  Jordan also sat out a large majority of his sophomore year with an injury, however, I chose not to include this as his name would still have been on the roster and he was still an active (signed) player in the NBA.

Furthermore let’s look at the breakdown of the analysis. They have chosen to use three categories to compare Kobe and Jordan; points, all star appearances and championships. As I stated earlier in this article Kobe has been a very inefficient scorer throughout his career and this clearly was not taken into consideration when making the claim. Yes, he has more total points but he has played almost 5 years longer and been shooting with a lower percentage than Jordan has for that duration. Furthermore the analyst goes on to mention all-star game appearances. Since when did appearances in a exhibition game determine how great they were? Using that logic Kareem is the greatest of all time because he has the most all-star game appearances (19). Lastly the analyst states that Kobe has more championships than Jordan. As I covered previously in the article championships are a team achievement. It’s interesting to note that the analyst did not mention the number of finals MVPs that both players had at their respective ages; why do you think that is?

Let’s look at the second statement:

“Maybe even a better clutch player than Michael is….Kobe’s a better shooter than Michael Jordan and every bit the type of closer that Jordan was”

Well, the percentages don’t lie;

Jordan is 33 for 58 – 56.9% in the regular season and 9 for 18 – 50% in the playoffs when it pertains to being clutch

Kobe is 46 for 155 – 29.7% in the regular season and 7 for 28 – 25.0% in the playoffs when it pertains to being clutch.

Now for the remainder of the quote: ‘Kobe’s a better shooter than Michael Jordan.’ Kobe’s career FG% is .454, Jordan’s is .497. From 3-point range Kobe is .337, Jordan is .327. Kobe is shooting 1% higher from 3 point range while Jordan is shooting 4% higher from everywhere else inside the 3 point line. You do the math.

Conclusion

Some of the information presented in this article may come as a shock to some of you, especially the young generation. The article was not meant to come across as bashing or ‘hating’ on Kobe. He’s an all time great, a first ballot hall of famer and one of the best shooting guards to ever play the game of basketball. He is one of my all time favourite players and I have loved watching his career.

I wrote this article to dispel some of the myths and lies that are told about him. I have no personal problem with Kobe Bryant however when the media tells blatant lies about a player or twists the truth as I have just shown you I see fit to correct them. It’s amazing the amount of people that think Kobe is the greatest of all time all because ESPN presented them with 3 or 4 facts and a false statement. Hopefully this article has shed some light on Kobe Bryant’s career.

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