Kobe Bryant will never be as good as Michael Jordan.
Never in a million years. Never ever ever ever will Kobe approach Jordan on the pedestal of basketball immortality. Kobe is great in his own right, but pundits popping up claiming the latest “Laker sensation” is the greatest ever are way out of proportion.
Jordan is an institution, a volume in the Encyclopedia Britannica, a “Black Jesus,” according to rival and buddy Charles Barkley. Jordan is everything to the NBA; he defined a game and molded it into a boundless sport that generations of players could build within. And he changes it while his myth continues to prosper.
Laker Hall of Famer Jerry West might have the distinction of having his silky silhouette graze the left corner of every NBA jersey and every icon blaring on your television screen, but Jordan’s tongue-wagging, jump-jiving, pirouetting summersault of a levitating man within earthly bounds reigns supreme. Unlike any other sport, Jordan is undoubtedly the greatest basketball player to tread or fly on this planet.
Kobe is a spectacular, but he cannot reach the pinnacle that is Jordan. Though there is more to the game than scoring, Kobe has never even reached the 50-point barrier in a game. Yet. Kobe has impressed me with his command and fire for the game. I noticed something eerily similar about the players while watching Kobe destroy his opponents. Both athletes conserve their energy for extended spurts of domination. Both have a swagger and touch around the hardwood that is unique to each player.
But what about results? What about the hardware?
Kobe hasn’t racked up any list of imposing and qualitative accolades that Jordan has owned for years. Kobe does not approach Jordan in categories including Finals MVP, All-Star Game MVP, scoring titles, All-Defensive teams, NBA championships. Jordan has raked the leaves from the venerable oak tree and the bounty of immortality is forever in his grasp.
Jordan won the 1982 NCAA Championship with North Carolina, and he buried the game-winning 18-foot jump shot to give Tar Heel Head Coach Dean Smith his first title. Jordan was a skinny freshman. At around the same age, Kobe was throwing air balls against the Utah Jazz, as the Lakers were swept out of the playoffs in consecutive years.
Jordan was nurturing his greatness, while Kobe was getting used and abused by Old Man Karl Malone.
I’ve had enough of this discussion. This is an open-and-shut case.
A better question to ask about Kobe is whether he is even the best guard in the NBA? The league is abundant in big-guard talent. Tweeners, such as Xavier McDaniel and Jeff Malone, have died out. The fleet-footed tall men, including Vince Carter, Tracey McGrady and Paul Pierce, among others, are making a name for themselves.
The only difference? These players don’t have Shaquille O’Neal clogging the middle. Carter has munchkin Antonio Davis, McGrady has Bo Outlaw, Pierce has Vitaly Potapenko. These guys couldn’t guard Greg Ostertag on speed.
Pierce is my personal favorite. He’s the player who is most comfortable on the court with his own skills and with integrating them in a blue-collar Boston Celtics club. Kobe’s got the flash of L.A., Pierce is bringing the Celtics back to respectability with no other strong player.
If people keep bringing this Kobe-Jordan debate up, all they have to do is watch one game with Jordan.
How can you describe MJ? Larry Bird phrased it best: “God disguised as Michael Jordan.”