Jordan vs. Kobe: The Pointless Debate
Every season, it seems, the debate over who is the greatest — Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant — gets renewed in earnest. Why is this even a debate? One is the unquestionable, undeniable choice. This should not even be a debate.
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Seems pretty cut and dry to me. Jordan was simply a better all-around player than Kobe. Jordan did all this while having played four years of college ball, struggling with terrible teammates for the first few years of his career and taking almost two years off during his prime. Kobe entered the league out of high school, has been surrounded by great teammates almost the entire time, and has played with the benefits of softer modern-day rules. In other words, in the world of “what-if”, Jordan would have nine or ten titles and a career 35+ PPG. Put it this way: if they switched places, would the Bulls have won 6 championships with Kobe? I know Jordan would have demolished the 2011 Mavericks at 32, and he certainly wouldn’t have let his team implode.
Of course, statistics aren’t everything, and Kobe has a few years left in the tank to catch up to Jordan on a few of these. The fact of the matter is that if you watched Jordan you would know that Jordan is on a level all by himself. I am not arguing against Kobe’s greatness — as much as I dislike him, he is basketball’s greatest player of his generation — but for Jordan’s transcending greatness. He put the NBA on his shoulders and took it to new heights. He played when the rules allowed far more physicality than they do today. He dethroned the Pistons and Lakers and swatted away Drexler’s Blazers, Barkley’s Suns, Hakeem’s Rockets, and Stockton and Malone’s Jazz. He was the ultimate competitor. Kobe has an impressive resume too, it just pales in comparison to MJ’s.
I am by no means old at 28, but it seems that the debate is kept alive by one of these camps: 1) Lakers fans, 2) NBA fans born in the ’90s or later, or 3) Both. When I tweeted about this recently, someone shot back that the fact that I am even comparing the two lending credence to the debate. Well, unfortunately, the debate lives on with or without my input. That person said anyone who thinks Kobe is better should spend some quality time with ESPN Classic. I agree. Just do it.